You’re Hurting Frum’s Feelings

David Frum’s feelings are hurt:

…I’ve received a great deal of e-mail. Most of these e-mails say some version of the same thing: if you don’t agree with Rush [Limbaugh], quit calling yourself a conservative and get out of the Republican Party. There’s the perfect culmination of the outlook Rush Limbaugh has taught his fans and followers: we want to transform the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan into a party of unanimous dittoheads–and we don’t care how much the party has to shrink to do it. That’s not the language of politics. It’s the language of a cult.

Yeah, I think I know why they’re saying that to you, and it doesn’t have a whole lot to do with cults. It has to do with some of the outlandish things you’re saying:

Rush Limbaugh is a seriously unpopular figure among the voters that conservatives and Republicans need to reach. Forty-one percent of independents have an unfavorable opinion of him, according to the new NEWSWEEK Poll. Limbaugh is especially off-putting to women: his audience is 72 percent male, according to Pew Research. Limbaugh himself acknowledges his unpopularity among women. On his Feb. 24 broadcast, he said with a chuckle: “Thirty-one-point gender gaps don’t come along all that often … Given this massive gender gap in my personal approval numbers … it seems reasonable for me to convene a summit.”

Limbaugh was kidding about the summit. But his quip acknowledged something that eludes many of those who would make him the arbiter of Republican authenticity: from a political point of view, Limbaugh is kryptonite, weakening the GOP nationally. No Republican official will say that; Limbaugh demands absolute deference from the conservative world, and he generally gets it. When offended, he can extract apologies from Republican members of Congress, even the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

So people like Frum don’t get any of that sweet, sweet deference that is so regularly plied upon the unpopular Limbaugh. How unfair.Frum goes on…

Look at America’s public-policy problems, look at voting trends, and it’s inescapably obvious that the Republican Party needs to evolve. We need to put free-market health-care reform, not tax cuts, at the core of our economic message. It’s health-care costs that are crushing middle-class incomes. Between 2000 and 2006, the amount that employers paid for labor rose substantially. Employees got none of that money; all of it was absorbed by rising health-care costs. Meanwhile, the income-tax cuts offered by Republicans interest fewer and fewer people: before the recession, two thirds of American workers paid more in payroll taxes than in income taxes.

We need to modulate our social conservatism (not jettison–modulate). The GOP will remain a predominantly conservative party and a predominantly pro-life party. But especially on gay-rights issues, the under-30 generation has arrived at a new consensus. Our party seems to be running to govern a country that no longer exists. The rule that both our presidential and vice presidential candidates must always be pro-life has become counterproductive: McCain’s only hope of winning the presidency in 2008 was to carry Pennsylvania, and yet Pennsylvania’s most successful Republican vote winner, former governor Tom Ridge, was barred from the ticket because he’s pro-choice.

Frum is undecided about whether he wants to bellyache about people not being liked because they make too much sense, or about people not making enough sense because they’re too busy trying to be liked. To him, it seems, likability trumps reason and logic if, and only if, you’re talking about the right people doing the liking or not-liking: Non-conservatives.

Mr. Frum, I think that might be why you’re getting the mail. Your core message is that conservative principles don’t count.

Here’s an idea. Why don’t you publish a brand-new article called “I Told You So,” pointing back to this one, to be put into print once we have a chance to see which policies work? Zowee! Is that a paradigm shift or what? That would involve educating oneself on reality, rather than fixating on personalities and popularity contests like some smitten fifteen-year-old girl.

Do you realize how many times, just in the twentieth century, conservatives lost the affections of the electorate in a big, big way? Lessee…I think we should go ahead and count William Jennings Bryan, although he never did actually triumph…we should give it to Wilson even though he got a decisive benefit from the vote-splitting in 1912…Roosevelt in 1932…Camelot…Watergate…Iran-Contra…The Man From Hope.

It seems escape velocity from Planet Conservative is never quite reached. Something keeps pulling us back in. What would you think that is? Is it that conservatives are so seductive, so smooth and silky, such good speakers, so freakin’ fun? Or could it be the Diebold machines?

Heh. It is to laugh.

Nope, it’s reality. To see what I’m talking about, just catch a plane ticket to any big city run by a solid majority of democrats. Walk around in the seedier sections of that town for awhile. Buy some coffee. Buy some groceries. Buy some gas. Bend the rules a little, fire off a pellet gun in your backyard, throw some batteries in the garbage and tell people about it. Get a job without belonging to a union.

Live there long enough to be on both sides of the law. Get mugged. Have your car keyed.

You vote for a solution that sounds good, but isn’t…you vote for another one, and another one…you watch all these things get implemented and then turn to cr*p. You watch your government go into debt, and then step into the money-lending market as the 800-pound gorilla on the consuming side of that counter…inflation skyrockets. Crime skyrockets too. Women violated, kids abducted, old people mugged — people get tired of this after awhile.

Limbaugh is unpolished and unappealing because he can afford to be. After living in a crime-infested, over-inflationed, crude-oil-deprived fantasy land for awhile, people don’t care what other people look like. They start to care more about ideas and reality.

So conservatives don’t need to change a d*mn thing.

They just need to identify, and reject, people like you. Good for them.

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes.

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