David Frum’s Big Mistake

by Dennis Sanders on November 28, 2011

I recently lauded David Frum for his latest assessment on the state of the GOP, but I think he made a big booboo in a column for the Canadian newspaper, the National Journal.  Frum said that he thought the two best GOP presidential candidates were either former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman or former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.  He then ends the article with this:

The Washington, D.C., primary is set for April 3. I’ll probably cast a vote that day for Huntsman, if only to show support for a brave and independent-minded candidate — and in hope that a strong Huntsman showing will be interpreted as a call for a more modern and inclusive Republican party.

If Mitt Romney emerges as the ultimate nominee, I’ll place my hope that the Romney who enters the Oval Office will be the innovative, solutions-oriented Romney 1.0 — and not the placate-every-GOP-interest-group Romney 3.0 we’ve seen on the 2011 campaign trail.

Any other nominee would gravely test my commitment to the political party I’ve supported since I entered the United States as a college student in the fall of 1978.

There are so many things wrong with this passage.  First and foremost it tends to contradict what he wrote in his New Yorker piece, about fighting for the future of the party.  The closing words of that essay was centered on hope and on a cause worth fighting for.  This passage sounds like a whiny kid that will jump if he doesn’t get his way.

The other problem is that it paints moderates as hypocrites.  We ask conservatives to be more tolerant and accepting, but if things don’t go our way, well we take our blocks and go home.  I’m not saying that if say, Rick Perry got the nod, that moderates should just supporting him, but there are ways of not agreeing.  If your goal is to make the party more moderate and to persuade others to see your point, you don’t do it by proclaiming you aren’t going to support the party if candidate X is chosen.

Finally, issuing threats aren’t going to get you very far.  There are a lot of folks on the right who are okay with Frum leaving the GOP and really don’t care.  Moderates tend to think that if we threaten we will leave the party, that someone somewhere will freak out and plead for us to come back.  Newsflash: no one cares.

Like Frum, I support both candidates and I agree with his frustration concerning the other presidential candidates.  But this isn’t the way to do it.  I think this column pretty much undid all the smart commentary from his New Yorker article.

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November 29, 2011 at 10:53 pm

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Solomon Kleinsmith November 29, 2011 at 4:18 am

I disagree. I think this fits perfectly in line with where Frum has been going, and I fully expect him to pen something in the next several years about how he’s finally reached the end of his rope, the effort to save the GOP from it’s worst elements is beyond lost, and he’s gone independent.

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Bruce R. Gilson November 29, 2011 at 4:48 am

I fall somewhere between you and David Frum. I’m willing to support a Republican candidate who isn’t my ideal choice, but there are lines I would not cross. If the party had nominated someone like Mike Huckabee, I probably would vote third-party rather than for him (Fortunately, he took himself out of the running, but Michele Bachmann is bad enough that I’d have think long and hard if she were to be the nominee.) On the other hand, I’d probably vote for Cain as the nominee, though there are a lot of things I don’t like about him.

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Dennis Sanders November 29, 2011 at 10:58 am

Bruce,

We are more in agreement than you know. I’m not saying that we should support any nominee come hell or highwater. There are lines I wouldn’t cross and you won’t see me supporting a Bachmann candidacy. What I was getting at is that Frum shouldn’t so publicly burn his bridges if the goal is to reform the GOP. If that’s his goal then you have to be somewhat more discreet. If his goal is to just leave the party, then what he’s doing is okay. He doesn’t have to raise the flag of someone like Cain to show his loyalty, but he is painting himself in a corner and in effect short circuiting his own goals.

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