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David Frum and the Closing of the Conservative Mind

25 Mar 2010
Posted by Bruce Bartlett

As some readers of this blog may know, I was fired by a right wing think tank called the National Center for Policy Analysis in 2005 for writing a book critical of George W. Bush's policies, especially his support for Medicare Part D. In the years since, I have lost a great many friends and been shunned by conservative society in Washington, DC.

Now the same thing has happened to David Frum, who has been fired by the American Enterprise Institute. I don't know all the details, but I presume that his Waterloo post on Sunday condemning Republicans for failing to work with Democrats on healthcare reform was the final straw.

Since, he is no longer affiliated with AEI, I feel free to say publicly something he told me in private a few months ago. He asked if I had noticed any comments by AEI "scholars" on the subject of health care reform. I said no and he said that was because they had been ordered not to speak to the media because they agreed with too much of what Obama was trying to do.

It saddened me to hear this. I have always hoped that my experience was unique. But now I see that I was just the first to suffer from a closing of the conservative mind. Rigid conformity is being enforced, no dissent is allowed, and the conservative brain will slowly shrivel into dementia if it hasn't already.

Sadly, there is no place for David and me to go. The donor community is only interested in financing organizations that parrot the party line, such as the one recently established by McCain economic adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin.

I will have more to say on this topic later. But I wanted to say that this is a black day for what passes for a conservative movement, scholarship, and the once-respected AEI.

Note: Further comments and clarification here and here.

An Apology

It occurs to me the use of such expressions as "reactionary" and "reality biased" were uncalled for and unlikely to persuade. I apologize.

In fact, I'm a big fan of Russell Kirk's "The Conservative Mind." By his standards, indeed, I am a conservative myself.

Honor among thieves

I am going to go ahead and call David Frum or Bruce Bartlett, or both, a liar. I highly doubt that AEI scholars were in favor of Obamacare or "much of what Obama was trying to do." This is just self-propagandizing on Frum and Bartlett's part to make them feel better about their break with conservatism. Bartlett says he opposed Medicare Part D. But he does not say why he opposed it. Could it be because he had leftist reasoning?

The conservative mind isn't "closing" or "shriveling into dementia." It is finally waking up and thinking.

Come 2016, Where Are The Smart Conservatives?

Something Matt Yglesias has brought up is the need for non-idiot ideologues in the GOP... if only because just as the sun rises, at some point the GOP will regain control of Congress/WH, regardless of their policies. So, his theory goes, we need a GOP whose center isn't defined by - say - the likes of Michele Bachmann.

I'll drink to that, even while recognizing that core GOP policies will "always" focus on minimal taxation/regulation of top 1% income/activities.

Frum, like Bartlett,...

Frum, like Bartlett, is a lone voice in the wilderness.
A recent episode of Bill Moyers' Journal had Frum on to discuss GOP solutions to our problems. It was a testament to Frum's intellect that he was able to articulate a vision for the party, and make it sound viabile, even amidst the worst crisis since the Great Depression. In a landscape filled with talk radio carnival barkers, he added some much needed Buckley-ish sober intelligence. AEI just lost one of the best advocates of free market solutions out there. I look forward to following Frum in his future endeavors.

AEI fellows

Mr. Bartlett:
Could you please respond to the earlier list of AEI scholars, many of whom have in the very recent past had articles published that were quite critical of the current administration's health care plan? You say you hadn't seen any of their articles, and it was because they were told to be quiet because they supported too much of President Obama's health care plan. But articles I've read written by Scott Gottlieb, for one, seem to be quite vociferous in their criticism of the president's plans. I know Scott, and I doubt very seriously he has ever been a fan of the president's plans. I also know Joe Antos -- not as well as I know Scott -- and it would also surprise me if he was a fan of the president's plans.

(Full disclosure: I was the chief spokesman for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid during part of the Bush Administration, where I worked with Dr. Gottlieb.)

Not Going To Happen

Mr. Bartlett can speak for himself. That said, I would think it obvious to you (or Thomas) that he would be unlikely to respond regarding any one employee or fellow at the AEI. Given the situation, even if Mr. Frum had provided him a list, it would be unseemly for either gentleman to "out" anyone.

