David Frum on modernizing the Republican Party
David Frum, a Republican strategist and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, addressed the Georgetown University College Republicans last night in St. Mary’s Hall. Frum’s discussion centered on what the Republican party must learn from its defeat in the 2012 Presidential Election and on the new direction the party inevitably will go over the next several years.
Frum attributes Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney‘s failure to his disastrous disconnection from the needs of middle-class voters. “The typical middle-class voter has some credit card debt and a mortgage on their home and will depend heavily on social security and medicare in their retirement,” Frum said. “A voter like this looks to the Republican Party and asks ‘What, if I vote for you, do you give me?’ and the answer had better not be ‘a kick in the head.’”
Frum believes that Mitt Romney’s plan for government cutbacks could have worked only if those cutbacks would have affected the upper-class as much as they would have affected those who depend on government assistance. “[The Republican] offer in 2012 was ‘we have large, immediate cuts in social programs, we have a withdrawal of a medicare guarantee for everyone under the age of 55, and we have a huge tax cut for the richest people in society,” Frum said. “When you look at all those things, it’s amazing that the GOP did as well as it did.”
Such failures will be inevitable for Republicans in major elections, unless, as Frum suggests, the party changes several of its positions and reverses a few trends among its candidates. Frum does not advocate a change in any of the GOP’s core values. “There has to be a party that stands up for the people who pay the bills,” he said. “There needs to be a party that supports free enterprise and innovation and reducing the tax burden.”
Republican views on many of the issues seen as centrally important to the party are extremely outdated, Frum said. He identified “his kind of Republicanism” with three key aspects. “The Republicans need a party that is culturally modern … is environmentally responsible … and is economically inclusive,” he said.
Remaining “economically inclusive” is what Frum highlights as the most important change the GOP needs. In the last election, argues Frum, Republicans paid attention to the American entrepreneur but failed to care for the needs of the American working man.
Frum dedicated the remainder of his time to answering questions from the audience. The first audience member, noting the polarization within the Republican Party, asked Frum if he believes the GOP will ever successfully nominate a candidate who shares his views for the party.
Not only did Frum say that such a candidate will be elected, Frum said that such a shift in the party is inevitable: “The sheer competitive dynamic of the two party system will force the Republicans to retool,” Frum said. “It’s just a matter of time.” He went on to say that the Republican presidential candidate in 2024 will undoubtedly be “pro-gay marriage,” “pro-environment,”and “pro-gun control.” Frum views his role in this process of change as being the one who could potentially speed it up, so that the Republicans “modernize” their positions before 2024.
Another student asked Frum, “How would you respond to people who say that you’re just compromising Republican principles?”
“The Republican Party has tremendous difficulty telling the difference between principles and policies,” Frum said. “Small government is a principle. The Ryan plan is a policy.” Frum went on to explain that the Republicans do not apply their principles well to the facts of reality. As an example, he suggested that the best policy to implement the principle that abortion should be avoided is not to ban abortion in as many cases as possible but to examine the social factors that lead to abortions, in order to see if those can be corrected.
Photo: Miles Gavin Meng/Georgetown Voice