David Frum's lonely crusade

In my column about Frum this week, I quoted from his post of several days ago about the cost of healthcare depressing wages, in which he urged Republicans to address the issue underlying the economy of the Bush years. He noted that between 2000 and 2007 the price that employers paid for labor rose by an average of 25 percent per hour but that wages earned during those same years were worth less to employees in 2007 than they were in 2000. During the same period, the price of an average insurance policy doubled for families of four. The culprit is healthcare costs, and Frum argued that "slowing the growth of healthcare costs is essential to raising wages — and by the way, restoring Americans' faith in the fairness of a free market economy. Explaining the impact of healthcare costs on wages is essential to protecting the economic reputation of the last Republican administration and Congress. If Republicans stick to the line that the U.S. healthcare system works well as is — that it has no important problems that cannot be solved by tort reform — then George W. Bush and the Congresses of 2001-2007 will join Jimmy Carter and Herbert Hoover in the American memory's hall of economic failures. Recovery from that stigma will take more than a tea party."

We have already heard from readers who disparage Frum as some kind of artificial conservative who doesn't understand that the anger building in the heartland isn't Republican, but comes from conservatives who respect the Constitution and fear the direction the country is taking. They should spend time reading Frum's criticism of President Barack Obama's big-government record and his analysis of why an increasingly regulated economy and unending debt will stifle employment and wages in this country for years to come, because they will find more agreement with Frum than they expect.

Frum's beef is with the tactics of what he calls the hysterical echo chamber in conservative media. And yes, if you are an ardent Rush Limbaugh fan, you won't like that he argues here why Obama and Rush are working with equal energy to make Rush the leader of the GOP. Frum makes an awfully strong case for why the conservative echo chamber isn't interested in governing or helping Republicans win elections. They foment outrage but currently offer little solution to our biggest problems. Frum's point is that for Republicans to win again, they must win over the voters Democrats won in 2006 and 2008. Those are women with college degrees, young voters and independents. If Mark Levin and Glenn Beck wanted to run for office they would have to win them too, and they would suddenly start sounding far more positive and proactive than they do now.

If you are interested in seeing the GOP become a national party again, one that can win back the Congress and the White House, you owe it to yourself to read more of Frum's analysis. It's hard to argue that leading instead of following, being proactive instead of reactive and returning to a truly Big Tent is bad medicine for the Republican party.

I welcome your criticism and a lively debate.

DO YOU TRUST THAT GATES CHANGES HIS MIND ON THE MISSILE SHIELD? Ask A.B. returns Tuesday, Sept. 22. Please join my weekly video Q&A by sending your questions and comments to askab@thehill.com. Thank you.

More in Presidential Campaign

Rise of outsider candidates reflects uprising against mainstream media

Read more »