Michael van der Galien

What Does David Frum's New Majority Name Change Say About the Conservatism he Advocates?

Posted on November 2 2009 1:33 pm
Michael van der Galien was born in the Dutch city of Leeuwarden in 1984. For as long as he can remember, he has been obsessed with the United States. When he was 17 years old, he started blogging - of course about America. His articles have been published at Big Hollywood, Pajamas Media, Hot Air (the GreenRoom) and Right Across The Atlantic. He's also an editor for the Dutch conservative blog, De Dagelijkse Standaard.
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Earlier today, NewsReal‘s sparring partner David Frum announced he would change the name of his website from New Majority into Frum Forum. It was illustrative of the conservative intellectual’s major problem: the conservatism he advocates lacks both the confidence and principles an ideology requires to form a new majority.

Explaining why he decided to change the website’s name, Frum writes:

We consulted at length with a brilliant friend of mine, one of the nation’s leading experts on branding. Her advice was direct and powerful: ”Nobody knows what the ‘next majority’ will look like. Maybe President Obama will be re-elected and your hopes of building a new modernized Republican majority will go unrealized for a long time to come.” In any event, she continued, whether Republicans return to majority or remain in minority status, the world of internet political commentary is a world built around individual personalities.

[emphasis added]

The above quote perfectly illustrates one of my biggest problems with Frum Conservatism: it’s a conservatism without self-confidence. Frum wants his conservatism to stand at the root of a conservative revival, one that will result in many electoral successes. The old name symbolized that ambition wonderfully.

But the problem with that was and is that Frum Conservatism doesn’t believe in itself. Its creator is convinced that conservatism can only be successful, if it compromises on its core beliefs. This idea, that uncompromising conservatism lacks the ability to appeal to a majority of the electorate, is related to Frum’s lack of confidence in his own ability to help shape a new majority. After all, if your ideology lacks confidence, so do you.

The second major weakness of Frum Conservatism, is related to the first. Because of its lack of confidence in itself, this kind of conservatism is willing to compromise on everything. Frum doesn’t want us to change the way we look at politics, he doesn’t want us to shift our paradigm; he wants us to believe what we have always believed and in exactly the same way we have always believed it… but he wants us to water down those beliefs for the sake of winning.

By doing so, we’ll create a conservatism without principles. Although politicians suffering from a lack of principles can be successful in the short term, they can’t possibly hope to win elections in the long run. Voters won’t support you if they believe you’re empty. And websites, such as the one Frum is running, depend even more on clearly articulated principles. If a website doesn’t stand for anything except for “let’s compromise,” it won’t go anywhere.

Frum Conservatism isn’t enough for me and it shouldn’t be enough for you either. We need something else, a new approach that’s rooted in the old one. We need a conservatism that’s ready to take on the 21st century:  Generation Y Conservatism.

This ideology will not only appeal to a majority of the electorate – both in the United States and in Europe – but also to young voters, just like it appeals to me. Generation Y Conservatism is new in so far that it requires Old School Conservatives to make a paradigm shift. I don’t want you to water down your beliefs, to forsake them or to betray them. No, I just want you look at the world like Generation Y does.

Generation Y Conservatives and their Old School counterparts, may share a lot of basic notions, but the latter’s old truths, aren’t necessarily ours. Generation Y Conservatism is principled, yet rooted in childlike wonder. Wonder at the world, at the universe, at creation. It recognizes and admits that a lot of things have to be improved. We also believe that stagnation isn’t merely bad, it’s unnatural.

But that doesn’t mean all old truths have to be discarded and thrown into the dust bin of history. Quite the opposite even. Because I marvel at the greatness and mystery of creation and of life, at how complicated and delicate it is, I am afraid to destroy it. Because I am aware of my own lack of understanding of the universe, I am hesitant to meddle in its affairs and to advocate major, rapid changes. In fact, my understanding of my own limitations, forces me to conserve and guard that which my (grand)parents left me.

To me, this is a vital ingredient of Generation Y Conservatism. We don’t say “all is great as it is,” but “we should proceed, but we should do so with care, for we don’t want to destroy that which is good.” Unlike Frum Conservatism, this conservatism has a clear foundation, yet is able to be open-minded and tolerant nonetheless. Unlike Frum Conservatism, Generation Y Conservatism will win elections as it builds bridges without compromising on the principles which have built this country.

Editor’s Note: For more of NewsReal’s writings on Generation Y Conservatism click here.

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