When Will Republican Leaders Fight Back?

If the GOP is unwilling to stand up to radicals, it might as well just rename itself the Committee to Elect Hillary Clinton.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Eric Cantor tried to appease Republican radicals. They turned on him anyway.

John Boehner has tried to resist them. They just overwhelmed him.

Mitt Romney tried to join them—and in doing so fastened onto his party the platform that lost the presidential election of 2012.

At some point, Republican leaders must recognize that they have a fight on their hands whether they like it or not. If they refuse to join that fight, they will be devoured anyway. If they surrender, they condemn the whole conservative project in America to the destructive leadership of fanatics (and the cynics who make their living by duping fanatics).

This lesson keeps being administered. Republican leaders repeatedly refuse to learn.

The political exemplar most relevant to today's GOP is not the oft-invoked Ronald Reagan. It is Tony Blair, who revived his party by standing up to its most extreme elements. There is no such leadership yet on the Republican side. If Republicans don’t develop it soon, we might just as well already rename our dysfunctional party the Committee to Elect Hillary Clinton.

"Do not follow a multitude to do wrong." Whoever wrote that probably wasn't a practicing politician. But the author knew something about how to save politicians from their most self-defeating impulses.

Presented by

David Frum is a senior editor at The Atlantic.

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