Basically, he passed on gossip, and made no claims regarding veracity. My suggestion would be to take it for what it's worth to you.

"the conservative brain will

"the conservative brain will slowly shrivel into dementia if it hasn't already." I'm a liberal, but you are proof that the conservative brain isn't shriveling into dementia. The "movement conservative'" and Republican brains maybe.


You honestly didn't recognize that your party was intellectually and morally bankrupt during the impeachment ridiculousness?

And then you supported George W. Bush in 2000 despite the crystal-clear pattern of ineptitude and immaturity that defined his life to that point?

It really took until now? And suddenly it's a big revelation?


George Bush was a great

George Bush was a great president, and Clinton committed a crime. He not only should have been impeached, but put in jail.


While I am an ultra left progressive I have enjoyed reading you and Frum. The repulican party is going to march lockstep of the pier. There is an ill wind blowing in the country, yes fueled by anger over healthcare but also by "states rights" racists. While I don't agree with either of you on most issues I enjoying reading the work of sensible opposition. I am glad that Frum had the guts to say out loud about Fox entertainment what we have all known since the Bush admin, fox runs the republican party. Hatemongering is not the answer

Intellectual rigidity

When it somes to closed minds I'm afraid the left passed the right years ago. Political correctness, calling every criticism of Obama racism, and vilification of those who espouse ideas the left deems, "dangerous."
While it is inexcusable for some to react violently to the recent debauchery on Capitol Hill, it is not surprising that many have risen up against the Democratic Party.
As for hatemongering, why not look back at some of the demonstrations against Bush? Some of the vitriol spouted by the left far surpassed anything we've seen come from the right.
The proof will come in November and Novembers to come. But not for the left, which always knows what's best for the people, no matter what the people want.

Donors' goals

I think the donors' expectation for these places is the donors are supposed to do the thinking, or at the very least, decide on the possible conclusions, and then the job of the people in the "think" tanks is to think up reasons why those thoughts or conclusions are correct.

What an Oasis!

I am so happy I discovered this blog. A place where thinking people exchange reasoned opinions and may disagree while seeking a solution.
Blind faith in anything, whether free markets (that aren't always free) or in Government, is not a good idea; but then again most people here seem to know that. What fun!

There's a big unfilled market niche

There are a lot of comments on this article from people people who'd support (emotionally, politically, and yes, financially) an organization that reflects your view -- even if they aren't themselves committed conservatives.

Given the behavior of the conservative "movement" since 2001, or maybe 1994, there must be a very large number of people (in absolute terms if not percentages) who are conservatives but who can't stomach the "movement". I'd guess many of them would welcome a low key organization of responsible, smart conservative policy thinkers, who didn't censor themselves or dramatize situations for political gain. I'd guess such a movement would have influence way out of proportion to its size or financial resources.

Conversely it sounds like some big money has used big "donations" to seduce and control many conservative thinkers. I think any alternative can only succeed if it eschews a search for big donors and finds fairly independent funding -- as you have found money from writing.

At this point it looks very likely that the most demagogic elements of the "movement" will continue to gain a stronger grip on the "base" and will be able to drive loyalty tests, etc. But this is a self-limiting trend, and it will keep opening up more ground for responsible conservatives who can avoid the seductions of big money and big media.

Now would be a very good time for those interested in working on responsible conservative policy to start networking and exploring inexpensive, experimental ways of building up their own place to stand. Credibility, principle, insight and hard work can be translated into a decent living.

Fan mail

Honestly Bruce I'm one your greatest fans. I've kept a lot of your Forbes pieces and bought all your books which are refreshingly clear and commonsensical about economic issues. At the moment the GOP seems intent on committing suicide. Quite honestly I think it needs to succeed in the sense that it needs a prolonged spell in the wilderness as this is the only thing that's going to bring it to its senses

Both Frum and you have my

Both Frum and you have my sympathy, but, as others have come close to pointing out, there's a real irony here: two free-market types bemoaning the fact that they've been expelled from the Garden of Eden that is think-tank and foundation patronage and forced, yes, to rely on the free market.

Indeed, you both were treated shabbily in a manner that portends poorly for the Republican party and the level of political discourse in this country. It's a shame, a bit of a disgrace and perhaps a very bad sign.

