David Frum's recipe for conservative revival

I saw David Frum on A Daily Show the other night plugging his new book, Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again. I haven’t read it (commentary invited from anyone who has), but, according to the book description:

(Numbering added.) Would this work at the polls?


  1. Are there any foreign examples of success or failure with this approach to UHC?

  2. Are taxes really, at present, discouraging savings and investment?

  3. WTF?!

  4. This, at least, is one point where the conservative movement could find common ground with organized labor.

  5. Prison reform is long overdue, but you really don’t want to stir up the fat vote.

  6. Makes sense, and many on the left would agree.

  7. Good luck with that.

  8. What makes anyone think we have to worry about a military challenge from China? Our economies are too thoroughly intertwined for any interruption in trade to be thinkable.

Curiously, there’s nothing about fiscal conservatism or balancing the budget.

Who cares about “really”? Conservative voters have been so conditioned to believe taxes inhibit economic growth that the potential benefits in votes are all that matters anymore.

People with larger families tend not to place a priority on higher education. This is all to the good if you’re looking for more flag-waving moral-values voters and fewer feminized college pukes in generations to come.

“Encouraging larger families” is also a good cover under which you can further tighten access to contraception, abortion, and sex ed.

The conservative movement doesn’t want common ground with organized labor. They want to drown it in Grover Norquist’s proverbial bathtub.

2. Lower taxes on savings and investment financed by higher taxes on energy and pollution
Good luck raising any taxes and not splitting the Republican Party

3. Federal policies to encourage larger families
yeah wtf
Maybe he means banning abortions

4. Major reductions in unskilled immigration
Dream on
What he really means it arresting and deporting as many Mexicans as possible in order to make the republicans look tough

5. A genuinely compassionate conservatism, including a conservative campaign for prison reform and government action against the public health disaster of obesity

These are two issues are totally unrelated.
Prison reform will piss off the republican base. See #2

Obesity…It’s an issue which should have been linked too #1. He hasn’t thought about it.

Compassionate conservatism has never been a cohesive ideology.

**8. A renewed commitment to expand and rebuild the armed forces of the United States—to crush terrorism—and get ready for the coming challenge from China **

Same old saber rattling from these turkeys.

Taking those points one at a time:

1. A conservative commitment to make private-sector health insurance available to every American

Agreed. Ideally, I’d just like to see the market left alone. But the writing is on the wall - if conservatives/libertarians can’t come up with a solution that leaves most of the market intact, the liberals will come up with universal health care that has less respect for markets.

My personal opinion is that this should take the form of guaranteed catastrophic coverage for all (based on a percentage of income) that protects you against being financially destroyed by sudden or chronic illness, coupled with low-income subsidies for gap insurance. True universal free health care for all health related issues would be a disaster.
2. Lower taxes on savings and investment financed by higher taxes on energy and pollution

Not quite. Conservatives should advocate new taxes on energy which has externalities that create a true market failure. Carbon taxes, for instance. But you don’t want to heavily tax nuclear, solar, wind, and other types of energy sources that have few or no externalities. The goal should be to price the hidden cost of energy correctly so that markets can be more efficient. That will have the effect of pushing us towards energy sources that are better for the planet. A flat tax on energy has no such benefit.

As for reducing taxes on savings… That’s what 401(k)s are for, isn’t it? Here in Canada, we have tax-free RRSPs with limits high enough that almost no one outside of the upper-middle classes can afford to save enough to hit their annual cap. Adding additional tax-free savings would not affect the savings rate one iota except perhaps among the upper class, but they’re mostly investing a big chunk of their money anyway, so a tax-free savings plan would just distort the markets and force capital to move around to suit regulations, not the real needs of the market. So forget it.

I’m tired of politicians trying to use taxes for social policy to force ‘correct’ behaviour. The best taxes are those that raise the money government needs to operate while distorting the market as little as possible.

