Republican David Frum: “conservatism has become a going-out-of-business sale for the baby boomers”

A must read article from David Frum on the devolution of his beloved republican party from a legitimate political philosophy to a party of conflicted dogma rather than thinkers:

“I’ve been a Republican all my adult life. I have worked on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, at Forbes magazine, at the Manhattan and American Enterprise Institutes, as a speechwriter in the George W. Bush administration. I believe in free markets, low taxes, reasonable regulation, and limited government. I voted for John McCain in 2008, and I have strongly criticized the major policy decisions of the Obama administration. But as I contemplate my party and my movement in 2011, I see things I simply cannot support…

Few of us have the self-knowledge and emotional discipline to say one thing while meaning another. If we say something often enough, we come to believe it. We don’t usually delude others until after we have first deluded ourselves. Some of the smartest and most sophisticated people I know canny investors, erudite authors sincerely and passionately believe that President Barack Obama has gone far beyond conventional American liberalism and is willfully and relentlessly driving the United States down the road to socialism. No counterevidence will dissuade them from this belief: not record-high corporate profits, not almost 500,000 job losses in the public sector, not the lowest tax rates since the Truman administration. It is not easy to fit this belief alongside the equally strongly held belief that the president is a pitiful, bumbling amateur, dazed and overwhelmed by a job too big for him and yet that is done too.

Conservatives have been driven to these fevered anxieties as much by their own trauma as by external events. In the aughts, Republicans held more power for longer than at any time since the twenties, yet the result was the weakest and least broadly shared economic expansion since World War II, followed by an economic crash and prolonged slump. Along the way, the GOP suffered two severe election defeats in 2006 and 2008. Imagine yourself a rank-and-file Republican in 2009: If you have not lost your job or your home, your savings have been sliced and your children cannot find work. Your retirement prospects have dimmed. Most of all, your neighbors blame you for all that has gone wrong in the country. There’s one thing you know for sure: None of this is your fault! And when the new president fails to deliver rapid recovery, he can be designated the target for everyone’s accumulated disappointment and rage. In the midst of economic wreckage, what relief to thrust all blame upon Barack Obama as the wrecker-in-chief.

…It’s fine to be unconcerned that the rich are getting richer, but blind to deny that middle-class wages have stagnated or worse over the past dozen years. In the aftershock of 2008, large numbers of Americans feel exploited and abused. Rather than workable solutions, my party is offering low taxes for the currently rich and high spending for the currently old, to be followed by who-knows-what and who-the-hell-cares. This isn’t conservatism; it’s a going-out-of-business sale for the baby-boom generation.”

See:  When did the GOP lose touch with reality? (hat tip Andrew)

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6 Responses to Republican David Frum: “conservatism has become a going-out-of-business sale for the baby boomers”

  1. Joseph B says:

    Over the past 40 years the Republicans have cynically cultivated a coalition of some of the most unenlightened segments of the population to form the core of their voter support base. Even worse they have irresponsibly manipulated and provoked them (ie. whipped them up into a fury) for political advantage on a routine basis over the years. Why is Frum suddenly surprised that this Frankenstein monster is suddenly out of their control? It would merit gloating if not for the horror that has been unleashed upon us ALL, particularly as an obstacle to arriving at rational solutions to the current crisis.

  2. Robert says:

    Over the past 40 years we have seen the Democratic Party completely taken over by the Sixties Marxists while the Republicans have been controlled by the statist go along to get along RHINO wing of the party. Both these groups are the coalition of the unenlightened segments of society who reject the Constitution, chaff at any brake on the power of government, and lack any coherent philosophy. Conservatives are the intellectual force in America as they have always been and Frum is pouting from a stern rebuff of his statist outlook. The baby boom generation as well as everybody else is going out of business because America is going out of business. America is bankrupt and statists of both parties are responsible for the incomprehensible massive spending and debt which has destroyed the economy. “almost 500,000 job losses in the public sector” is not enough, the public sector is not productive and must be slashed. “It’s fine to be unconcerned that the rich are getting richer” is a pathetically overused straw man. The rich are not the problem the debt is the problem. If you took every penny from the rich it wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans for the average person. This capital would be immediately squandered on non-productive vote buying uses and we would all be poorer. Everytime you hear someone blaming the “rich”, “executive compensation”, or “growing income disparity between the rich and the poor” you know you are listening to a conman or an idiot.

  3. Joseph B says:

    I felt compelled to respond to some of Robert’s controversial remarks. Being concerned about the rich getting richer is not a pathetic straw man. The rich, particularly the super rich, both individuals and corporations, are definitely a concern because money buys vastly disproportionate influence, be it through ownership/control of the media, access to politicians, effective bribes to politicians, etc. In fact some social critics posit the US has practically become essentially an oligarchy or dictatorship of the super rich. (Incidentally, please do not put forth the specious argument that the media has a liberal bias. It is a relatively superficial bias because the media rarely dares to challenge or criticize the main agendas of true power; witness the deafening lack of criticism in the lead up to the Iraq War, or the absence of serious questioning about financial deregulation policies during the 80s & 90s, or the policies favouring globalization, etc.)
    People/institutions in a position of privilege tend to favour the status quo for obvious reasons. Unfortunately the current status quo (particularly with regards to reckless financial speculation, and endless outsourcing of production abroad) is untenable — which has become obvious during the past 3 years. Unfortunately some of those privileged people/institutions (primarily Wall Street) are obstructing serious inquiry and reasonable reforms. (The OWS movement is an expression of frustration and outrage over this.) Consequently, being concerned about the super rich is hardly idiocy or a con.
    This is not about simply taxing and redistributing wealth, much of which would likely be squandered (on military and imperial ventures, local political “pork” projects, overpaid public employees, etc.) given the current dysfunction. This is about rethinking the circumstances whereby a minority of the population usurps the majority of the wealth of the nation. It may be imperative that a solution be found to ensure income/wealth be more widely earned because we may be in danger of losing the “critical mass” of middle class consumers necessary to sustain the economy at a First World level of affluence.
    The solution is not necessarily taxation and redistribution (although a more progressive taxation system would contribute), but probably something along the lines of what hard core capitalist Henry Ford once advocated, which is ensuring working people earn a living wage that allows them to more effectively participate in the economy again, as opposed to the current system where labour’s share has been gradually undermined because jobs are continuously outsourced to countries with low or non-existent labor and environmental standards. It is futile and hopeless to compete in such a disastrous endless race to the bottom, particularly with countries employing quasi-mercantalist policies. (This is a contributing factor as to why America is approaching “bankruptcy”.)
    At some point it may be necessary to decide whether to adopt civilized standards and trade mostly with like minded partners (ie. return to bilateral reciprocal trade agreements negotiated on a case by case basis —- as opposed to engaging in competitive currency devaluations or adopting Smoot-Hawley type blanket trade restrictions!), discarding the current discredited detrimental unrestricted free trade ideology. If we do not somehow get income/wealth into more hands, we are probably nearing the point where, barring a miraculous reversal of the trend, or some kind of new industry to serve as a major engine of domestic growth, the current status quo may become permanently entrenched and as a result the American economy may descend to a permanently lower plateau reminiscent of the Great Depression or a typical Third World nation.
    The massive public debt which arose because taxation levels did not match lofty imperial (ie. a bloated military which was/is used to embark on countless expensive imperial ventures) and social (ie. unrealistic entitlement spending obligations) national ambitions is a massively important issue, but misdiagnosing the fundamental underlying causes and allowing the economic engine to stall through excessive austerity and ruinous trade and other policies is probably counterproductive. Moreover, ignoring, or dismissing as a “straw man”, a major underlying obstacle to reform/policy change does not help the situation.

  4. Robert says:

    Joseph B. you are being distracted as in you can not see the forest for the trees. You have trotted out a procession of straw men. It is not specious to say that the media has a liberal bias. Next you will claim that academia does not have a liberal bias.

    Here is a list of half digested regurgitated political platitudes commonly trotted out by progressive or liberal politicians or academics to gull the ignorant, the inexperienced, or uninformed. They are political claptrap not serious insight.

    “rich getting richer”
    “The rich, particularly the super rich”
    “because money buys vastly disproportionate influence”
    “the US has practically become essentially an oligarchy or dictatorship of the super rich”
    “the deafening lack of criticism in the lead up to the Iraq War”
    “the absence of serious questioning about financial deregulation”
    “People/institutions in a position of privilege tend to favour the status quo”
    “reckless financial speculation”
    “outsourcing of production abroad”
    “The OWS movement is an expression of frustration and outrage ”
    “a minority of the population usurps the majority of the wealth”
    “imperative that a solution be found to ensure income/wealth be more widely earned”
    “The solution is not necessarily taxation and redistribution (although a more progressive taxation system would contribute)”
    “ensuring working people earn a living wage”
    “race to the bottom”
    “adopt civilized standards”
    “discredited detrimental unrestricted free trade ideology”
    “somehow get income/wealth into more hands”
    “The massive public debt which arose because taxation levels did not match lofty imperial…ambitions”
    “allowing the economic engine to stall through excessive austerity…”

    The problem with your problem with the rich is that it does not solve anything. Politicians have spent or obligated you to pay many more times in unfunded liabilities than all the money that exists or is likely to exist in the world. The party is over and you must focus on saving yourself now because there will be no one else to do it. Many like the OWS drones seem to be content to following politicians like Obama into the Third World and dooming generations to grinding poverty. Like Dear Leader said, “Elections have consequences”.

  5. Chris says:

    A rather poignant illustration of the original point.

    Ughh.

    So depressing…

  6. Joseph B says:

    Robert, you wrote: “The party is over and you must focus on saving yourself now because there will be no one else to do it.” Indeed!! I agree that a serious financial reckoning may be upon us which is why I am on this website hoping to learn from Ms. Park’s wisdom in an effort to hopefully preserve some of my hard earned capital. However, I am not expecting a descent into the Dark Ages reminiscent of the aftermath of collapse of the Roman Empire. Moreover, I think that we should at least try to mitigate the worst of the fallout as well as introduce reforms that will hopefully prevent this from happening again at least for a while.
    One of the major shortcomings of democratic political systems is that they are susceptible to being corrupted by vested interests whether they be from the left or the right. To get re-elected politicians make irresponsible promises to the electorate, and to enrich themselves and their cronies they implement favorable policies on behalf of various vested interests. That is essentially how we ended up with a crippling public debt. (Incidentally, here is another “half digested regurgitated platitude” that you are undoubtedly going to love: Some of the more civilized societies implement campaign contribution limits, limits on lobbying , and other measures to try to mitigate the corruption and irresponsible behavior of the political classes.) Adopting some of these measures in America would not hurt.
    You also wrote: “The problem with your problem with the rich is that it does not solve anything.” For the record, I do not have a problem with the rich if they are making a lawful productive contribution to society (ie. creating industries and jobs, etc.). Here is another phrase of “political claptrap” that you will undoubtedly love… However, I and many people, get concerned when some of the more rapacious predators among them undertake the outsourcing of much of the productive industrial base of the economy in the name of greed and ideology (ie. free trade), and replace that lost production with relatively unproductive financial engineering, reckless speculation (ie. Lehman Bros, MF Global, etc), and in some cases, outright fraud (ie. Enron, Worldcom, Bernie Maddof, etc.). Moreover, I get even more concerned when they resume these types of behavior after a near catastrophic financial collapse and then resist/obstruct preventative regulations and reforms.
    I, and many other people, think that being aware of these abuses/excesses and clamoring for them to end (a la the OWS movement), is preferable to fatalistically accepting it as you seem to be implying. This wont make the massive public debt go away, but at the very least it does mitigate a bad situation from getting worse in other ways.
    By the way, I think I see the forest all too well; in fact I do not think there is anything more important than striving to attain a sober perception of the “big picture”. Either we have a very different interpretation of it, or one of us is not as enlightened as he thinks he is. As for the list of phrases that you dismiss as “half digested regurgitated political platitudes” and “political claptrap”, such as “money buys vastly disproportionate political influence” and “the massive public debt which arose because taxation levels did not match lofty imperial and social…ambitions”, I think most reasonably intelligent people would probably agree that they are self evident and stand up to critical scrutiny.
    Finally, regarding my remarks about liberal bias in the media, what I was trying to convey is that the media is “superficially” liberal in the sense that they are liberal up to a limit. On most cultural and social matters (such as lifestyles, etc.), much of the media tends to be somewhat progressive although many outlets prefer not to risk controversy. However on more important matters of economic and foreign policy where the stakes are high for various powerful vested interests, the media rarely dares to challenge or even criticize the prevailing agenda.
    I cited the glaring example of the lead up to the invasion of Iraq where there was virtually no serious questioning or criticism in the mainstream media. Even the “famously liberal” NY Times took an editorial position supporting the invasion. (And consider the Judith Miller WMD reporting fiasco.) This is an indisputable fact; go to any online archive of just about any major newspaper for the time period leading up to the invasion and see the absence (for the most part) of serious questioning/criticism for yourself. I also mentioned the absence of serious questioning about financial deregulation policies during the 1980s and 90s. Again, go to any archive and try to find significant criticism of the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999, or other such changes.
    This should not be surprising because most media outlets are owned by large corporations who are unlikely to go against their own interests and are not going to risk offending their advertisers who are also mostly large corporations with similar agendas in many cases.
    As for academia, the same thing applies, they are liberal up to a point. Again, on most important matters of economic and foreign policy where the stakes are high for various powerful vested interests, most academics rarely dare to publicly challenge or criticize the prevailing agenda. Most know where their bread is buttered and do not dare to stick out their necks and risk losing their cushy, overpaid, academic positions. It is a very tiny minority of individuals who are protected by tenure who dare to do so. (And promotions to tenure are becoming increasingly rare.)
    Actually, academics usually have more to gain by catering to the agenda of powerful vested interests, (ie. more lucrative positions in the private sector), and often provide the intellectual cover for these agendas (ie. they are usually the talking heads interviewed in the media explaining why the policy in question is justified, etc). Many academics are actually essentially intellectual prostitutes of powerful vested interests.
    Note the significant distinction that I have been referring to individual academics. The academic institutions they work for (ie. universities, colleges, research institutes, etc.) are definitely unlikely to take any official position of questioning or criticism. This is not surprising considering that the board of directors/governors that run most universities/colleges are drawn almost exclusively from the upper echelons of the business world and are typically quite conservative on most issues.
    Moreover, most academic institutions have close and lucrative ties to the corporate world such as sponsorships, research contracts with large pharmaceutical companies or military contractors, television contracts for college sports events, etc.. Many have also received large endowment donations from wealthy alumni or benefactors and desire more in the future. They have no interest in biting the hand that feeds them or seeing the gravy train come to an end. Anyway, as you can see, the liberalism of academia, particularly with regards to questioning and challenging certain important aspects of the agenda of powerful vested interests, is greatly exaggerated. For the most part they are a solid part of the state apparatus.

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