UPDATE #2 below.
Listening to lectures about evil right-wingers from David Frum (passed on gleefully by Brad DeLong et al.) is like listening to Rush Limbaugh praise the virtues of marriage. Here he is, commenting on the Mitt Romney tapes:
Romney has been reshaped by this campaign. The dread to which Romney gives voice in his Boca Raton speech – that “makers” are about to be electorally overwhelmed by “takers” – is a dread expressed again and again by conservative media and conservative thought-leaders. “Democracy is two lions and a lamb voting on what’s for dinner”: how often have we heard that old country-club quip repeated these past four years? Only this time, the quip is repeated not as a joke, but with real fear.
The background to so much of the politics of the past four years is the mood of apocalyptic terror that has gripped so much of the American upper class. Hucksters… free enterprise is under attack… Obama is a socialist, a Marxist, a fascist, an anti-colonialist… by donating to my think tank, buying my book, watching my network, going to my movie, can you – can we – stop him before he seizes everything to give to his base of “bums,” as Charles Murray memorably called them.
And what makes it all both so heart-rending and so outrageous is that all this is occurring at a time when economically disadvantaged Americans have never been so demoralized and passive…. The only radical mass movement in this country is the Tea Party, a movement to defend the interests of elderly incumbent beneficiaries of the existing welfare state.
Just skim the preface of Frum’s 199
45 book Dead Right. Are you kidding me?
Now it’s true, if you go read the preface, you’ll see not so much that Frum used to espouse the things that now (apparently) horrify him. Rather, back in the 1990s (and through the early 2000s, actually) Frum would tweak his message to appeal to these people since that’s apparently where the action was, in his judgment at the time. And that’s actually worse than just outright flip-flopping a la Romney.
NOTE: I’m not saying a guy can’t change his mind. I’m saying I don’t take Frum seriously when he acts disgusted by the environment in which he used to thrive, without him at least giving a nod every once in a while to the fact that, “Hey, maybe these people aren’t actually aware of what they’re doing. After all, when I was a speechwriter for George W. Bush, I didn’t get up for work every day thinking I was helping to launch an illegal war. So maybe I can cut current Republicans some slack too.”
UPDATE: Check out the first review of Frum’s book, which got the maximum number of stars. It is more succinct than the Preface, and you can’t see what looks like the juiciest part of the preface with Amazon’s search feature anyway. So here’s the opening of a guy who loves Frum’s book:
David Frum is a conservative not afraid to give blunt, constructive criticism to his fellows. In “Dead Right”, he questions whether the Republican coalition has actually made any progress toward reducing the size and scope of the federal government. In spite of good intentions, he determines very little progress has been made because the GOP is unwilling to incur the pain of telling people what they don’t want to hear, which is that moving from a self-reliant nation to a welfare state has damaged our national character.
The contrast between self-reliance and welfarism is the key insight of the book. Frum points out that negative behaviors like divorce, single parenthood, promiscuity, drug abuse, and chronic unemployment are now subsidized by the state and therefore have ballooned to nearly unmanageable proportions.
Everyone get that? In this book Frum is wagging his fingers at conservatives for not being aggressive enough in trying to roll back the culturally decadent welfare State.
UPDATE #2: Oh. My. Gosh. I just clicked the Frum link, since above I had merely pasted in what DeLong did in his own post. Frum does mention that he wrote a book on this stuff–but he points to a novel where (I guess) he had his current take on things. He didn’t point to his earlier book where he told the conservative movement they needed to push harder to roll back the welfare state, which was responsible for so much cultural decay.