3. Federal policies to encourage larger families

Again, the federal government shouldn’t be in the business of driving social behaviour. However, it has already instituted policies that push people towards having smaller families (retirement protection, etc), so you could make the case that a correction is needed. I understand the logic - people of Frum’s ilk are worried that western democracy and values are losing the population war - the people who don’t believe in our values are breeding much faster than we are, and if that keeps up, a hundred years from now the world is going to be a very different place. Trying to maintain the status quo is very much in the conservative tradition.

This isn’t so much a problem in North America, but in Europe there are a number of countries that will be majority muslim in 100 years if current trends continue. Currently, muslims only make up 5% of Europe’s population - but that’s three times the percentage as it was 20 years ago, and their birthrates are so much higher that we’re going to see a rapid demographic shift over the next two or three generations.

That’s IF current population trends continue. Of course they won’t. Drawing straight-line extrapolations from current trends led to nonsense predictions like the Club of Rome in the 70’s saying there would be massive worldwide starvation by the year 2000 and people would be living in tiny cubicles packed like sardines.

4. Major reductions in unskilled immigration

This makes a lot of sense on both the left and right. Unskilled immigrants, legal and illegal, are part of the reason why wages have remained stagnant at the low end - unskilled immigration puts downwards pressure on wages. Likewise, unskilled immigrants tend to be a bigger drain on government, which bloats the size and influence of government and drives up taxes.

However… Immigrants are also resources. The key is to make them a net societal asset rather than a liability. I think a reasonable compromise would be to demand that all immigrants agree that they will not be liable to collect government services like health care, welfare, and other subsidies until they have held a job for X years and paid a certain amount of taxes into the government. Maybe even make them post a bond on arrival equal to the cost of a fare home, with the understanding that if they just can’t make a go of it and need services that are unavailable to them in the U.S., they can cash their bond, buy a ticket home, and leave.

This would have the effect of filtering immigrants and separating out the ones who are coming to work hard and build a life from the ones who are coming simply because they can get better government services and live on the dole.

Obviously, political refugees are another matter, but I don’t think their numbers are big enough to be a problem.

I agree with the former wholeheartedly. But a big part of prison reform has to be to reduce the size of the prison population. And that means drug legalization and/or a major reduction in sentences for drug offenses. Overcrowding is one of the big reasons for the apalling conditions in many prisons. Solve that, and the situation can be made better rapidly. And there’s no question that America locks up far too many people. The only people that should be serving long sentences in jail are repeat violent offenders and murderers.

A ‘war on obesity’, on the other hand, is anti-conservative nanny-state idiocy.

Absolutely. This is a winning issue for conservatives. Except that I fully expect the Democrats will adopt the same position by and by, so it’s really something conservatives have to do just to keep from losing ground.

The only way to reduce corruption in government is to reduce the power of government. Most ‘anti-corruption’ initiatives just result in more regulation and bigger government, which ultimately results in even more corruption. Take away the government’s ability to reward and punish industry, and you’ll see a big reduction in the number of lobbyists and the lengths they go to to curry favor.

Yes. However, the old saying that the generals always prepare to fight the last war has never been more true. The new battles aren’t going to be fought using traditional weapons. More and more, countries are going to go after each other electronically, demographically, and economically. A first shot in the ‘new warfare’ might be the recent cyber attacks initiated by Russia. China could attempt to destabilize the U.S. dollar to force trade concessions or other benefits. Sabotage of internet backbones, EMP attacks on cell phone networks, space-based attacks on GPS systems, that sort of thing.

Think about how much economic damage would be done if China sent up enough hunter-killer satellites to take down the U.S. GPS constellation.

That, plus terrorism and the fear of rogue states exporting WMD are where the ‘new military’ needs to spend a lot of its time.

What a load of crap. First, do you have a cite that larger families tend to not place a priority on higher education? Or that larger families are generally ‘flag-waving moral values voters’?

It’s clear that you have no clue what motivates Republicans. I can tell you the motivation for wanting people to have larger families - one is to keep up with the larger birthrates in non-Christian countries - to not be overwhelmed by sheer numbers of ‘other’ people in years to come. The other is that conservatives believe that the family is the cornerstone of society. Large families look after each other. They help their parents in old age. They give financial assistance to each other. They help each other through school. They provide shelter to each other when times are tough. They act as social pressure points to keep everyone working and behaving well (how many people do the ‘right’ things because they don’t want to disappoint their parents/grandparents or look bad in the eyes of their siblings?)

