David Frum Asks, 'When Did The GOP Lose Touch?'

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Republican David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, is seriously upset with the state of his party. He's written an article in the current New York magazine, titled "When Did the GOP Lose Touch with Reality?"

As he tells NPR's Steve Inskeep, one of Frum's complaints is the idea that his fellow Republicans insist on having their own set of facts.

"One of the issues that's taken for granted, for example, at alot of these Republican debates, is that one of the reasons that the recovery has been so slow from the crisis of 2008 and 09, is because, of course, the economy is burdened by taxes and regulation," Frum says. "But taxes are not higher than they were in October of 2008; they're lower, as a matter of fact. And the total rate of tax collection from the economy is at 14 percent now — which is a rate last seen during the Truman administration."

But that doesn't mean Frum is a fan of President Obama, whom he voted against once and plans to vote against in 2012.

"In a crisis like this, you need a very strong and forceful president," Frum says. "And I don't see Barack Obama as having been that president."

In a companion piece to Frum's article, New York also published an essay by Jonathan Chait, titled "When Did Liberals Become So Unreasonable?"

Frum has some ideas about where his party went wrong, when it embraced what he describes in the article as an "ever more fantasy-based ideology."

Part of the conflict, he says, comes from peoples' concerns that they will be hurt economically as the United States tries to find its way out of its financial woes.

"The big winners under the American fiscal system are the rich, who pay some of the lowest taxes anywhere in the world; the old, who are the main beneficiaries of the American social service state; farmers, rural people," Frum says. "These are Republican constituencies. So, the party is trapped. Its ideology calls for reducing the state's take. And yet, its voters are the people who get the state's take, or who are lightly taxed by the state."

When he looks to the future, Frum says that he sees a "period of intensifying ethnic competition." In that scenario, he says, many white Americans are fearful and pessimistic about both their own futures, and their children's prospects.

"And it's symbolized by a president with an exotic name, and with an exotic background," he says.

Another part of the Republican Party's problems, Frum says, is "the new conservative media, that create an environment in which you can have a different set of facts from other people."

As examples, he cites Fox News, talk radio, conservative blogs and the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal.

Taken together, all those factors often fall into a dangerous mistake, Frum says: focusing too much attention and blame on the president, instead of on the nation's problems.

"That's a very powerful way to mobilize followers, and to raise money, and I get that," Frum says. "But it also traps you. Because when you mobilize people to that extent, the leaders find themselves unable to lead."

As an example, Frum points to this past summer's debate on the U.S. debt ceiling.

"Suddenly, Republicans who desperately wanted to make a deal, who understood the consequences — they were terrified — and they wanted a deal, and they couldn't," he says. "Because they had a wall of people behind them, that would not allow them to step back."

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