THE PLANK JULY 28, 2009
David Frum continues to be an invaluable, and lonely, voice of reason in the midst of the conservative crackup. Here he is offering some perspective on the bitter declinism sweeping the GOP:
The apocalyptic despair heard from today’s conservatives is wrong,
wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong as a description of reality, wrong
politically, wrong psychologically, wrong morally....
In 1975, the federal government set the price of every airline
ticket, every ton of rail freight, every cubic foot of natural gas and
every barrel of oil. It controlled the interest rates paid on checking
accounts and the commission charged by stockbrokers. If you wanted to
ship a crate of lettuce from one state to another, you first had to
file a routemap with a federal agency. It was a crime for a private
citizen to own a gold coin. The draft had ended only two years before,
but not until 1975 itself did Congress formally end the state of
emergency (and the special grant of presidential powers) declared at US
entry into the First World War.
And here he is on the paranoia and extremism that this declinism nourishes:
If I lived in a country in imminent danger of a Bolshevik or Fascist
seizure of power, I’d be a cowardly fool if I failed to use every means
to prevent it, including violence if need be. If it were true that our
political opponents wanted to impose tyranny on the United States – if
(as Rush Limbaugh said the other day) a vote for the other party was a
vote for “totalitarianism, dungeons, and torture,” then what patriot
could possibly abide a political defeat?
Happily, none of those things are true. As wrong and harmful as the
Obama administration’s plans are, the administration is playing by the
rules of the game. To agitate people into thinking otherwise is to
corrode the foundations of the American constitutional regime....
If America has been sliding gently but irresistibly into soft
despotism, where were all the valiant defenders of liberty before
November of 2008? Soft despotism begins to look less like a profound
sociological trend, more like undulations of the sine curve: It’s
despotism when we lose, freedom when we win. We should have more
confidence in the people and the country than this. We should also have
more charity to our political opponents – who after all are contending
with hideous problems bequeathed to them by … by … well suddenly we
Republicans cannot seem to remember who preceded Barack Obama in
office. To listen to us, you’d think that the bailouts and takeovers
started on January 20, 2009, not the previous March. You’d never know
that TARP was supported by almost every Republican commentator,
including the editors of National Review. Or that Vice
President Cheney argued urgently in favor of the rescue of the Detroit
automakers. Or that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac enjoyed the backing of
Republican as well as Democratic lawmakers.
Sad, that in order to have a platform for such observations, Frum had to leave National Review and launch a new website.