In a column a couple of months ago (entitled "Getting to Crazy") Paul Krugman noted that the Republican party had long since gone off the deep end, but "If you’re surprised, that means that you were part of the problem." The crack was almost certainly directed at his colleague David Brooks, who has spent the past few years acting as the press agent for Republican insanity, wrapping it in the thin intellectual cloth of pidgin behavioural economics.
Yet for a few years now, David Frum -- himself once one of the chief hatchet-men of true-believer Republicanism -- has been calling bullshit on what his former comrades have been up to. His final break with Republicanism is published in the latest issue of New York Magazine:
The Bush years cannot be repudiated, but the memory of them can be discarded to make way for a new and more radical ideology, assembled from bits of the old GOP platform that were once sublimated by the party elites but now roam the land freely: ultralibertarianism, crank monetary theories, populist fury, and paranoid visions of a Democratic Party controlled by ACORN and the New Black Panthers.
To sum up: By his own account, David Frum has been a loyal Republican since the Reagan years. Yet over the past half decade, the party has literally gone insane, embracing apocalyptic rhetoric and scorched-earth political tactics, while embracing all manner of lunatic-fringe views on everything from global warming to evolution to the president's place of birth. For his pains, Frum has lost his job, lost his friends, and been blacklisted from opportunities to appear conservative talk shows, panels, and so on.
And yet, for some reason, he ends on a note of optimism. Fixing the Republicans, he says, will be the "fight of a political lifetime. But a great political party is worth fighting for."
It isn't clear to me why Frum is still a Republican. At the beginning of his essay, he flags his ideological committments as rooted in "free markets, low taxes, reasonable regulation, and limited government."
Yet apart from the idee-fixe of low taxes, none of this is the exclusive purview of the Republicans. In fact, the last two - reasonable regulation and limited government -- are principles upon which the Republicans under Bush declared all-out war. So again, why is David Frum still a Republican?
It is credible that David Frum is running from crazy. But he hasn't, yet, run far enough.