No Comment — May 11, 2009, 9:52 am

David Frum’s G.O.P.

The number of Americans who self-identify as Republicans may be reaching a low mark. Arlen Specter may have left the party. Rush Limbaugh may still hold the party faithful in a bizarre thrall. But there is still life in the G.O.P. There are still intelligent analysts in the G.O.P. corner. And if I had to make my pick of who could provide the political analysis to lift the Republicans from their current state of confusion to a new party of government, right now I’d say that person is David Frum. In fact, I confess to being a regular reader of Frum’s postings and other writings. Frum is a solid analytical thinker and an excellent writer. But he has some other traits that will serve him over time.

A sense of humor, for instance. On Wednesday, Obama and Biden made a trip to a suburban Virginia hamburger joint for lunch. The event turned into a media frenzy that was effectively ridiculed by The Daily Show (with some assistance from Dan Rather). On the right, Sean Hannity attacked Obama for ordering mustard with his burger. Frum gives this a deadpan grilling on the basis of culinary polls:

What kind of a man eats his hamburger without ketchup? That was the big question yesterday on talk radio, after President Obama visited an Arlington, Virginia, hamburger place on Tuesday and ordered his burger with spicy mustard.

First answer: Texans… Second answer: Republicans. A 2000 survey of members of Congress by the National Hot Dog Council found that 73% of Republican lawmakers preferred mustard to ketchup, as opposed to 47% of Democratic lawmakers. Final answer: traditionalists. Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut, the restaurant widely believed to have served the first hamburgers ever made in the United States, absolutely forbids ketchup.

Although it seems that Louis’ Lunch also forbids mustard, this spirit is just what the G.O.P. needs now.

While he spent a long time with the Bush team and showed little evidence of appreciating its mistakes, the post-Bush Frum is able to deal critically with leadership mistakes. Consider his comments on Sarah Palin early in the ’08 campaign. He quickly identifies the pluses and minuses of the initial choice and is among the first to itemize the candidate’s shortcomings. Indeed, looking back at them now, Frum’s comments seem downright prophetic.

He recognizes that the Rovian formula might just barely have worked in 2000 and 2004, but it’s a dead-end going forward. Frum is focused on a path forward that pays attention to demographics and lost voter bases.

A generation ago, Republicans were dominant among college graduates. Those days are long gone. Since 1988, Democrats have become more conservative on economics – and Republicans more conservative on social issues. College-educated Americans have come to believe that their money is safe with Democrats – but that their values are under threat from Republicans. There are more and more college-educated voters. So the question for the GOP is: Will it pursue them? This will involve painful change, on issues ranging from the environment to abortion. It will involve even more painful changes of style and tone: toward a future that is less overtly religious, less negligent with policy, and less polarising on social issues.

He’s prepared to take on the airwave buffoons that currently hamper the G.O.P.’s return to political maturity—Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh—and take his lumps for doing so.

And finally, David Frum, more than any other G.O.P. commentator associated with the last administration, speaks from a consistent set of conservative reference points. That points to the basis for the sort of political dialogue that the country needs.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

June 2016

Trump’s People

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Old Man

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Long Rescue

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

New Television

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Improbability Party

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
Helen Ouyang on the cost of crowd-sourcing drugs, Paul Wood on Trump's supporters, Walter Kirn on political predictions, Sonia Faleiro on a man's search for his kidnapped children, and Rivka Galchen on The People v. O. J. Simpson.

The new docudrama The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX) isn’t really about Orenthal James Simpson. It’s about the trials that ran alongside his — those informal, unboundaried, court-of-public-opinion trials in which evidence was heard for and against the murder victims, the defense and the prosecution, the judge, the jury, and the Los Angeles Police Department, to say nothing of white and black America. History has freed us from suspense about Simpson’s verdict, so that the man himself (played here by Cuba Gooding Jr.) is less the tragic hero he seemed in the mid-Nineties than a curiously minor character. He comes to the center of our attention only once, in Episode 2, at the end of the lengthy Ford Bronco chase scene — which in real life was followed by a surreal cavalcade of police cars and media helicopters, as well as an estimated 95 million live viewers — when Simpson repeatedly, and with apparent sincerity, apologizes for taking up so much of so many people’s time. It is an uncannily ordinary moment of social decorum, a sort of could-you-please-pass-the-salt gesture on a sinking Titanic, in which Simpson briefly becomes more than just an archetype.

Photograph (detail) © Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos
Article
Trump’s People·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"All our friends are saying, load up with plenty of ammunition, because after the stores don’t have no food they’re gonna be hitting houses. They’re going to take over America, put their flag on the Capitol.” “Who?” I asked. “ISIS. Oh yeah.”
Photograph by Mark Abramson for Harper's Magazine (detail)
Article
The Long Rescue·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

He made them groom and feed the half-dozen horses used to transport the raw bricks to the furnace. Like the horses, the children were beaten with whips.
Photograph (detail) © Narendra Shrestha/EPA/Newscom
Article
The Old Man·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The new docudrama The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX) isn’t really about Orenthal James Simpson. It’s about the trials that ran alongside his — those informal, unboundaried, court-of-public-opinion trials in which evidence was heard for and against the murder victims, the defense and the prosecution, the judge, the jury, and the Los Angeles Police Department, to say nothing of white and black America. History has freed us from suspense about Simpson’s verdict, so that the man himself (played here by Cuba Gooding Jr.) is less the tragic hero he seemed in the mid-Nineties than a curiously minor character. He comes to the center of our attention only once, in Episode 2, at the end of the lengthy Ford Bronco chase scene — which in real life was followed by a surreal cavalcade of police cars and media helicopters, as well as an estimated 95 million live viewers — when Simpson repeatedly, and with apparent sincerity, apologizes for taking up so much of so many people’s time. It is an uncannily ordinary moment of social decorum, a sort of could-you-please-pass-the-salt gesture on a sinking Titanic, in which Simpson briefly becomes more than just an archetype.

Illustration (detail) by Jen Renninger
Article
New Television·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

With its lens shifting from the courtroom to the newsroom to people’s back yards, the series evokes the way in which, for a brief, delusory moment, the O. J. verdict seemed to deliver justice for all black men.
Still from The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story © FX Networks

Amount an auditor estimated last year that Oregon could save each year by feeding prisoners less food:

$62,000

Kentucky is the saddest state.

An Italian economist was questioned on suspicion of terrorism after a fellow passenger on an American Airlines flight witnessed him writing differential equations on a pad of paper.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today