I’m not sure how helpful it is for conservative commentators to join the chorus of mainstream media voices piling on Rush Limbaugh. The most recent columns by Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News and David Frum of the American Enterprise Institute give one cause to wonder if conservative commentators have a psychological need to be affirmed by Leftists who control mainstream media.
Take David Frum’s recent essay in Newsweek, “Why Rush is Wrong,” for example. Frum is not merely attacking Rush Limbaugh’s style. Frum is calling for a fundamental capitulation of conservatism to liberalism in response to polls rather than principles. Consider carefully what Frum is calling conservatives to give up in order to secure electoral popularity:
Look at America’s public-policy problems, look at voting trends, and it’s inescapably obvious that the Republican Party needs to evolve. We need to put free-market health-care reform, not tax cuts, at the core of our economic message...
We need to modulate our social conservatism (not jettison—modulate). The GOP will remain a predominantly conservative party and a predominantly pro-life party. But especially on gay-rights issues, the under-30 generation has arrived at a new consensus. Our party seems to be running to govern a country that no longer exists. The rule that both our presidential and vice presidential candidates must always be pro-life has become counterproductive...
In other words, it’s time for conservatives to abandon their principles on fiscal and physical restraint because Frum perceives we can’t win without the votes of the under-30 demographic. Never mind that the under-30 crowd happens to be wrong on both social and economic issues. In Frum’s refashioning of conservatism it looks like polling and not principle would decide policy.
What Frum fails to realize is that the election of Barack Obama was in many ways an aberration. He never articulated his agenda during the campaign. He spoke only in esoteric terms about “hope” and “change.” The under-30 crowd could not possibly have known the full scope of what they were voting for—because their candidate never told them. They voted for an image, which is turning out to be a mirage. The under 30 crowd needs to be persuaded, not capitulated to.
President Obama, through his cabinet nominees and his economic policies, is fundamentally altering the social and economic structure of our country. We need all conservative hands on deck using their pens to point this out while offering constructive, workable, conservative alternatives to those of the left wing of the Democrat Party, which now has total control of the government.
But instead of articulate responses to the nostrums of liberalism coming to life in the expansion of the federal government during the first six weeks of Obama’s presidency, some of our best conservative voices have been duped by the bait hatched by Paul Begala and James Carville in the bowels of the White House: make Rush Limbaugh the face of the Republican Party.
Rush Limbaugh has never claimed to be the leader of the Republican Party. Rush does, however, have unparalleled influence in the conservative movement, and influence is essential to leadership.
But because he does not hold elective office, Rush Limbaugh has influence, but he does not have power, or at least a political position from which to exercise his influence. If he ran for nationwide office he may not have the electoral popularity to win. But this does not mean that the principles he advocates would lose if put to a vote.
Barack Obama, on the other hand, has unparalleled power. He is the president of the United States. With the stroke of a pen he can reverse policies that a majority of the citizens of this country favor (the Mexico City Policy, for example). And given the fact that his party controls both houses of Congress, the power Obama wields is somewhat unchecked.
Conservatives with pens have abandoned their posts in pursuit of one of their own while the fox in the White House wreaks havoc with his pen on the social and economic foundations of our country. We are diverting our energies from exposing the agenda of the man who has the power to destroy our way of life in order to attack a private citizen whose power is limited to his influence within his own constituency—ours!
While I agree that Rush Limbaugh may indeed be the wrong spokesperson (from a political perspective) for conservative principles, the call for a wholesale abandonment of those principles is not the right play. David Frum, Rod Dreher—and all conservatives who take pen in hand—had best keep our eye on the man with the power, being mindful of the very real damage he can do and indeed is doing. We cannot allow the man who possesses the power to distract us from his agenda by putting forward the man behind the microphone who is merely a voice crying in the wilderness.