Much has been made of conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh’s statements concerning President Obama and his desire to “see him fail.” I was asked to comment on this during a recent interview. My short answer: Rush is right.
Armey’s Axiom: There’s no right way to do the wrong thing. Since he took office, President Obama, prodded by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has been doing one wrong thing after another in his clumsy attempts to “stimulate” the economy. The result: only government has been stimulated, and at the expense of entrepreneurs, our individual liberties, and economic recovery. Regardless of our hopes for the President, higher spending and punitive taxes will fail the American people.
Rush, like so many limited government conservatives, doesn’t want to see Obama’s socialist vision for this country come to fruition at the expense of freedom and individual liberty. We, unlike our counterparts on the Left, see these principles as central to our philosophy of governance. Indeed, we believe they are necessary to live free, happy and productive lives, so why wouldn’t we want to see an obvious affront to them like President Obama’s borrow-tax-spend-and-inflate agenda fail?
Of course many in the media, and thanks in no small part to the White House political shop under the leadership of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, have twisted a simple statement intended to differentiate political philosophies into an attack on America. Further, the high profile nature of Rush’s comments has given rise to a debate concerning who is leading the conservative movement. Is it Rush? Is it newly installed GOP Chairman Michael Steele? House Republican Leader John Boehner? What about the rising stars in the states, such as South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford? The obvious answer is that there is not one leader for conservatives, the limited government movement, or the Republican Party.
Small government conservatives should be cheering the fact that so many bold leaders are emerging to offer up good ideas and lead our movement back from the brink. After all, at our core we are a “big tent” movement with economic and social conservatives working towards a common goal: freedom. Engrained in our philosophy is the spirit of entrepreneurship that recognizes and rewards good ideas and good work no matter where they come from. The last thing we should be doing is bickering about who is in charge, as the Democrats and their friends in the media hope we will.
A better question, I think, is why the Obama White House chose to diminish the office by directly debating a popular talk show host? Don’t the President and his team have better things to do? Is it right to turn the Presidency – a scared American institution – into a den for political hacks? Ronald Reagan knew that there was a time for politics and a time to govern. President Obama, despite his promises, appears to want to run a permanent campaign for President to maintain his political power despite the state of the economy and the effectiveness of his policies. Armey’s Axiom: When it’s about power, you lose.
When we come together, our movement can achieve great things. This was the case in the nineties, which saw limited government conservatives with a host of different issue priorities work in concert to get behind the Contract with America and usher in the Republican Revolution in Congress. It took entrepreneurial leaders both inside the halls of Congress and outside, in grassroots America, to change the status quo.
In 2006 and 2008 we saw the conservative base wander from its fundamental limited government philosophy, pulled apart by a wide range of issues. A shared commitment to liberty was lost and conservatives wound up paying a heavy political price as liberals first took control of Congress, and then strengthened their grip, ultimately taking the White House in November. MoveOn.org was at the center of the Left’s efforts and brought together its disparate factions. From the anti-war wing to income redistributors to radical environmentalists, all were corralled in their own big tent committed to big government.
MoveOn and the other cogs that make up the Left’s massive political machine continue to work much more harmoniously than those on the Right. Today, they share a database of tens of millions of liberal supporters who, through the successful leveraging of new online social mobilization technologies, can be engaged on a wide range of issues or in critical elections at a moments notice.
Rush and every freedom-loving American is right to want Obama’s efforts to erode the basic freedoms we hold so dear to fall flat. Now we need to work together, focusing on the core principles of limited government we all share. This is what the Left learned from us after watching the Republican Revolution. Lately we’ve strayed from this winning model, but we need to get back to it.
In short, we need to move on.