Still, (if I may switch bucolic metaphors) the briar patch you and Frum have been thrown into is the one you two have chosen to spend your lives celebrating.

You write "Sadly, there is no place for David and me to go. The donor community is only interested in financing organizations that parrot the party line, such as the one recently established by McCain economic adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin."

Do you see the comedy here?

There's "no place for David and [you] to go". Well, no place but the free market, my friend!

(One could exhort pace Norman Tebbit & Margaret Thatcher: Get on your bikes, boys, and look for work!)

Feudal patronage is now as distant a prospect for you and Frum as it's been for most of us since, well, the industrial revolution. How sad.

(Well, okay, actually it's not. Neither of you will have to deal directly with mere market forces for too long, but, for the sake of your argument/kvetching, let's pretend things are as dire as you make them out to be and that you both will actually be in the same place as other workers, blue-collar or white -- you know, forced to actually make money in the marketplace, unable to live off foundations representing the interests of the very rich.)

Having to give up on feudal patronage this late in the game (the 21st century) can't be easy, but if it's any consolation you have plenty of company.

"Sadly" most of us live our entire lives without help from "the donor community." "Sadly", not everyone can be a paid cheerleader for institutions of the very wealthy. "Sadly", life is hard and capitalism can be rough. "Sadly", if you don't repeat what the money people want you to say you often find yourself out on your ass.

Cheer up though; it's not all bad. Fortunately for you and David, the Democratic party has your backs and you needn't worry about health care now.

No need for thanks. Though, yeah, you might want to turn up your irony-alert.

"I have lost a great many

"I have lost a great many friends and been shunned by conservative society in Washington, DC."

But you've made so many new ones -- like the readers of this blog!

Seriously, Mr. Bartlett, there are a lot of people out there (I'm one) who have tremendous respect for what you've done, and the intellectual integrity it demonstrated -- even more so since you've continued to be an advocate for conservative ideas when you thought they were correct, instead of simply switching sides.

It depresses me that the

It depresses me that the Republicans seem to have no shame and are not only intellectually bankrupt but proud of it.
Our standard Republican Representative seems either to be deliberately disingenuous, irresponsibly uninformed or mentally deficient. And I say this with no joy or rancor, only sorrow.

While I tend toward the progressive side, I am under no illusion that the Progressive agenda will lead to unalloyed progress.

We desperately need intellectually honest Conservatives like Mr. Bartlett to engage and participate in our democracy,

AEI != conservative

When a liberal like Norm Ornstein is one of the most visible faces of AEI in recent months -- who actually has been out defending health care reform, as well as attacking the Citizens United case, as he helped write McCain-Feingold -- it's hard for me to read with a straight face that you're calling AEI a conservative organization.

Far from showing a closing of the conservative mind, it's more likely merely showing that AEI is liberal on such issues ... which I've known for a long time, and which Frum told you himself. So why say this is a "closing of the conservative mind" when you point out that AEI is liberal on this issue?

Also, since many at AEI, like Ornstein, are in agreement with Obama, why would they be angry at Frum for condemning Republicans for not working with Democrats ... which is one of the major Democratic talking points?

reading Bruce Bartlett and

reading Bruce Bartlett and David Frum have given me the first experiences ever of believing that there are reasonable conservatives out there. If only the Republican party were made up of Frum's and Bartlett's, I'd probably choose them over the Democrats (though I am very liberal). the reason? at least frum and bartlett respond to evidence! a lot of liberals don't either!

Who's still right!

"I have always hoped that my experience was unique. But now I see that I was just the first to suffer from a closing of the conservative mind."

What about David Brock and his story "Blinded by the Right" who then started up the "Media Matters" website?


If you really believe this, you should move to Europe! We conservative Democrats will continue to oppose this Administration and fight for the future of America.

I am progressive and I am

I am progressive and I am just as American as you and have just as much right to try and create, democratically, the country I wish. I think this is the closed minded attitude that is ultimately going to kill the right (and I don't believe that will be good for America).

Instead of telling others, or at least implying, that they are not real Americans and they should leave the country why don't "you guys" (have to talk about "the other" because that is so important to the right) sell your ideas on their merit, get out and organize (hopefully without violence) and win elections? THAT'S the Amercan way.