In short, conservatives support ‘the family’ because they think the family is a force for good in society. And they’re largely right about that.

Of course, this doesn’t really fit with your simplistic ‘Republicans are teh evil!!!’ commentary.

I’m guessing you’re not old enough to remember the ‘Reagan Coalition’, which in large part was made up of blue-collar workers - many from the northeast. One of the reasons Republicans have been losing ground is because this demographic has been shifting back to the Democrats. Frum wants to rebuild that coalition.

3 would never work. What irks Republicans, if we judge by arguments such as Pat Buchanan’s The Death of the West, is that we have too few white children and too many children of other races. The government can hardly pass a law offering $10,000 to anyone who produces a white baby, or laying extra taxes on anyone who produces a non-white baby, so there’s no way to satisfy the Buchanan types on that front.

(We already have a $5,000 tax credit per child; what more could he want?)

8 is tough to work with as well. Right now we spend $730 billion per year on the military, more than the rest of the world combined and close to a third of the total government budget. Frum apparently thinks that this is an appalling shortfall and that we need to spend a great deal more. Where does he expect to get all this money from, seeing as we already face huge deficits and the looming baby-boomer retirement? And on what grounds does he make the claim that the military needs to be bigger?

(Of course we might trim military pork to pay for his new expansion, but I certainly don’t see that on his list.)

If this were the truth, then the GOP’s favorite ethnic group would be Mexican Americans, who have the highest birth rates of any group in our country. Instead, though, the GOP despises Mexican Americans.

Mmph. I really don’t think much of those arguments, Sam. Quoting…

People like projecting trends unchanged indefinitely into the future–witness the recent UN prediction that if nothing changed, by 2300 there would be more than 130 trillion humans living on Earth. Taking demographic trends and projecting them indefinitely into the future can be an entertaining past time. As the history of demographic studies has demonstrated time and time again, however, the results aren’t particularly useful as anything but historical articles.

From here, someone’s personal essay which, while it may be arguable in some specifics ( it’s a couple of years out of date at this point ), is at least food for thought:

Your theory has the hidden assumption that “Muslim” or “people who don’t believe in our values” are genetic traits, or a close facsimile. There’s no reason to assume that three generations down the line that the descendants of conservative Muslims in, say, England will still be conservative Muslims.

I think that ITR champion is correct; it’s really an underhanded appeal to the racists. They just don’t want to come out and say “them Mexicans and darkies are outbreedin’ us God-fearin’ white folk !”

Tamerlane: Apparently, you missed this part of my post:

In short, I agree with you.

Der Trihs: Well, that fits in with your belief that Republicans are evil. However, it’s not true. Frum is anything but racist, and has absolutely no desire to appeal to racists.

And Republicans do not hate Mexicans. They hate illegal immigrants. They believe the borders should be protected. But they have no problem with Mexican families living legally in the U.S.

This is just another example of you assuming the absolute worst motivations for Republicans because it fits in with your view that all that is bad in the world is the fault of evil right-wingers. It’s the lefty equivalent of the right saying that the left is made up of hippies and godless communists who want to destroy Christianity, take down capitalism, and install a totalitarian nanny state, and that all their choices and behaviours must be analyzed through that crazy-filter.

Oddly enough, I did. Skimming in a hurry is always a recipe for disaster ( or something a tad more mild ). Mea culpa :).

Cite for this being representative of mainstream conservatism?

What an utter crock of shit!

Perhaps you should tell the family from Mexico who lives next door to me and whom I dog-and-house-sit for each year when they make their annual Christmas visit to Mexico (and with whom I routinely swap lawn equipment and favors) that contrary to outward appearances I actually hate them.

Or perhaps you could tell the same to the Mexican guy who employs the crew that cares for my aunt’s yard, whom I’ve gotten to know and enjoy visiting with whenever I see him about subjects ranging from the weather’s impact on his business and how his daughters are doing in school to the trips he takes back home that he takes each year, that I’m only faking my friendliness and actually hate him.

