"A Certain Enthusiasm" Reviews "Patriots"
The Fred Bauer blog reviews my novel:
Patriots, however, is not a plea for "extremists" to reach across their rigid ideological lines and work together in a spirit of moderate compromise. The kumbaya imperative is a standard trope in political novels, but Frum's point is more sophisticated that that. The Washington of Patriots is peopled not by individuals of radically pure principle who never compromise their ideals. Instead, it is filled with careerist operators who use the language of purist principle as a marketing tactic. Much of the political intrigue of the book is in part motivated by the fact that one Constitutionalist activist does not get the job he was aiming for in the new Pulaski administration, which causes his ideological allies to rally together to break the new president. Once this activist does receive his chosen job, however, the ideological dogs are called off. Overnight, the organs of Constitutionalist thought, which had been attacking Pulaski as a matter of principle, suddenly switch to his defense. Once Pulaski kisses the ring of the right interest-group power structure, all principled objections disappear. The sincerity of an ideologue might be refreshing in the Washington of Patriots....
By the end of Patriots, the United States of Frum's fictional universe seems to have settled for decline. Years of a dysfunctional economy has not woken Washington up to reality but instead has solidified some of its worst tendencies. A watered-down economic package is eventually passed, and it helps the economy recover---but never to full health. As Walter notes, "Most folks would not see again the kind of prosperity they had enjoyed in years gone by." Some individuals might be richer---spectacularly richer---but America as a whole is a poorer place.
... David Frum's Patriots is not a simple indictment of Republicans or the conservative "movement" or the Tea Party or any other faction of the moment; as Frum has said, he could just have easily written a book focusing on left-wing rather than right-wing politics. It is a sketch of a political dynamic gone terribly, horribly wrong, of the threat posed by an elite unchecked by any sense of humility or public spiritedness, and of the risk that the great experiment of this American republic might trade the pursuit of happiness for the pursuit of political spoils.