How We Got Here

by David Frum

Perhaps a word of background about what I’m doing here in these unexpected surroundings. Andrew and I have been acquainted since the mid-1980s, when he was a Harvard graduate student and I was enrolled in the law school. I led a section of the late Judith Shklar’s class in the Government department. The section met in a classroom that was used by a section led by Andrew that ended immediately before. All semester I wiped his handwriting off the blackboard, but I don’t think we ever once encountered each other in person.

That experience prefigured the next quarter century. Andrew and I have exchanged tens of thousands of words first on paper then online, written tens of thousands of words about each other. Yet if I am tallying aright, I don’t think we’ve been in the same room with each other on even a dozen occasions.

And now here I am again, writing on Andrew’s blackboard after he has gone.

Back then we both identified intellectually and emotionally with the trans-Atlantic conservative movement. Andrew no longer does. I still do. As the Obama presidency under-delivers on its over-promises, an effective and intelligent conservatism is more needed than ever. I’ve been writing and thinking a lot over the past few years about how such a conservatism can be rebuilt. I’ll be continuing that conversation in this space. I’m very aware that many readers will feel nothing but skepticism about conservative rebuilding. For them, conservatism means Limbaugh and Beck and Palin. But it does not – must not – cannot.

What it might mean instead? There's a fine topic for the week ahead.