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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.
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.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
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.
Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.
The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.
Average speed of Heinz ketchup, from the mouth of an upended bottle, in miles per year:
After studying the fall of 64,000 individual raindrops, scientists found that some small raindrops fall faster than they ought to.
The Playboy mansion in California was bought by the heir to the Twinkie fortune, and a New Mexico man set fire to his apartment to protest his neighbors’ loud lovemaking.
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“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.'”