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Why Romney Lost and What the GOP Can Do About It by David Frum

December 1, 2012


David Frum is an occasional guest on KCRW’s political talkshow, Left, Right & Center. I like him because he represents a conservative point of view that I don’t always agree with but can understand and respect. He has a reasonable, rational outlook that stands in stark contrast to the dogmatic adversarial windbags that dominate and caricaturize the GOP in the media.

Frum started writing this short e-book six weeks before the election when he realized that Romney was going to blow an amazing opportunity. He released the book just days after Romney’s defeat. It is a little bit about Romney’s campaign, but mostly a manifesto for a new path forward for the Republican Party.

Frum contends that after the GOP’s 2008 loss, it “recoiled upon its base” and capitulated to the pressure of the Tea Party and conservative ideologues. Calls for a more centrist party were ignored, which is why “smart, competent, and realistic politicians like…Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, and Jeb Bush absented themselves from the 2012 contest…They read the party’s mood and decided 2012 was not the year for their style of politics.” So you had Romney sharing the stage with a cast of cartoon characters. Even though his record would suggest otherwise, Romney was forced to prove that he was as hardcore as the likes of Michelle Bachman, Donald Trump and Rick Perry. “He could have run as compassionate conservative…He could have taken a firm stand against the race-baiting, slut-naming, and gay-mocking of the conservative entertainment complex.” In short, he could have disassociated himself from the wingnut fringe of his party—the part that believes global warming is a hoax, creationism should be taught in science class, Obama is a Muslim socialist, everyone should be allowed to carry a semi-automatic rifle and there is something called “legitimate rape.”

Frum sees the Tea Party as a reaction to 2008, a result of legitimate passion and pain and an attempt for a party to define its identity. “Yet nostalgia for a misremembered past is no basis for governing a diverse and advancing nation.” Frum calls for a party that considers where the country is headed, that reshapes itself to the realities of a changing population, changing earth and changing geo-political environment. The GOP has won the popular vote in only one presidential election in the past quarter century. Frum doesn’t call for it to change its fundamental ideologies, but if it wants to reverse the losing trend, it needs to shed some of its ideological baggage.

Anyone who considered Romney for at least a nano-second before dismissing him because of the wing-nuts in the back of his bus will find this a fresh and welcome call-to-action. Who wouldn’t want two legitimate candidates in their consideration set? And all but the most jaded right-wing demagogue will find here, at the very least, food-for-thought.

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