So, about that CPAC speech and the subsquent dust-ups over Rush Limbaugh.
Rahm Emanuel and Robert Gibbs’ comments were obviously calculated. Declaring Rush the de facto leader of the GOP put every elected Republican on the spot. To agree was to admit taking your talking points from a radio talk show host. To disagree and disparage Rush was to alienate his twenty-two million listeners, as Michael Steele so handily did on CNN. Why so few Republicans went the obvious third way – giving Rush his just due as one of our country’s strongest, loudest traditional conservative voices while also pointing out that he is not running for office (or running the RNC) – is a mystery.
Unfortunately, some conservatives failed to love-their-neighbor and even went as far as to accuse Rush of being “bad” for the Republican party. And many of the anti-Limbaugh comments were harsh. David Frum got particularly personal and nasty, and I like him the less for it. Why is Frum so concerned with policing conservative talk radio? Is he now the self-appointed Roger Ebert of the airwaves? Frankly, I find it silly that Frum would even enter the fray. He made himself smaller in the process, and millions who had barely heard of him (and quite a few who had) now think he’s a royal jerk.
Some conservatives enjoy Limbaugh’s in-your-face style. Not everyone does, and that’s fine. It doesn’t burn a lot of calories to turn a radio dial. As for Rush’s personal failings and struggles, we ought not to judge him by these things – lest we, too, be judged by our worst mistakes and most obvious flaws.
What is important in the context of this intramural competition for The Party is that Rush is a (not “the”) star player who brings in the crowds. He is unapologetically passionate re: his traditional, Constutionalist views; he swings his bat hard; and he is well loved for it. At this point, there’s no doubt that El-Rushbo’s personality and following are Babe Ruth big. His three hours a day on the field does far more good than harm for the conservative cause, if only to please the fans by kicking some dirt on the shiny shoes of an obviously biased referee: the mainstream liberal media.
He ain’t high fallutin’, but I see no crime in that, nor any harm to The Party. To my mind, and the minds of many conservatives with whom I talk from week to week, there is no real party at present. Indeed, while we argue amongst ourselves over What Happens Now, it seems to me that Rush is the glue holding together nearly half this country’s post-election conservative voters when they might otherwise have gone their separate ways in rank disgust. As for the other half, if they want the reform and moderation the two Davids – Frum and Brooks – are selling, and if they like the pretty package it’s wrapped in, let ‘em have it.
For many of us, cow-towing to creeping social progressivism and big bureaucracy, advocating compromise on core conservative principles that must be unbending if they are to mean anything, and “reforming the message” by echoing White House attacks on widely-liked conservative personalities are vices far worse than any Rush has yet displayed – and are far more harmful to The Party.