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What I learned from David Frum
My mentor is abandoning his role as conservative blogging's heretic-in-chief. Believe it or not, you will all miss him.
 
The conservative voice of reason, David Frum.
The conservative voice of reason, David Frum. Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images for Meet the Press

Yesterday, my mentor, David Frum, announced that he is taking a break from writing his blog.

When I first joined David at NewMajority.com (Motto: "Building a conservatism that can win again"), Republicans were fresh off what every conservative can only hope was the worst trouncing we'll live to experience. Barack Obama had just annihilated John McCain, and Democrats had seized decisive control of both houses of Congress.

I was certain that the GOP would dislike the feeling of defeat so badly that the movement could not help but go back to the drawing board. David told me I was too hopeful, and said things would get worse before they got better.

He was right. In the years that followed, David would be the most consistent conservative voice pushing back against the startling excesses and failures of the Republican Party. Having been at his side for much of the time, I can tell you that it was not easy. I was stunned when David was fired from his position at the American Enterprise Institute. All he had done was cogently criticize the GOP strategy on the health-care law. I was even more appalled when people who had been genuine friends of both David and his wife Danielle publicly broke off these friendships in internet columns full of what I will charitably describe as factual misrepresentations. I was livid. But if my old boss was surprised or shared my anger, he never let on. Instead, he would calmly remind me that the backlash and the excesses were all part of the process of conservatism coping with its demons. And God, has it been ugly.

Now, David has stepped down from his position as the day-to-day spokesman for the small-but-passionate group of apostate conservatives like myself who still cling to the title conservative, even as our ideological allies try to force it from our grasp. I continue to believe that better times are ahead for the conservative movement, due in no small part to the ideological and intellectual leadership of David Frum.

It is telling that on the same day David wrote his last post, College Republicans put out a 95-page report more or less detailing trends that David and we apostates have been shouting from the rooftops since 2008. The party simply has lost its appeal with most young voters. The new report is an important document in the sense that it comes from within the mainstream movement itself. But it does not describe anything that we didn't figure out years ago. Nevertheless, the College Republicans' report signals that the organization may play a vital role in taking the next step in the process of building a conservatism that can win again.

But at the national level, the GOP's leadership has no intention of taking on the very-vocal fringe members within its ranks. The reality, pathetic as it is, is that our leaders lose politically by telling the birthers and conspiracy theorists to shut up, or by dealing rationally on issues like the debt ceiling. Change must come from the next generation of conservative thinkers.

I was never a College Republican, but I recognize that the organization serves a vital function as the cultivator of creative and talented conservative leaders interested in ensuring a better tomorrow. That youth and energy, and the intellectual, organizational, and financial resources that the College Republicans have the capacity to marshal, are an important addition to what is a growing movement amongst the few remaining young Republicans to revitalize the conservative political movement.

Tomorrow will be a brighter day for conservatism, not because any of today's leaders will make it so, but because a new generation of conservatives is emerging. This generation does not share the prejudices and ideological aversions of their forebears.

I do not know when my mentor will return to his proper role as conservative blogging heretic-in-chief. But for years, he has been the movement's Martin Luther (granted, David is Jewish, but you get the idea), nailing thesis after thesis to his online message board. Having been at his side, I can tell those conservatives who have come to loathe David's existence that you will miss the heretic while he is gone, for his ideas were lucid and crisp, and his goals were pure: To revive a political philosophy that matters as much today as it ever has, but that has become discredited due to the short-sighted behavior of some of its current guardians.

There has never been a better time to begin reviving conservatism to what it was under Buckley and Reagan, and what David Frum has been reminding us that it still can be today: A movement of ideas and solutions to make the United States a more prosperous, better educated, better protected, and better prepared nation.

Editor's note: David Frum is also a former columnist here at TheWeek.com.

 
Jeb Golinkin is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law and writes about U.S. politics and policy for TheWeek.com. From 2008 to 2011, he served as an editor and reporter for Frum Forum/New Majority. Email him at jgolinkin@gmail.com.

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