Your not on David Frum and you

Being myself a liberal I have always thought that the conservative point of view is basic for the survival of Democracy because it gives everybody the possibility to confront our ideas and improve them through open and honest discussion. Otherwise we risk the danger of becoming more and more rigid and intellectually and politically poor. So, intelligent and honest conservatives like Mr. Frum and you are very necessary for America particularly in these days when the Republican Party is going back to the Dark Ages.

you should never be trusted again

"Since, he is no longer affiliated with AEI, I feel free to say publicly something he told me in private a few months ago."

No, unless he released you from this confidence, it is not OK to out this.

No one should ever trust you in their confidence again.

At first my reaction was,

At first my reaction was, poor David and poor Bruce, victims of closed dogmatic thinking.

Then I remembered that the two of you were knowingly and willingly allowing the culture wars to divide the nation for several decades, just to get the vote out for your particular brand of conservatism: more tax cuts for the rich, who would then fund your "thinkthanks" and secure your jobs.

You and David are not lamenting the intellectual state of conservatism in this day and age. You are realizing you are losing power because once again, you find your party is going to be on the wrong side of history.


I would also be willing to donate. I think you may be surprised the number of moderates who's opinions fall just left or right or on this magical 'line' that we have drawn between our citizens who would support your rational analysis of our Nations problems from the conservative point of view (the real conservative, not the neo-fascist propaganda mongoring thugs that have taken over the minds of the easily manipulated on the ever more far right).

I'm generally more of a liberal in my political perspectives, a great thing to be, but I know as a scientist that we need multiple perspectes to best solve our complex problems. Please start a new foundation for open and civil discourse, and I just really think in today's atmosphere you'd have a great deal of support, perhaps mostly small donations from the exasperated masses.

Perhaps you should try

Perhaps you should try academia? Maybe partisan think tanks aren't the best incubators of knowledge. You and Frum's firings seem to confirm that.


Academia runs far to the left and it has no interest in having conservatives around--even dissident conservatives like me and David. Academia is also way, way behind the curve when it comes to having anything useful to say about pressing political and policy issues. Academics spend their days studying issues that were hot 5 years ago. Even the media plays catch-up these days. If you want to know what's going on this minute you have to read the blogs.

Academia = Left Wing? Not in my Experience!

Having experienced the world of right wing academia I think you're absolutely wrong. It is quite prevalent and largely depends on one's region. Try finding a left wing economics department South of the Mason Dixon Line for example (it's not easy). And don't get me started on the Freshwater schools of the Midwest. Take a look at the geographical distribution of academic economists with respect to their opinion of health care reform:

As for the rest of what you're saying naturally that's a matter of personal preferance.

Looking like some other ugly movements...

I am a raving liberal, but perhaps only because things have moved so far to the right these days (for instance, why are we having to argue over "torture"?). Unfortunately I'm watching Conservatism (with a capital "C") look more and more like a couple other ugly movements - namely National Socialism and Soviet style Communism. Both required rigid ideological conformance. Both ejected anyone who didn't comply (albeit, in a more nasty fashion).

While I don't always agree with conservatism with a small "c", it does have its points at times and those who service it tend to be reasonable and thoughtful.

That said I don't agree with the literal translation of "the extremes are bad". Yes, as dogmatic enforced ideology they are, but that doesn't mean that the extremes of either side don't sometimes speak the truth. That is, we shouldn't reject the ideas simply because they come out of the mouths of extremists. Otherwise, "non-partisanship" can become and ideology in itself.

Plenty of room over here.

There's plenty of room for conservatives in the Democratic party. :) You saw them center-stage in the recent legislative battles. Personally, I think a good tension between conservative and liberal ideas is healthy thing, and as David recently pointed out, if you're working with us, you have a better chance of actually shaping the outcome.

As an indirect benefit, I truly believe the only way the Republican party and the conservative movement are going to return to reason is if they spend a prolonged amount of time in the doghouse. There's simply no other way to get them to come around - they have to see the incentive to do so, and right now, they don't.

Ironically, Med Part D is no longer conservative

You have to love the irony of Bruce being let go for criticizing Medicare Part D when it is now widely said Medicare Part D is a problem (owing to its similarity to Obamacare) and part of the proof that George Bush wasn't a real conservative.

