Jon Rauch gushes over David Frum. I can't gush over David (which is probably a relief to him), but I do respect him and have known him almost as long as Jon has. And on the critical point right now, we are in agreement: conservatism is about applying a skepticism toward government with a desire to make government work. It's skeptical but not nihilist; it's concrete and practical and, above all, attuned to the tragic idea that the world changes, that all reforms eventually end in failure and the task of politics is not to create a utopia or even some concept of justice, but to craft new solutions to new problems in a new environment.
Proposing Reaganite solutions for a situation radically different than the late 1970s is not conservative. It's a form of neurotic religion. Reagan wouldn't have supported it. And my fear is David's: that the right today is rewarding those least interested in government, and more interested in peddling a lucrative alternative reality. Conservatism has become entertainment. Palin is its celebreality star. Whatever else this is, it is not politics and it is not conservatism. Money quote:
Frum found himself talking recently to a group of conservative students about the bank bailouts and the Troubled Asset Relief Program -- initiatives taken under the (not exactly socialistic) Bush administration. The students didn't disagree when Frum said, "This was the end of the world. We had to do something.
These kids said, 'Our principles won't allow us to do it.'" Asked what would have happened if they had been in charge of the government during the financial meltdown, the students said they supposed it was a good thing that they weren't.
"This," Frum says, "is my worst nightmare. Conservatives say, 'You know what? We like it better not to have the responsibility to govern. Maybe it's better to be a star on Fox than to be a governor or senator.'
Conservative intellectuals say, 'I'd rather have a best-selling book than be an assistant secretary of something.' "I find this unacceptable. Which means you have to organize and think about how to deliver good conservative government in a good conservative administration."