In the midst of the Navy Yard attack, former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum took advantage of the chaos to attack gun rights advocates. Gun control is a repeated hobbyhorse for Frum, who blamed the “gun lobby” for the atrocity at Sandy Hook Elementary in December. His reaction to Navy Yard placed him in common company with a newly-adrenalized Russian diplomat, who used the event to mock America.
A few days before, Frum’s ideological ally, David Brooks, took to the airwaves on PBS’ Newshour to attack what he called “the rise of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)-ism,” his term for the efforts of conservatives to tackle such “fringe” priorities as ObamaCare, which is more loathed by the American people than ever. Brooks has been at war with the conservative grassroots since long before the Tea Party, calling Sarah Palin a “fatal cancer” in Oct. 2008.
Both Frum and Brooks are from Canada–a fact that would not merit mention, save for the additional fact that Brooks seems to think that it is acceptable to attack Cruz’s Canadian birth as a mark of illegitimacy. He called Cruz “the senator from Canada through Texas,” a meaningless, pseudo-nativist slur that he evidently believed would strike some kind of ironic chord with PBS’s urbane, intellectual, cosmopolitan, left-leaning audience.
The Canadian political template does not graft well onto the U.S. Occasionally there is much to learn: Frum is right that U.S. immigration policy could do worse than to adopt Canada’s skills-oriented laws, for example. But despite Canada’s conservative drift, the two nations have different roots and ideals. (Canada’s founding document stresses “Peace, Order and Good Government,” not “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”)
The prospect of “good government” is particularly attractive to those who imagine they will be doing the governing. That is the conviction that motivates the animus that Frum, Brooks, and other “establishment” thinkers share towards the Republican Party’s conservative base and its leading champions. Both have bet heavily and repeatedly on the emergence of a new anti-conservative majority in the GOP; both have lost.
I am a moderate by temperament. I have a strong distaste for the infighting that has developed within the Republican Party since 2012. Andrew Breitbart likewise believed strongly in conservative unity, despite his own internal battles in the movement. But Frum, Brooks and others never cease to remind me that the GOP establishment wants a GOP civil war. It has wanted one long before November 2008. It deserves to lose.