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August 20, 2014 4:13 PM Exceptional American Conservatives

By Ed Kilgore

At the end of a long and interesting diagnosis of the problems facing his Republican Party, David Frum writes this excellent summation:

The United States desperately needs a party of business enterprise, of American leadership, and of work and family that can win elections and govern effectively. Instead, the country’s center-right has detoured into an ideological dead end. It must speak for a coalition broader than retirees and the rich. Above all, it must accept — and even welcome — that in the United States, as in every other developed country, universal health insurance is here to stay.

Plenty of Republican readers—if Frum still has plenty of Republican readers, I should add—might well have nodded along until that last sentence, and then went back to perusing less challenging material. Frum is unusual in identifying the “tipping point theory”—the idea that America is on the edge of lurching into irreversible socialism if one more entitlement program, likely Obamacare, becomes as entrenched as Social Security and Medicare (which Republicans lurch back and forth between demagogically protecting and seeking to subvert)—as ludicrous and politically suicidal:

Every other advanced country has some kind of universal health-care program — and also a center-right party that wins much (and even most) of the time. Right-of-center governments currently hold power in Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and many other places. These parties haven’t run out of issues on which they can disagree with their social democratic opponents, and they’ve found plenty of voters willing to cast a ballot for private initiative and business enterprise.

It makes you wonder if one of the chief functions of “American exceptionalism” is to protect U.S. conservatives from even thinking about such questions. And it also serves as a reminder that the conquest of the GOP by a conservative movement that is not temperamentally conservative at all has made the idea of compromising to win elections ipso facto seem gutless and treasonable.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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