I think the party against socialism has moved into "four legs good, two legs bad" territory.

Liberal not celebrating

Mr. Bartlett,

It is very disheartening to hear about your experiences as well as the current situation with Mr. Frum.

Personally, I consider myself a die-hard centrist when approaching issues, but at the end of the day I admit my political views do tend to skew a bit leftward. Regardless, intellectual conservatism--in its best form--has always brought healthy perspectives to the table, and that is important.

Our two-party system is bad enough. And while I often relate more to the Democratic platform, I shudder at the prospect that they may become the only game in town. If the Republican party and conservatives continue to marginalize themselves--appealing more and more exclusively to an ever-shrinking demographic of disenchanted, rural Caucasians--we could see a de facto one-party system for some time. That would be a bad thing.

Breath of Fresh Air

After the ranting witnessed in the last few weeks and months, the fabrication of fact and rejection of all thoughtful discussion, I am so relieved to know that some conservatives are disgusted with this manor of politics. (Not that republicans have the corner on the zealous advocates market.) As an American, I was brought up to believe in free speach - so let's hear opposing ideas! In my family, I was brought up to believe that good lively debate is healthy (and fun, too), but lying to make a point is a foul, and does not constitute winning. As a democrat, I am perplexed at how the "messaging" that is really total misrepresentation of the proposed policy has gone so completely out of control. I can't wait to see the return of others like Bruce Bartlett and David Frum to the air waves and to the political discourse - not because I agree with you (I am pretty liberal in my thinking), but because this is how American discussion works.

Third Part

What we need is a third party of people willing to work together - it's what the people want and the country needs. Why not join the New America Foundation? Think of what could be accomplished with less rancid partisan extremism.

Going rogue

only works if you are Sarah Palin.

Count me in for making a donation to support this site and your new moderate Republican think tank (even though I'm a Democrat). We need your insightful conservative voice, and others I find here are very, very good . . . sad to see that the Republican party has been hijacked by those who don't understand the value of dissenting opinions in our system.

Bruce, I won't always agree with you, but your experience and insights are extremely valuable to the process. Thanks for your service to country.

The first???

"It saddened me to hear this. I have always hoped that my experience was unique. But now I see that I was just the first to suffer from a closing of the conservative mind"

The first? What about those whom David Frum himself read out of the "movement" for their opposition to the Iraq War catastrophe in his "Unpatriotic Conservatives" piece?

The "conservative mind" has been closed for some time - and David Frum as much as anyone helped to close it to conservatism itself.

Bartlett, Frum, Larison,

Bartlett, Frum, Larison, Brooks--particularly important writers, because they are thoughtful and often say what partisans on one side or the other don't wish to hear. As a moderate Democrat, I value them for helping maintain what little political center we have in this country. Keep writing...

A Question for All: Any Equivalents / Analogs on the Left?

I was about to say I had a question to pose to everyone here, both Mr Bartlett and all the commenters who might care to respond, but then I realized I actually have two questions, not one.
The first was sparked by the large number of comments here that include lines to the effect of, "I'm not a conservative/Republican myself, but..." and, "...but we need conservative voices in the discourse for the sake of our country."
I've spent time at various conservative blogs and fora (most especially Free Republic, but also Powerline, Little Green Footballs, Sullivan's -- oh wait, those last two were themselves deemed apostates a while back, weren't they?), and I can recall few similar or analogous comments. Most of what I find there, as David Neiwert has so thoroughly documented, is "eliminationist" rhetoric. The most civil comments are the ones that want liberals merely deported; the less civil... well, you know.
So, first question, am I just looking in the wrong places? Are there conservative blogs that do respect and welcome opposed, even radically opposed, views and people? If so, which ones?
But the second question is, I call recall no equivalent on the left to the defenestration of Messrs Bartlett & Frum on the right. There are, of course, those who eagerly take themselves from left to right, such as Mr David Horowitz, Sen Zell Miller, and the entire "Neocon" claque. But I can't think of any erstwhile lefties who were forcibly deposed from positions of respect or authority, or who had significant national megaphones taken away, because they veered from The One True Path. On the right, as noted above, Mr Bartlett and Mr Frum are just the latest in a long line to be deemed heretics; Mr Sullivan and LGF's Charles Johnson preceded them by quite a bit, as they were long preceded by David Brock and Michael Lind. If anything, the current incarnations of the American left, and of the Democratic Party, could be accused of being overly forgiving of major dissension in the ranks (see: Lieberman, Joseph; HCR and).
Or am I wrong, or just suffering convenient lapses of memory? Are there any lefties (or former lefties) who have been excommunicated in the manner of Mr Bartlett and Mr Frum? And if so, how recent or distant are the examples?
If anyone wants to reply directly to me, instead of in this thread, I'm reachable at info (at) testwell (dot) com. Thanks in advance to any/all who answer.

