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Gimme Some Money

Like most of what he writes in his current incarnation as the GOP's most vocal internal critic, David Frum's National Post column of a couple of days ago is well worth a read. There's a lot of familiar material in there--about the party's failure to take governance seriously, its dismissal of expertise, etc.--but this element of Frum's analysis cut a little deeper:

I moved to Washington, D.C., in 1996. And there I began to notice something disturbing. While the congressional victory of 1994 had ceased to produce much in the way of important conservative legislation, it sure was producing a lot of wealth for individual conservatives. They were moving from the staff offices of Congress to lobbying firms and professional associations. Washington (to quote something I’d write later) began to feel like a giant Tupperware party, where people you had thought of as friends suddenly seemed always to be trying to sell you something. Acquaintances of mine began accepting all-expense-paid trips to the South Pacific from Jack Abramoff.

Whenever things get tough for the Republican party, conservatives will draw a separation between (good, pure) philosophical conservatism and (compromised, tainted) Republican politics. But the people who began making a lot of money out of politics in the 1990s did so precisely as conservatives. “Here’s why conservatives should support Microsoft, not Netscape,” they would explain. “AT&T is right from a conservative point of view, and Verizon is wrong,” another would chime. “Conservatives cherish federalism — and that’s why we must insist that electrical utilities continue to be regulated by the state power commissions!”

He doesn't really pursue this particular thread, which is disappointing, but it will be interesting to see whether he returns to it. Most of Frum's critique of the contemporary GOP--or at least most that I've read; he's producing enough that it can be tough to keep up with--has dealt with the ways in which the party has been corrupted by its quest for political power. I'd be quite curious to see more on the ways he feels it has been corrupted by the individual pursuit of money--a temptation for members of both parties, of course, but a deeper one for Republicans due to their ideological affinity for business interests and concentrated wealth in general.

--Christopher Orr