The Future of the Republican Party

David Frum:

A generation ago, Republicans were dominant among college graduates. Those days are long gone. Since 1988, Democrats have become more conservative on economics – and Republicans more conservative on social issues. College-educated Americans have come to believe that their money is safe with Democrats – but that their values are under threat from Republicans. There are more and more college-educated voters.

So the question for the GOP is: Will it pursue them? This will involve painful change, on issues ranging from the environment to abortion. It will involve even more painful changes of style and tone: toward a future that is less overtly religious, less negligent with policy, and less polarising on social issues.

It will definitely be interesting going forward and seeing how the right reacts to this trouncing. Frum is of the post-boomer generation Republicans, and is also one of its most conservative voices – for better and worse. This generation, and even more so the conservatives from Gen X/Y, seems to be much more willing to ease up on the social conservativism. Still, I don’t see the boomers letting go of their culture war-loving strangle-hold just yet. Rush is still extremely popular and is not going to be easing up anytime soon, which does not bode well for the party. It will of course prove to be poison for them, which I suppose I should make me feel happy.

Still, I would like there to be a sensible economically and governmentally conservative opposition in this country. I’m not one of those worried that Obama and the newly blue congress is going to tax us to death and nail up a poster of Stalin on the door of the capital building. They’ll probably spend at least two years undoing the damage of Bush before they can get anything done anyway. But there is something admirable about sensibly cynical conservative voices such as Frum, and I’m even more optimistic about the voices of my generation such as Ross Douthat, Reihan Salam, Megan McArdle and others. I disagree with them more often than I agree, but their views are most often unique, well thought-out, and independent of any sense of sticking to the ‘party line’ (perhaps the most dreaded relic of the baby-boomer age).

I think we’ll see a civil war in the right, with the old guard fighting an unwinnable battle, as the culture war inevitably is. It’ll be a slow death, though, with its throes providing endless entertainment and headaches for the rest of us over the next few years.

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