excommunication is part of the renewal process

I am very sorry to hear that AEI acted to silence its thinkers, many of whom count themselves as genuine intellectuals. This is a serious indicator of the catastrophic decline of a once-original center-right think tank.

As bad as it appears, this is part of the process of renewing the utterly bankrupt GOP. For now, it is content to propagate lies and distortions (e.g. "death panels") in the hope of short-term political gain without regard to the issues facing America, i.e. the escalating cost of health care. Ultimately, this cannot work, even if the GOP takes over Congress. The ideas - an untenable mix of supplyside economics, libertarianism, and fiscal conservatism - are simply bankrupt and ignorant of the facts and must be entirely revamped. This will be a healthy process, a return to the responsible and realistic conservatism that was abandonned during the Reagan ear.

I am a conservative who feels that, since 1980, the GOP has left me behind. The process will be painful, but necessary and unavoidable for the sake of political relevance and indeed survival - Obama is going to run rings around twits like McConnell and Palin.

So Mr. Bartlett are you and Frum saying that the conservatives

are the new Totalitarian regime. And since there are other 'closeted' conservatives like yourself, why are they afraid to speak up? Surely what this movement espouses is more dangerous to our nation's democracy than just the two of you losing your employment. Didn't Kathleen Parker also lose a column she had (WSJ I think) when she stated that Palin wasn't ready to be VP.

So if there are enough of you out there who feel as you do, and don't speak up, this makes you and David seem like just two RINOs going Rougue. I think it's imperative that the two of you continue to speak out. This will hopefully give cover to others like you to speak out as well. As David said, "We thought that we own Fox News and we found out Fox News owns us".

Sadly, it's not isolated

Here in Iowa, if you don't toe the fanatical right's line, you're kicked to the sideline. As such, that leaves me voting Democrat -- because even if I may disagree with some of the Democrats' approaches -- I cannot in good faith or conscious vote for this small-minded segment of our society.

What I hope you and Frum do is fight for your party -- fight hard!

We need (at least) a strong two-party system -- a system that can intellectually discern differences, and politely work toward compromise.

I know many former Republicans would be delighted. And for the record: I always voted for the politician, not the party. Sometimes Republican, sometimes Democrat. But since 2000, I have voted straight party: Democrat.

Get those fanatics on the run. Please.

American Conservative Magazine

I doubt very seriously that David Frum was arguing the same economic points you were. The man never met a social program he didn't want to spend federal money on.

Frum brands himself a moderate conservative, but he's really a Bush conservative - the very brand of conservative that really has no real value to anybody except the Democrats and the power elite. His condescending self proclamation of being "an intellectual conservative" and thusly a self-anointed elite leader to the unwashed masses indicates that indeed, he belongs in the Democratic party, where the belief that people are too stupid to take care of themselves is a mainstay.

Mr. Bartlett, if you've got something truly conservative to say, write it up and submit it to the likes of American Conservative magazine.

But nobody owes you anything, including a living provided by political think tanks, and rest assured that the real conservatives don't care one whit about what happens to Frum. I'm sure Huffington Post would welcome his addition to their staff.

Engage with the Coffee Party?

It's just begun, but there is a movement stirring in America to insist on well-informed, reasonable political discourse - all ideologies welcome, so long as people will respect facts, and each other.

Right now, the folks getting engaged are probably skewing left (since they're the folks who have been most motivated by incivility on the Right). But we need to hear the well-reasoned opinions of all sides in our national debate, and this movement may provide a good vehicle for promoting these discussions.

