David Frum

02.04.13

The Good Side of Conservative Infighting

At the end of a broader piece about conservative renewal, Peggy Noonan revisits the tumultuous atmosphere within the Reagan White House:

I close with a memory of conservatism as I experienced it, in the Reagan White House. It was a brutal place full of infighting, with the left (older, more establishment Republicans), the right (younger movement conservatives and intellectuals) and the center (everyone else) in a continual, daily war over policy. This side leaked front-page hit jobs against the other side, these people were trying to get that guy fired. It was terrible.

And yet all that fighting and arguing yielded good policy. In fact, it yielded the last fully successful American presidency. ...

Maybe groupthink can work when you're in power, at least for a time. But you can't take suppression as an operating style when you're on the outside fighting to come back.

We need a return to the burly conservatism of 30 years ago.

If you put unity over intellectual integrity, you'll lose the second right away, and the first in time.

By the way, that panel on the future of conservatism was smart and provocative, but it was composed of six men, no women. Ice, break more quickly.