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Where Rush Was Wrong At CPAC

Written By : John Hawkins
March 2, 2009

Of late, the Democrats have been working hard to publicly demonize Rush Limbaugh. They’re even running anti-Rush commercials, which admittedly could endanger the Senate seat he holds in Florida — oh wait, he’s not a senator. Come to think of it, he’s not a congressman or governor either. He’s a talk radio host who, despite the protestations of the Democrats to the contrary, quite regrettably has far less influence on the Republican Party than, say, MoveOn or the DailyKos appear to have on the Democratic Party.

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That being said, Rush is extraordinarily influential with conservatives and he is a genuine danger to the Democratic Party because he is capable of doing things so many Republican politicians seem to have forgotten how to do. For example, in his CPAC speech this week-end, he did an

“(T)ake a look at all the constituency groups that for 50 years have been depending on the Democrat Party to improve their lives. And you tell me if you find any. They’re still complaining, still griping about the same problems. Their problems don’t get fixed by government.”

“What’s the longest war in American history? Did somebody say the war on poverty? Smart group. War on poverty. The war on poverty essentially started in the ’30s as part of the New Deal, but it really ramped up in the ’60s with Lyndon Johnson, part of the Great Society war on poverty. We have transferred something like 10 trillion, maybe close to 11 trillion, from producers and earners to nonproducers and nonearners since 1965. Yet, as I listen to the Democratic Party campaign, why, America is still a soup kitchen, the poor is still poor and they have no hope and they’re poor for what reason? They’re poor because of us, because we don’t care, and because we’ve gotten rich by taking from them, that’s what kids in school are taught today.”

Rush was also able to deliver a more deftly worded criticism of Barack Obama in his speech than any Republican politician has managed so far,

“Now, let me speak about President Obama for just a second. President Obama is one of the most gifted politicians, one of the most gifted men that I have ever witnessed. He has extraordinary talents. He has communication skills that hardly anyone can surpass. No, seriously. No, no, I’m being very serious about this. It just breaks my heart that he does not use these extraordinary talents and gifts to motivate and inspire the American people to be the best they can be. He’s doing just the opposite. And it’s a shame. [Applause] President Obama has the ability — he has the ability to inspire excellence in people’s pursuits. He has the ability to do all this, yet he pursues a path, seeks a path that punishes achievement, that punishes earners and punishes — and he speaks negatively of the country. Ronald Reagan used to speak of a shining city on a hill. Barack Obama portrays America as a soup kitchen in some dark night in a corner of America…”

All in all, Rush delivered a magnificent speech at CPAC. However, there is one area in which, put plainly, I think he was wrong.

“The American people may not all vote the way we wish them to, but more Americans than you now live their lives as conservatives in one degree or another. And they are waiting for leadership. We need conservative leadership. We can take this country back. All we need is to nominate the right candidate. It’s no more complicated than that.

…Well, the one thing, and there are many, but one thing that we can all do is stop assuming that the way to beat them is with better policy ideas right now. I don’t want to name any names. It’s not the point. But I talk to people about the Obama budget or the Obama Porkulous bill or whatever else TARP 2 whatever it’s going to be, and they start talking to me in the terms of process and policy. I say stop it. What do you mean? Who is setting the process or policy? They are. You want to tweak it? No. This is philosophy, folks. “

Now, if Rush were to elaborate on those remarks, he might not come across as black and white as he appears there. In fact, I suspect that those comments were largely pushback against the moderate Republicans who are foolishly declaring that the GOP needs to abandon conservative principles and become a big government party like the Democrats.

That being said, if Rush does believe that our policies are fine and that we just need the right candidate, there are two big problems with that.

First off, it abandons the whole field of “new ideas” to people who are not conservatives. Liberals are always coming up with new ways to spend our money and grow government. So, if all the prominent “idea men” on “our side” are people who hate social conservatives and love big government, then the conservative movement will have to choose between being forever frozen in amber or moving farther away from its roots with the adoption of each new idea. That path will lead to a long, slow slide into oblivion.

Conservative principles may not change, but political agendas can and should change fairly regularly based on events, circumstances, and the desires of the public. Having the best principles and philosophy is all well and good, but we’re not going to win future elections in this country if we spend all our time talking about the philosophies of Hayek, Burke, and Friedman while ignoring the day-to-day issues that voters care about.

That brings us to problem number two. We may be able to win future battles running on Reagan’s ideas, but we won’t win the long-term war for the future of our country by perpetually running on a nearly 30 year old political agenda.

Just to name one issue, it has gotten to the point where I cringe when a Republican starts talking about income tax cuts like they’re a powerhouse political issue. That sounds almost like conservative sacrilege, doesn’t it? Yet, as most of the conservatives reading this column know, more than

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