Or perhaps you could tell the numerous Mexicans I’m friends with at my neighborhood Wal Mart and veterinarian’s office - people I see daily and who gleefully joke and cut up with me whenever we see each other - that contrary to outward appearances I actually hate them.

Etc., etc., etc.

You and your ilk just don’t get it, do you:

Mexicans here legally = fine

Mexicans here illegally = still fine, but shouldn’t be allowed to get away with breaking the law

(A sentiment shared, btw, by the very Mexicans I just mentioned who all went through the process of coming here legally and don’t think it’s fair or right that illegal immigrants should get a free pass, either.)

I understand it’s SOP for your type to attempt demonize the opposition and attribute to qualities and beliefs they don’t actually have, but this is ridiculous.

We’re supposed to be about fighting ignorance here, remember?

As happens from time to time, editing is not always my friend. The next to last line should read: I understand it’s SOP for your type to attempt to demonize the opposition and attribute to them qualities and beliefs they don’t actually have, but this is ridiculous.

My apologies for the jarring syntax.

OK, sorry I missed that one. It doesn’t say much for the cons that any of them would admit that - except that white xenophobes are in control of conservative thinking. People who don’t think that freedom and opportunity are enough to transmit American values…maybe 'cuz they don’t want to come right out and say just what American values mean.

But where they go astray is in believing that society itself must not help the family or the members in it - that it somehow weakens the family structure. Maybe so, if by “structure” you mean unchallenged authority, but I see too much wrong in families to feel that they would benefit from government turning its back. Help is help, not some plot to undermine Dad and Mom and apple pie.

First, “blue-collar workers” ≠ “organized labor.” The GOP wants no part of backing up labor as far as (say) unskilled workers’ right to bargain collectively or go on strike. The settled, socially conservative, white male craft worker was the Pubs’ coalition buddy. The service economy peons never were and never have been.

Because once we win/abandon the War on Terra, conservatives will need another boogie man to scare the sheeple with.

Garbage. They make little if any distinction between illegal immigrants, legal immigrants, or born-in-American citizens; they just assume that anyone who’s brown or speaks Spanish is illegal. “Illegal immigrant” is effectively a synonym for “Mexican”; as someone who lives in California, I hear it used that way all the time.

Whether you like it or not, the Republican Party sold it’s collective soul to the racists a long time ago.

You are somehow able to discern from random comments by fellow Californians that the only ones using the term as a synonym for Mexicans are Republicans…and not only that, but this is characteristic of all Republicans, or at least the majority of them? Where do you live…Santa Barbara? :smiley:

Solipsism, thy name be Der Trihs?

As has been so brilliantly stated above (by me, I do believe):

“I understand it’s SOP for your type to attempt to demonize the opposition and attribute to them qualities and beliefs they don’t actually have, but this is ridiculous.”

Oh, please. The decades-long marriage of Republicanism and racism is well known, and has been a major focus of their electability with the Southern Strategy. They are the ones who reach out to the racists every election cycle. Pretend otherwise all you like, but anyone who’s been paying attention knows better.

I’m sorry, but who is the Senator who used to be a leader in the KKK again? Oh yeah… DEMOCRAT Robert Byrd.

There are racist Republicans, and racist Democrats.

This thread is not making you liberals look very good. In fact, you look rather… intolerant.

Only to those who would claim that opposition to illegal immigration = hating Mexicans.

One can hardly blame you though as this kind of crap has been bandied about by the left for decades. Question the efficacy of forced busing or welfare and you’re a racist; question whether municipalities should be required to employ women as firefighters as they likely lack the strength to climb ladders and bring people back down, and you’re a misogynistic woman-hater wanting to keep 'em barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen; etc., etc. ad infinitum.

The fact of the matter is that these kinds of allegations are a deliberate strategy on the part of the left aimed at squelching opposition to whatever cause they happen to be supporting at the moment, and it’s a strategy you’ve apparently bought into hook, line and sinker.

I’m just glad that a forum like this exists so that those of us who are fighting the good fight against ignorance have a suitable platform from which to do so. :wink: