Frum has taken the conservative intelligentsia to task for its blind adherence to movement orthodoxy, and he’s called on the right to learn from the example of David Cameron’s effort to modernize Britain’s Conservative Party. But this is necessarily a slow-moving and organic process, one that arguably requires more gentle persuasion than outright confrontation. And indeed, it is possible that electoral success must come first. If large numbers of Republicans outside of the South and the Mountain West win seats in 2010, particularly suburban swing seats, there will be a built-in constituency for a more pragmatic brand of center-right politics. The Tea Party could pave the way for a more inclusive political movement that embraces the same fiscal conservatism while leaving aside more polarizing cultural messages, as seen in the Scott Brown campaign. This would parallel the evolution of the antiwar movement between 2003 to 2008, from a fringe movement that alienated moderates to a tendency that came to embrace a large majority of the public.
This could be wishful thinking on my part. Yet it does reflect the messy, awkward way real-world political movements rise and fall.