by David Frum
As mentioned below, some readers raised more fundamental objections to my suggested mission statement for a reformed conservatism:
A reality-based, culturally modern, socially inclusive and environmentally responsible politics that supports free markets, limited government and a peaceful American-led world order.
The first of the fundamental objections bristled at the phrase "culturally modern." Was this code for jettisoning social conservatives from the Republican party?
First, "culturally modern" refers to a lot more than just the abortion/stem cells/same-sex marriage cluster of issues.
A culturally modern party is one comfortable with science and technology, with women's equality, and with a globalized economy. It's a party that regards New York City and Silicon Valley as just as much "real America" as Kentucky and South Dakota.
But as to those hot-button issues ... if the Democrats can accommodate both investment bankers and unionists, the GOP should be able to find room for differing views on issues pertaining to sexuality. We always say we're a "big tent." But when was the last time we allowed a pro-choice Republican a slot on a national ticket? 1976, that's when. One reason we got stuck with Sarah Palin for VP in 2008 was that when McCain (wisely) decided he wanted a woman running mate, he bumped into this constraint: all the other Republican female senators and governors were pro-choice, and therefore were excluded from consideration from the start.
Yet it is a fact that many Republicans and (yes!) many conservatives are prochoice. Many more favor stem-cell research. Many again were appalled by the Terri Schiavo episode. Younger Republicans and conservatives, like younger Americans generally, are moving to acceptance of same-sex marriage.
These Republicans and conservatives deserve better than to be dismissed as "Republicans in Name Only." They are not an after-thought within the party and the movement, to be accepted on sufferance so long as they defer to the leadership of others.
To be a patriot, we must love our country as it is, not as it was - or as we imagine it was. A wise conservatism does not resist change. Such a conservatism would be doomed before it started. A wise conservatism manages change.
That's the kind of conservatism I think we need more of - and that my phrase "culturally modern" attempts to describe.