There Is No Frum From

March 28th, 2010


…from the ’70’s. And Frum wrote the book on it.

John J. Miller:

In a relentlessly smart book full of colorful anecdotes and deft pop-culture references, author David Frum describes the social convulsions of the 1970s: “We live in a world made new, and made new not by new machines, but by new feelings, new thoughts, new manners, new ways.” The 1960s have a reputation as America’s turning-point decade, but Frum convincingly argues that the 10 years following mattered more. The 1970s, he writes, “left behind a country that was more dynamic, more competitive, more tolerant; less deferential, less self-confident, less united; more socially equal, less economically equal; more expressive, more risk-averse, more sexual; less literate, less polite, less reticent.”

The precise dates of this transformation are not as important as the reasons behind it, however, and the explanation in “How We Got Here: The 70’s–The Decade that Brought You Modern Life–For Better or Worse” for what happened is both original and compelling. He says America’s midcentury confidence was an anomaly. At some point, “the rebellion of an unmilitary people against institutions and laws formed by a century of war and the preparation for war” was inevitable. Rather than pondering why Americans trust their public institutions today less than they did during the Watergate revelations, for instance, Frum turns the question on its head: Why was the trust so high previous to that experience? His narrative describing the dizzy whirl of progress is absorbing, and his warning against both the nostalgic myths of the past and the uncritical acceptance of recent change is wise. How We Got Here also has a perfect title: there may not be a better book available on the broad currents of American social life in the second half of the 20th century.

I don’t really have a pundit in the AEI fight, unlike perhaps Jules Crittenden. I have enjoyed Frum’s work in the past and AEI has been a great resource over the years. Have a look.

I’ve been accused of being trapped in the 80’s because I believe Ronald Reagan’s timeless principles (and even some policies) can be applied to our new circumstances. So be it.

But who is really trapped in the past? It seems to me that David Frum wrote the book–then forgot what he wrote. Set aside for a moment that if Frum is right, McCain should have won. The thing is, we already tried it Frum’s way…back in the 1970’s.

Unlike Reagan, who sprang on the scene with clarity and purpose to defeat Communism abroad and Socialism at home, in the ’70’s we got Richard Nixon with Wage and Price Controls. The EPA. He even tried Health Care, but Teddy the Hutt blocked it out of spite and ambition. We got Jerry Ford with Rockefeller and Justice Stevens and détente. Bob Michel, with his tiny accommodationist congressional minority.

Let me be clear; these were good men, patriots, even war heroes–but they did not get the battle of ideas we faced at home. And neither did I. The net result was the Jimmy Carter disaster followed by a Reagan miracle.

This current president is even worse than Carter. That means, if the historical analogy holds, then we are due for a president even better than Reagan.

That would be hotter than Disco Duck on a CB radio with a Saturday Night Fever, good buddy.

Reagan, of course, wasn’t perfect–just better than all the rest.

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  1. Point
    March 28th, 2010 at 21:30 | #1
    You are completely missing the point of Frum's post. He calls the bill a catastophe. He has little problems with the ideals behind many of its opponents, and I am sure he would agree with your assessment of Obama. However, when you are in the party out of power, your job is not only to get back into power, but responsible politicians must also to minimize the damage the other guy can do while he sits in the chair.

    The GOP completely and utterly failed in that second, most responsible duty. At worst, they deliberately allowed a horrible bill to pass to pick up a few seats in 2010; at best, they tried their best, but with tactics so ill-conceived that they could not chip away at the most onerous parts of the legislation.

    Either way, it is a failure - of vision or of simple tactics - and any right-thinking conservative needs to learn from it.

  2. March 28th, 2010 at 21:58 | #2
    I didn't miss the point, Point, I just disagreed.

    Obama wanted full-on CommieCare. Negotiating just with Democrats, he settled for this. You really think he would have settled for lots less by negotiating with Republicans? Remember, this is a guy who voted repeatedly against Born Alive Infant protection laws which even Babs Boxer, Hillary and NARAL didn't support.

    Obama would have to give up trial lawyers to get Republicans. Between the lawsuits and defensive medicine, it would have even put billions in his back pocket to pay for his Tooth FairyCare. Yet Democrats would rather amputate their own arm and sue themselves rather than give up Big Lawsuit.

    And you don't account for the complete demoralization that would have set in when Americans realized both parties were in on the fix. America is much better served having an opposition party to Socialism than a lukewarm, milquetoast "Me, too--sorta!"- Marx Lite party.

    Obama was never gonna give us anything worth having. Period. Including Strange New Respect.

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