David Frum, the former George W. Bush speechwriter, wrote a piece for The Atlantic about David Cameron’s general election victory and the lessons today’s GOP can take from it.
I found the article misguided and unintentionally funny. Frum’s argument is that the GOP needs to make peace with Obamacare, reject politics of racial resentment, pursue immigration reform, and not become an explicitly religious party. Conservative parties around the world have made peace with these things in their countries, Frum argues, so the GOP here needs to as well.
What Frum overlooks is the reality that the GOP isn’t conservative in the way that the Tories are conservative or that Stephen Harper’s party in Canada is conservative. To observers outside the United States, Americans have two major parties — a center-right party and a far-right party. The Democrats are closer ideologically to the Tories, and the Republicans are closer to UKIP. Cameron has more in common with Obama than he does with Scott Walker or Ted Cruz. If Walker or Cruz had to run against Cameron, they would demonize him as an Oxford-educated socialist.
Frum wants the GOP to move toward the center, but there’s no reason for it to, at least not right now. Eventually it will, once its electoral coalition proves unable to achieve the presidency. I’d argue that the GOP is there now, but I also recognize that the GOP doesn’t accept that. Which is why I think next year will be a horrible, horrible election.
In theory, Frum is right. The GOP does need to move back toward the center, to become a conservative party again instead of the radical party it has become. But there’s no audience for Frum’s argument within the GOP today.