I'd love to see folks like you and David Frum being part of civil, informational forums with people from other parts of the political spectrum.

America needs a zealot to represent its middle class

There is a huge political center in the USA that is looking for common sense instead of extreme ideology. If the center can't find a home, there is something wrong. But the true center needs to be about making USA first, not Israel nor any other country.

The GOP and the corporate elite have consistently demonstrated a never ending greed and more for them and less for the USA.

Much of the Democratic Party are still pushing for illegal immigrant amnesty and giveaway programs for those who will never become self sufficient.

The answer is somewhere in the middle and represents a USA with a strong economy and strong middle class and neither an aristocracy nor a "mediocracy". The commercial interests in the USA once represented a true asset, now they have no allegiance and represent only profits.

A conservatives choice of terms.

I must say that I find this eulogy for the recognition of conservatism's new brain wave PEAK is grin-full. For those of us who consider "DARK" a GOOD thing, ( coffees, dirt for food growth, BEING ABLE TO NOT GET SKIN CANCER SO EASY...), is just one of those "few" things that a "liberal" thought is so much like a finished diamond... The WORTH is in the brilliance via the FACETS, light is just the catalyst.

Where's the constructive debate gone?

I have read most articles on this issue & all the comments here, and have to admit it's sad to see dissending conservatives being unceremoniuosly "cut off life support" and then also being publicly spat upon by people that they probably felt comfortable inviting to dinner last week.

To me[European] this is unsettling : in school & university, we studied all of American history and your system of political representation.
After the Civil War it was built around the two main parties. Add to this your Congress' structure and the conclusion was that constant CONSTRUCTIVE dialogue is a
NECESSITY, more-or-less balanced compromise is the norm.

It is now increasingly difficult to discuss ideas within the GOP. Where does this leave bipartisan dialogue?
Party doctrine is enforced by automatic sanctions and public humiliation, which leaves an aftertaste of hypocrisy.
ex :
A former colleague at AEI defends the institute -
the tone is more than condescending to the reader, gives vague references, and we are basically asked to trust the author because "it’s fair to say I[he] know[s] what I’m[he's] talking about".
Plus he's using some tasty adjectives and of course takes some cheap shots at his former buddy.
Ha. Someone's earning red points in the office.

It's not hard to guess how things went down, when you can clearly see the end result.
a.Waterloo article
b.Party&Donor pressure gets to AEI president
c.Brooks objects till silenced
d.Options considered, dismissal grounds found
e.Brooks probably negotiates to offer resignation (the most discreet solution for the AEI)
f.Uncomfortable meeting mith Frum, where alternatives are laid out and sincere apologies offered.
g.Frum resigns, to avoid an argumented dismissal that he's afraid will be more damaging to his career.
(Remember he doesn't yet know his story will get all this attention.)
Of course, parts of the above are purely speculative, but it rings true to my ears.

Mr. Barnett, I would like to thank you for this blog and article. The comments show balanced folks, actually listening to and understanding the other side's concerns. Some of which they aren't shy to admit they share.
I enjoyed reading and will continue to do so.
Hope to be seeing less alarming things in the news about America.

European countries have long ago put in a strong public option, but experience here shows that countries that start only with the public option rapidly develop "complementary" private plans ; same goes for pensions.
Analysts here judge it to be competitive & to provide better [financial] security.

Of course, the US is a different case(deficit, etc...).
What would likely determine my vote[if I was an American] is how often the loss/absence of medical coverage is a factor in personal bankruptcy in the States.
The % is strikingly high.
Remember mortgage defaults were the first domino in 2008.

Cheers from the other side of the pond.

I'm independent - mostly

I'm independent - mostly liberal(in a real rather than the media spin sense. As others have echoed, those who care to think from a place of real well-meaning, rather than get caught up in the party-line (on either side) are to applauded and are much needed. A place to go? Make the place! Start a blog/site/think-tank with other well-meaning, independent thinkers of any/all stripes. Celebrate the differences in opinion while working to advance viable approached.

don't sweat it

You and Frum can rest easy. I believe you'll look back on this period as formative and galvanizing. Reason tends to prevail. Thankfully. Years hence, when the dust has settled, my money is on both of you remaining in the vanguard of reason on the Right while many influential today will have long been culled from the herd.

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