More on the closing of the conservative mind
We shouldn't be surprised that David Frum got fired from the American Enterprise Institute for violating the Republican party line on health care. Notwithstanding the Palin/McCain campaign rhetoric, the GOP has been hostile for years to to mavericks, independent thinkers and, frankly, almost any kind of thinkers.
Even so, I was struck by this post from Frum's wife, Danielle Crittenden:
We have both been part of the conservative movement for, as mentioned, the better part of half of our lives. And I can categorically state I’ve never seen such a hostile environment towards free thought and debate–the hallmarks of Reaganism, the politics with which we grew up–prevail in our movement as it does today. The thuggish demagoguery of the Limbaughs and Becks is a trait we once derided in the old socialist Left. Well boys, take a look in the mirror. It is us now.
It's hard to believe that this revelation came like a bolt out of the blue. The Republican arguments on health care, the economic stimulus and financial regulation have become so convoluted and degraded that they only make sense from the perspective of raw political strategy and Tea Party pandering.
What holds the Republican Party together isn't anything remotely like a coherent philosophy or set of values. The only things holding it together are group-think based on a cold calculation of how best to block the Democrats and rile the base. It's an intellectual circling of the wagons. Small wonder that it becomes oppressive.
I am tempted to think that the revulsion expressed Crittenden is part of a bigger ferment among Republicans. I'd like to think that there is a group of young Turks or moderates who agree with Frum that the GOP health-care rejectionism will turn out to be the party's Waterloo. I'd like to think that there is a new generation GOP that is ready to take a chance on constructive engagement.
But my good friend Bruce Bartlett is skeptical. Republican leaders think their strategy since the 2008 election has been a great success. If they win back House and Senate seats this fall -- as they almost certainly will -- they'll argue that their strategy has been vindicated. And the truth is, the Young Turks are among the most fervent of the hard-liners -- the Jeb Hensarlings, Paul Ryans. The moderates are disappearing faster than ever, and the ones who stay are disdained.
So: tough luck, David Frum. I'm sure you'll do just fine. But don't be shocked that you've been bounced from AEI. The surprise is that you kept the job for so long.