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OPINION

The State of Conservatism Post Rush Limbaugh

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

I really miss Rush. Regardless how complex or critical the issue, I could always count on Rush Limbaugh’s entirely rational and moral analysis, delivered by an apex professional with genuine compassion, even for those with whom he disagreed. 

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He was ensconced behind that golden EIB microphone; a master of ideas and argument. From his lofty height, he engaged with every thorny problem with an equanimity that drew a placid sagacity from an ocean of experience, and confidence. After all, Rush was “documented almost always right 99.7% of the time.” 

He was a compass that always pointed the precise bearing to truth. He was the constitutionalists’ loadstar. Rush was a man of genuine faith as is his brother David Limbaugh. Talent like Rush’s usually only comes along once a generation, if that. He was a pleasure to listen to, perpetually positive on the American experience and never strident, bitter, shrill, or profane. 

He was radio’s Elijah and his mantle has fallen.

One of Rush’s greatest strengths was his ability to play skillfully with ideas. He’d acquired what Oscar Wilde described as the “Oxford temper.” 

“The unfortunate accident — for I like to think it was no more — that you had not yet been able to acquire the ‘Oxford temper’ in intellectual matters, never, I mean, been one who could play gracefully with ideas but had arrived at violence of opinion merely.” 

The quote is from De Profundis (Latin meaning “from the depths”) a fifty thousand word letter written by Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas. In the letter, Wilde repudiates Lord Alfred for what he saw as arrogance and vanity. Though Wilde would never have been described by any standard as a conservative, or moral, his insight is still entirely valid. All truth is God’s truth.  

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The current state of conservatism is, to some degree, a troubling vortex of bickering personalities who’ve engaged in public spats. Who’s right or wrong will eventually filter through the sieve of time — there are two sides to every story and somewhere in the middle lies the truth.

That old saw usually holds true. At least, it’s a good working theory, and as a young deputy sheriff, it was my “go to” when trying to untangle the monkey’s fist of domestic dispute. 

There’s an inherent humility and understanding of human nature in the theory. It’s a recognition that omniscience escapes us all, and people are prone to lie, especially when money, fame, or sex is involved. In addition, the statement presupposes that both sides of the story must be heard to have a hope of coming to a reasoned assessment.

To be dismissive is the most grotesque form of egoism to ever erupt like a cherry-red pustule from the human psyche. 

But, perfunctory and dismissive seem to be the hallmarks of some who’ve desperately scrabbled after Rush’s hoary mantle. Their grubby fingers have clutched the sacred thing, turning to dust in their grasp, despoiled by pride, arrogance, and a perverse tongue. All things that God says he specifically hates. (Proverbs 8:13)  

Conservative thought is characterized by reasoned, clear thinking. Facts and truth inform opinion and bias yields to cogent argument. At least, that has been the standard for conservative thinkers. The left has been rightly characterized as a group of lock-stepping ideologues who plod along ponderously, even in the face of objective fact and reason. To call their anti-intellectual fervor “religious” is a disservice to religion, which has been the bastion of literacy, the cradle of science, and the champion of thought. 

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However, some prominent conservative voices have adopted a left-wing mentality, having fallen in love with a pet narrative or indulged in personality crushes to the exclusion of all reason.

If someone sounds unhinged, they’re hiding something. And, it’s usually a cherished grudge they’ve clutched to their bosom like poor Golem and his Ring of Power. Hold on to it, and it twists the soul. 

One of Rush’s greatest legacies is his enduring example of playing “gracefully with ideas.” It’s a skill that isn’t easily acquired, and it certainly isn’t cultivated in public school education. There are others who currently possess this hallmark of true education — Jordan Peterson is the foremost exemplar. 

A person must have the capacity to think well to engage with ideas, especially those that challenge preconceptions. It’s no small task, and small people are incapable of it until they find the humility necessary to listen and not merely hear. 

Rush’s mic has been passed like a golden scepter into faltering hands. Some people rise to fill a mantle too grand for their stature. Some people are merely crushed under its weight like a rotten tree borne down by the press of heavy winds — the core being merely desiccated flakes and burrowing termites. 

We all need the courage of our convictions and the humility to admit when we get it wrong. Those are the preconditions to becoming skillful in matters of the mind. Read a lot — start with the foundation of western civilization, the Bible. Live well, and write your thoughts down. Soon, thinking well will develop into an abiding wisdom, and you’ll find yourself engaging gracefully, artfully with ideas and truths more valuable than all the treasure you can imagine. 

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