David Frum does not have a favorable view of Dinesh D’Souza and his latest movie, “Death of a Nation.” He argues sthat D’Souza’s alleged history is fiction, and that D’Souza is governed almost entirely by resentment of all of the experts in all of the fields in which he dabbles, who note that he is dishonest, partisan, and unoriginal.
It is alarming that D’Souza has become prominent again and is praised by the President.
However, I do agree with D’Souza and disagree with Frum on one critical point. D’Souza claims to have remained loyal to the movement he had joined by the the time he went to college. Frum argues that D’Souza has changed ( I admit he ends with a question). Frum can’t claim that D’Souza changed because he decided to hitch his wagon to Trump or Trumpism — D’Souza is the guy who wrote that the left is responsible for 9-11 because we provoked Islamic terrorists with our liberalism (see the quote in Frum’s essay). He hasn’t declined since then, there is no place lower to go.
Frum argues that conservatism used to be about something other than D’Souza’s mixture of racism and resentment. He notes that the old debates are forgotten. He gives one (1) example
Many of the disputes of the 1980s that excited me as a young conservative have subsided into forgetfulness. Who recalls now that it was once controversial that telephone services should be competitive rather than a regulated monopoly?
I am old enough to remember the breakup of ATT and I do not remember any such debate. ATT argued against the career prosecutors at the Justice Department, but I never read anyone else who agreed with them. The decision was made by a judge applying the Sherman antitrust act. It was an example of strict regulation, a state intervention n the economy. There were people who argued that the Sherman Antitrust Act should be reinterpreted so that it was toothless. Tney won the argument. They were and are Republicans. Frum’s one example of good policy by Reagan was a decision to not interfere with an ongoing case, but rather to allow career prosecutors (bureacrats) to continue as if there weren’t a new President.
Frum is not ignorant. He knows that the ATT breakup is conflated with deregulation (even though it was regulation not deregulation) because if followed soon after the deregulation of airlines, interstate trucking and beer brewing. He knows he can’t ascribe that actual deregulation to conservatives, Republicans or Reagan because the bills were passed by congresses with huge Democratic majorities and signed into law by Jimmy Carter. Those werenì’t the “disputes of the 80s” because they were resolved by 1980 at the latest.
In contrast Republicans brought us “voluntary” import quotas on Japanese made cars and steel tariffs (not just Trump — Bush imposed them too). Somehow Frum managed not to notice that the pro-market party’s symbol was and is a donkey not an elephant.
Yes the ATT breakup was caused by the political struggle of a Republican politician — named John Sherman. Critiquing D’Souza, Kevin Kruse wrote that if one has to go back to the 1860s to argue that the GOP is the party of civil rights, one has a weak case. Similarly, if one goes back to 1890 to argue that the GOP is the pro-competition party, one has a weak case.
Aside from the fact that the alleged controversy with anti-capitalist supporters of ATT is not just forgotten, but was udetectable at the time, Frum does not mention foreign policy. There the key debate was about the alleged clear and present danger. Conservatives were sure that the CIA under-estimated the power of the USSR and the world communist movement. They (Kissinger, Kilpatrick not minor figures) argued that we had to work with right wing dictators to face the terrrible threat. Then the USSR collapsed. Frum doesn’t discuss the debate over the need to overlook human rights violations in El Salvador, because it was vitally necessary to keep the FMLN out of power (remind me which party nominated the current president of El Salvador ?). It is necessary to Frum that the military and foreign policy debates of the 1980s be forgotten, because he was totally wrong.
He also doesn’t mention voodoo economics.
I’d say D’Souza is at least consistent. He is a racist just as he was in 1981. He is consistent in his single minded hatred of liberals and Democrats. Frum, in constrast, has changed completely since he was fired by the AEI.