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

November 2, 2009

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.

  1. David Forsmark permalink
    November 2, 2009 1:40 pm

    The first sign that some entity is failing is an excessive discussion over “branding.” It was all the rage in the newspaper business about 5 years ago.

    • November 2, 2009 2:13 pm


  2. John Davidson permalink
    November 2, 2009 1:46 pm

    Now that he has put his name first we all know who he admires most and may well end his attempt to be credible. We are already dealing with a multitude of narcissitic characters in our governing body.

  3. Michael van der Galien permalink
    November 2, 2009 3:27 pm

    John, I’d actually take Frum on his word that he didn’t want to use his own name initially. Other than that, I do agree with your comment about narcissistic characters in the government (and in the media, by the way).

    • John Davidson permalink
      November 2, 2009 4:39 pm

      It hard to take anyone at their word any longer. Hopefully, we can bring honesty back in vogue in the near future before it is too late.

  4. David Thomson permalink
    November 2, 2009 4:41 pm

    David Frum can no longer pretend that he represents a new majority. The reality is that he is an important part of a good size minority. That ain’t peanuts. The so-called moderate Republicans remain a force to be reckoned with. On Election Day, we conservatives hope to be able to count on their votes. Nonetheless, they mistakenly believe that abortion and the other cultural war issue dominate the concerns of the typical middle-of-the-road voter. Nothing could be further from the truth. Economic matters and defense issues remain on top of their list.

    Frum will not completely disappear. But he is rapidly becoming somewhat marginalized. The elites will soon cease offering him lucrative speaking engagements and writing assignments. He will have to be content with the crumbs off their tables. I may seem cruel when comparing him to Levi Johnston. However, this is the harsh reality of his precarious situation. Frum’s new friends don’t give a damn about him—unless he can produce results. The odds of that occurring near hopeless.

  5. November 2, 2009 5:59 pm

    What a namby-pamby waffle that is. If this is an example of the new and improved Frum, I think I want to back to the old and lousy brand. As presumptuous as the name New Majority was, at least it was assertive. But Frum seems intent on becoming the New Coke of the political blogosphere.

  6. Banned by Frum @ New Majority permalink
    November 2, 2009 7:06 pm

    Frum is Canadian Tory…..nuff said.

  7. November 3, 2009 5:09 am

    It’s kind of sad with Mr. Frum. A time ago he wrote a good book, “Dead Right,” and also wrote a good paper dissecting the paleo conservatives, “Unpatriotic Americans.”

    And now he equivocates and believes abandonment of the principles that he took Republicans to task for in “Dead Right” is the answer to our election misfortunes.

    • David Thomson permalink
      November 3, 2009 5:57 am

      David Frum and the other “moderate” Republicans obsess over abortion. This is their number one gut issue. Nothing else comes close. On a practical level, From has bet on the wrong horse. The conservatives will now dominate the Republican Party. All three major political races today should easily be won by the conservative candidate. This is watershed moment. David Frum and his buddies are being thoroughly marginalized. And yet, they will remain within the ranks of the GOP! At the end of the day, they will ultimately vote their pocketbooks. They fear Obama’s socialism more than they fear the “Far Right.”

  8. The Inquisitor permalink
    November 3, 2009 6:45 am

    “… Generation Y Conservatism will win elections as it builds bridges …”

    Doesn’t sound like there’s a dime’s worth of difference between Generation Y Conservatism and Frum Conservatism except rhetoric.

    • November 3, 2009 7:58 am

      Define “Generation Y Conservatism.” Because given that this blog has been one of Frum’s biggest critics on the Right I have a hard time taking your comment as anything but a meaningless insult.

      • The Inquisitor permalink
        November 3, 2009 9:46 am

        It’s not up to me to define Generation Y Conservatism; I didn’t invent the concept. All I know about it is what appeared in the article. Based on that it’s conservatism with bridge building which is a euphemism for compromising on principle.

        • November 3, 2009 9:57 am

          In other words you know nothing. You’re pre-judging. We’ve done a whole lot of blogging on this subject and we will be doing more. A knee-jerk reaction is inappropriate.

          Here’s the index with our blogs on this subject:

  9. The Inquisitor permalink
    November 3, 2009 10:41 am

    Well, excuse me for not reading all of your blogs. Perhaps you can enlighten me by defining Generation Y Conservatism. No reference to blogs or other articles, please.

    • November 3, 2009 12:11 pm

      It’s not simple to define Generation Y Conservatism just as it’s not simple to define Conservatism. Hence why the collection of previous posts written about it which I linked to is the best place to start.

      But if you want a simple definition: Generation Y Conservatism is the generation born from roughly 1978-1995’s particular brand of the Conservative tradition. It refers to our style and emphasese in defending the American Idea. It’s more agnostic, more postmodern, less dogmatic, more libertarian, more gay-friendly, more tech-saavy, and more optimistic. But it can still be aggressive.

      It has nothing to do with Frum’s Big Government-style conservatism which seeks to throw people like Glenn Beck under the bus.

      • The Inquisitor permalink
        November 3, 2009 12:53 pm

        Thank you for the abbreviated definition.

        • November 3, 2009 12:09 pm

          You’re welcome. My apologies for coming off a bit defensive at first.

          • The Inquisitor permalink
            November 3, 2009 12:52 pm

            Apology accepted. Been there, done that.

  10. Banned by Frum @ New Majority permalink
    November 4, 2009 2:54 pm

    It’s more agnostic, more postmodern, less dogmatic, more libertarian, more gay-friendly, more tech-saavy, and more optimistic.


    What we need is less Christianity, more post modernist muddled thinking where truth is not objective but personal, if it feels good do it, including homosexual rub a dub, with some flashy short attention span technology to dazzle them.

    What a hoot!

    The Narcissism Party!

    • November 4, 2009 2:59 pm

      homosexual rub a dub



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