Exceptional American Conservatives

At the end of a long and interesting diagnosis of the problems facing his Republican Party, David Frum writes this excellent summation:

The United States desperately needs a party of business enterprise, of American leadership, and of work and family that can win elections and govern effectively. Instead, the country’s center-right has detoured into an ideological dead end. It must speak for a coalition broader than retirees and the rich. Above all, it must accept — and even welcome — that in the United States, as in every other developed country, universal health insurance is here to stay.

Plenty of Republican readers–if Frum still has plenty of Republican readers, I should add–might well have nodded along until that last sentence, and then went back to perusing less challenging material. Frum is unusual in identifying the “tipping point theory”–the idea that America is on the edge of lurching into irreversible socialism if one more entitlement program, likely Obamacare, becomes as entrenched as Social Security and Medicare (which Republicans lurch back and forth between demagogically protecting and seeking to subvert)–as ludicrous and politically suicidal:

Every other advanced country has some kind of universal health-care program — and also a center-right party that wins much (and even most) of the time. Right-of-center governments currently hold power in Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and many other places. These parties haven’t run out of issues on which they can disagree with their social democratic opponents, and they’ve found plenty of voters willing to cast a ballot for private initiative and business enterprise.

It makes you wonder if one of the chief functions of “American exceptionalism” is to protect U.S. conservatives from even thinking about such questions. And it also serves as a reminder that the conquest of the GOP by a conservative movement that is not temperamentally conservative at all has made the idea of compromising to win elections ipso facto seem gutless and treasonable.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.