More About Rush
In my last post, I wrote about Rush Limbaugh’s role in the Republican party. I said that while Rush makes a very good spokesman for the conservative movement, leadership of the GOP is best left to politicians. Rush should play a William F. Buckley role—lead the movement, not the party.
Given some of the sentiments expressed around the conservative blogosphere on the topic, that isn’t good enough for many conservative pundits. They think that Limbaugh’s brand of conservatism is outdated—angry, exclusive, backwards-looking, and tinged with racism. In this view, Rush Limbaugh, while he may have his uses, should stay well away from any leadership position.
There is, perhaps, some merit to that viewpoint. But those who agree with forget one thing. If Rush Limbaugh speaks for the conservative movement, there is a reason that is so. His ideas resonate with millions of people, and those people are willing to invest time and social capital into listening to him.
So if we assume that Limbaugh makes a poor conservative spokesman, the fault lies with all those millions of conservatives who support him. There are so many conservative leaders who seem to assume that Limbaugh’s ideas weakens the movement. Instead, I think the opposite is true—Limbaugh’s ideas are the movement, in that without the glue his show provides, conservatism would be an abstraction, not a living political faction. (Granted, had Rush never existed, conservatism wouldn’t have withered and died—someone would have picked up the slack, though probably not so well).
So if reformer conservatives don’t like Rush, there’s an easy answer—set up your own alternative. Those right-wingers who point out that Limbaugh can attract maybe thirty percent of voters and scare away the rest miss the fact that their ideas are only popular with a tiny population of political junkies who comment on their websites. David Frum thinks Rush’s popularity doesn’t extend much beyond his twenty million strong audience. But Frum’s popularity doesn’t extend much beyond his relatively small group of Internet fans. Maybe Frum’s (and others; Frum is just a convenient example) ideas are really good and will be a fresh start for the GOP and the conservative movement. But so far, new conservatism has been long on ideas and short (inevitably, given its newness) on results. If Limbaugh is outdated, he has had success. Those who attempt to tear him down don’t seem to have anything to put in his placc.