I can’t do enough to recommend this Ross Douthat blog post about the David Frum-William Voegeli exchange over at the Claremont Review of Books. Douthat agrees with Voegeli that it is a good (and necessary) thing that Republicans followed Paul Ryan in embracing premium support Medicare because “absent a commitment to entitlement reform, there can be no fiscal conservatism
worthy of the name.” Douthat agrees with Frum that (and this is Douthat talking):
The Republican Party needs a plan to prevent entitlements from swallowing the American economy, but the evidence of 2012 suggests that it also needs what any successful political party tends to need — namely, realistic policy responses to the problems that loom largest in Americans’ everyday lives right now. These responses should be consonant with limited-government conservatism… There’s more to public policy than fiscal roadmaps, and it should be possible to correct America’s fiscal course while also displaying policy imagination on questions like work-life balance, health care access and affordability, the cost of college, social mobility, and so forth.
That is great so far, but let’s keep in mind that the modernization Frum specifically has in mind is not only undesirable, is also backward-looking. Here is Frum posting a college newspaper’s account of Frum’s recent visit with Georgetown University’s College Republicans:
Frum said. “It’s just a matter of time.” He went on to say that the Republican presidential candidate in 2024 will undoubtedly be “pro-gay marriage,” “pro-environment,” and “pro-gun control.” Frum views his role in this process of change as being the one who could potentially speed it up, so that the Republicans “modernize” their positions before 2024… As an example, he suggested that the best policy to implement the principle that abortion should be avoided is not to ban abortion in as many cases as possible but to examine the social factors that lead to abortions, in order to see if those can be corrected.”
The phrasing “pro-environment” does a lot of the work here, but we’ve already seen a more conservative-sounding version of the Republican politics that Frum is offering. It was the Schwarzenegger administration. We can see the benefits of Schwarzenegger’s policies and political strategy when we look at the condition of California’s state government and the health of the California Republican party.