David Frum has recently argued in New York Magazine that the Republican Party has “lost touch with reality.” [When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?, November 28, 2011] With new GOP Presidential “front runner” Newt Gingrich expounding on the glories of child labor, Herman Cain worried about China acquiring nuclear weapons, and Rick Perry enjoying a spectacular meltdown in front of millions of people, Frum advances what I think is a compelling case that the late-phase Establishment conservative movement/ Republican Party (to the extent that the two can now be distinguished) no longer produces credible political leaders or policy options.
Frum gives several examples. The Republican Party has openly turned its back on the poor, calling them “lucky duckies” who don’t pay taxes. It’s hard to argue with Frum’s charge that “[the] party’s economic ideas seem to have shrunk to just one: more tax cuts for the very highest earners.” Historically Republican-supported economic policies, such as a stimulus program that contains tax cuts or the Federal Reserve’s keeping interest rates low, are now called “socialism” or “treason” respectively.
I think Frum is also correct when he explains that, because of the Republicans’ failed strategy of outright confrontation over Obamacare, the country is probably forever saddled with an expensive and deeply flawed entitlement program that has no chance of being repealed absent the deus ex machina of a court ruling.
Unlike sausage-making and legislation, the race for the Republican nomination is conducted perforce in full view of the public. I believe Frum is essentially correct when he argues that “these tea-party champions provide a ghoulish type of news entertainment each time they reveal that they know nothing about public affairs and have never attempted to learn.” Every week brings a new catastrophe as a “conservative” leader says something remarkably ignorant or stupid. Even controlling for left wing media bias, a number of the leading candidates for one of the two major parties in the country seem to have no idea what they are talking about.
More ominously, liberal media criticism seems have the perverse effect of reinforcing “conservative” credentials, guaranteeing that “conservative” leaders can essentially say anything, regardless of how absurd, and have a guaranteed mass following.
Frum identifies three major reasons why this kind of insularity is not going away:
As a result, their interests are in conflict with their ideology, creating more “suspicion that shadowy Washington elites are playing tricks upon them.”
To Frum’s great credit—not for the first time on the immigration issue, although his new Main Stream Media friends don’t appear to have noticed—he points out that white workers are not being irrational, because “in post-recession America, employers seem to show a distinct preference for foreign-born workers.” (The figures he cites are drawn, unacknowledged, from one of Edwin S. Rubenstein’s National Data columns for VDARE.com)
As a result, huge percentages of the population will continue to believe in even demonstrably untrue assertions (such as that the United States is unique because it has no rigid class system) regardless of the facts at hand. Frum is also completely accurate when he notes that today’s “conservative movement” leaders (and more critically, funders) really do believe their own propaganda.
Frum complains that criticizing this trend has cost his career a great deal. He was dismissed from the American Enterprise Institute for (he says) criticizing the Republican Party’s position on health care. Speaking slots on television and radio were canceled when producers realized Frum would not give the standard conservative line. His speechwriting work for Republican candidates must now be secret, lest the employer be instantly discredited by association with him. Within a conservative movement that has gone crazy, Frum claims that he has become persona non grata.
So Frum is significantly correct on all of his points. But he is also responsible for much of the problem. He helped ensure there is no effective Right Opposition on the most important questions of the day.
David Frum is best known as the commissar directing National Review’s most recent purge of the American Right. In his infamous cover story Unpatriotic Conservatives (March 19, 2003), Frum castigated Patrick Buchanan, Robert Novak, Sam Francis, Jude Wanniski, Joe Sobran, and others for “hating their country” because of their opposition to the Iraq War.
But the bulk of Frum’s polemic actually had nothing to do with foreign policy. It was an attack on traditionalist conservatives for being, allegedly, racist and anti-Semitic. Murray Rothbard, Kevin MacDonald, Justin Raimondo, Lew Rockwell, Chronicles Magazine—and even VDARE.com in a cameo appearance although it takes no position on foreign policy!—were all woven together as part of a reactionary movement that was inadmissibly hostile towards the more, ah, “vibrant” practices of our multicultural and diverse utopia.
As a result, Frum called for all right-thinking conservatives to “turn our backs on them.”
This kind of attitude is an essential characteristic of the late, degenerate “conservative movement”—what Paul Gottfried has called “Goldbergism”. Frum’s column was only one salvo in National Review’s long war against conservative champion Pat Buchanan, who predicted and campaigned against the ruinous consequences of mass immigration, profligate spending, unilateral surrender in the cultural wars, and globalism. Similarly, Sam Francis was fired from the Washington Times because of Dinesh D’Souza triangulated against him to gain cover for his own timid book The End of Racism. Peter Brimelow and John O’Sullivan were removed from National Review for being premature immigration patriots at a time when California (and perhaps conservatism) could have been saved. Kevin Lamb was fired from Human Events for repeating positions that the National Review of the past would have regarded as common sense. The list could go on.
Unlike David Frum, none of these men were received with open arms by the New York media, or given a platform by liberal talking heads delighted to attack the Right. There is always personal benefit in attacking the Right. There is no surer way of creating instant respectability, a sudden reputation for deep thinking and praise from courtiers like Stephen Colbert. In contrast, the reward for Right Opposition dissent is financial insecurity, disgrace, and deliberate attacks calculated to utterly destroy families, personal lives, and even physical safety.
The result is that the late-phase “conservative movement” is, by intent, intellectually stunted. Movement conservative operatives clamoring to become “Senior Fellows” at one Think Tank or another know instinctively to avoid certain topics—such as Affirmative Action or mass immigration.
Frum is entirely correct when he charges that the Beltway conservative Establishment pays people to repeat, rather than think. But Frum himself has played a crucial role in setting the boundaries of what “conservatives” are allowed to think. Today, successful movement “conservatives” are either approval-addicted sociopaths or have deliberately crafted a protective stupidity that prevents them from reflecting on or even paying attention to issues that might get them in trouble with the Southern Poverty Law Center—$PLC to VDARE.com—or worse, purged by National Review.
Instead, we get never-ending wonkery about drilling for oil etc. in national parks, irrelevant at best and idiotic at worst. More than that, we find conservative “intellectuals” who have reached their positions by not rocking the boat—for example, John O ‘Sullivan’s replacement as Editor of National Review, Rich Lowry. As a result, their counterparts on the Left are simply intellectually superior and run circles around them.
The Establishment conservative media itself operates as a kind of bizarro reflection of the MSM. Rather than breaking new stories or asking tough questions of the governing establishment, the main fixations of the Fox Nation are focusing on the anti-Semitism of Occupy Wall Street (as proven by YouTube comments), the cover up of the black Founding Fathers by racist progressives, or the secret plans of the Obama Administration to lead the country to National Socialism. “Conservative” publications feature learned dissertations on how Martin Luther King Jr. was actually a great conservative theologian. Meanwhile, think tanks give us fantasy world analysis about how the real problem with Detroit was “unions” (mysteriously, Pittsburgh was somehow spared) or how the real problem is that American workers are overpaid.
This late-phase “conservative movement” is captured by delusions and fantasies—but not of the authentic Right. The main constituency of the American Right is those whites and social conservative who have legitimate economic and cultural fears that they are being dispossessed in their own country. But the current “conservative movement” takes these fears, strips them of substance, meaning, and Political Incorrectness, and repackages them as absurd conspiracy theory that is then circulated throughout the Republican Noise Machine.
The result is a movement that is simultaneously extreme and Politically Correct, rhetorically militant and absolutely no threat to the governing order.
However, it’s more Politically Correct (and ridiculous) to claim that Obama’s true motivation is D’Souza’s theory of “Kenyan anti-colonialism”, so that is what is instantly adopted by the “conservative movement’s Deep Thinker, Newt Gingrich.
Therefore, it is more mainstream to claim that of course you have no problem with Muslim immigration—but that this particular mosque is going to be used as a base by Saudi Arabia to implement sharia law in New York City. [Ground Zero Mosque: It's The Sharia, Stupid, by Deroy Murdock, Human Events, August 30,2010]
It is more Politically Correct, but also absurd, to blame this on a secret progressive conspiracy of racist whites that are seeking to destroy the “free market” over the objections of hard working Hispanics who want cuts in the capital gains tax.
If you want a career in the Establishment conservative movement, it’s an easy choice deciding what to say.
Frum is absolutely correct when he observes that economic recession and white displacement are leading to Republican radicalism. However, he and operatives like him have done their best to make sure that conservative leaders who have real, practical responses to these concerns—above all Buchanan—have been cast out.
Consequently, Republicans can no longer articulate why they should defend aid to their (white) core constituents. Instead, they champion self-destructive wonkery like torpedoing Medicare. The GOP/ Beltway conservative movement leadership simply sees suffering whites as so much cannon fodder to be sacrificed for the "tax cuts for billionaires" agenda that Frum rightly criticizes.
The result: a Permissible Republican Ideology that ignores the interests of the people who vote for it. The Republican Noise Machine, with its lunatic combination of paranoia and Political Correctness, is a necessary step to keep the cognitive dissonance from jeopardizing party loyalty. Given the choice between a Stupid Party that will ignore them and defend plutocrats and an Evil Party that actively hates them, most Americans will give the Stupid Party the victory—until the whole thing breaks down.
Unfortunately, that time is drawing near. It’s worth noting that a significant part of Frum’s 2003 National Review jeremiad criticized paleoconservatives for their perceived pessimism regarding the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. His critique doesn’t age well as our country’s relationship with Pakistan is on the brink of collapse after 10 years in the graveyard of empires.
Frum also ripped the “Unpatriotic Right” for doubting the country’s moral fortitude after 9/11, writing,
“The nation responded to the terrorist attacks with a surge of patriotism and pride, along with a much-needed dose of charity. Suddenly, many conservatives found they could look past the rancor of the Clinton years, past the psychobabble of the New Age gurus, past the politically correct professors, to see an America that remained, in every important way, the America of 1941 and 1917 and 1861 and 1776. As Tennyson could have said: "What we were, we are."”
But Frum was, simply, wrong. 9/11 did not herald an age of American renewal and patriotism. It was simply one more chapter in the long American collapse, commemorated by college campuses and government entities around the country with de rigueur condemnations of imperialism, racism, Islamophobia, and America itself.
Thus on September 10, 2011, Mark Steyn wrote in a column entitled Let’s Roll Over
“We commemorate an act of war as a “tragic event,” and we retreat to equivocation, cultural self-loathing, and utterly fraudulent misrepresentation about the events of the day. In the weeks after 9/11, Americans were enjoined to ask, ‘Why do they hate us?’ A better question is: ‘Why do they despise us?’ And the quickest way to figure out the answer is to visit the Peace Quilt and the Wish Tree, the Crescent of Embrace and the Hole of Bureaucratic Inertia.”
Steyn’s latest book, After America, posits that American collapse is all but a fait accompli. Steyn has not yet been purged from National Review. Indeed, his book was sent free with every new subscription to the magazine.
The Establishment conservative movement today is nothing but a glorified corporate lobbying firm. But the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party are openly hostile to the interests of the country. The Democrats now openly express their scorn for American workers. They are far more interested in importing a permanent underclass of Democratic voters than fighting inequality or combating unemployment.
The only possible answer would be a more rational conservatism united around a vision of ending nation-breaking immigration, fiscal restraint, a responsible foreign policy, confrontation of corporate corruption, and aid for American workers, industry, and the poor.
A “responsible” governing conservatism of the type Frum fancies presupposes a nation left to govern. And that may no longer exist.
More than its laws, its economy, or its governing document, a nation is the people and the culture that make it up. If they are dispossessed, it is no longer the same country.
But that is what is happening today—and Americans, to a significant extent because of David Frum, are not allowed to talk about it.