Monday, October 27, 2008

Rush's Blueprint
Last week, Tony Blankley published and Rush Limbaugh publicized what may prove one of the most important articles of 2008. I don't mean that the article was good - very much the contrary. But bad work can be even more important than good, if enough people can be got to believe it.

Here's Tony:

I suspect that the conservative movement we start rebuilding on the ashes of Nov. 4 (even if McCain wins) will have little use for overwritten, over-delicate commentary. The new movement will be plain-spoken and socially networked up from the Interneted streets, suburbs and small towns of America.

Here's Rush:

Since there is not a strong elected conservative anywhere, then conservatism right now is sort of like wandering in the distance with every conservative thinking that they're the smartest person in the room trying to show the way to the light. The way to the light is plainly visible. But everybody wants to be considered the smartest people in the room, so they come up with all these new things like "the era of Reagan is over."

And more Rush:

[T]here's a blueprint for winning it, 1980, there's a blueprint. McCain is not the blueprint for how Republicans win landslides. Going after moderates, independents, and all these yokels is not the blueprint. The blueprint's there, 1994, taking back the House, the blueprint's there. Why are these people ignoring it?

If I understand it correctly, the Blankley/Rush argument goes like this:

1) Reagan-style conservatism remains wildly popular with the American people. It was the "blueprint" for winning landslides between 1980 and 1994, and it remains the blueprint today.

2) Yet for some unaccountable mysterious reason, politicians are ignoring this blueprint! There is not a strong elected conservative voice in the country today.

3) So obviously what we need to do is return to the politics of the 1980s - and sit back and collect the rewards.

This argument raises one big question:

Could it be possible that the reason that we lack Reagan-style conservatives in elected office today is that they are having trouble getting elected?

Still more Rush, referring by name to people like Peggy Noonan, David Brooks, Christopher Buckley, Kathleen Parker, and me:

These are the people who are embarrassed by Sarah Palin 'cause she's not an intellectual and she didn't go to Harvard or have a college degree from approved universities and she drops her g's from words like morning and says mornin'. She's embarrassing, and I think something else really bothering these people is that they believe that she may become one of the key leaders of the conservative movement beyond 2008 if she and McCain lose this.

OK, let's develop this a little.

1) Sarah Palin has the potential to become a key leader of the conservative movement beyond 2008.

2) If that happens, she will follow "the blueprint" and achieve another conservative landslide - and another successful presidency!

3) But snobs like Peggy, David, Christopher, Kathleen and me are embarrassed that she drops her Gs. Our motto: "Unless we can nominate a Harvard graduate, we'd rather lose."

I have to wonder:

Can even Rush himself believe this junk?

I think Rush is a great entertainer and has often been a force for good in the conservative movement. But right now, he is feeding his audience pleasing illusions that can only lead conservatives to even greater troubles in the days ahead.

Take a look at this poll from Stanley Greenberg. (Yes Greenberg's a Democrat - but he's long proven himself a realistic analyst of American politics. Greenberg is the guy who identified Macomb County, Michigan, as the heartland of the "Reagan Democrats" - and warned Democrats that they were losing both Macomb and the nation.)

While a sizeable majority of voters say Republicans have lost in 2006 and 2008 because they have been “too conservative,” a sizeable plurality of Republicans say, it is because they have “not been conservative enough.”

Over three-quarters of Republicans say Palin was good choice, while a majority of the electorate says the opposite.

Two-thirds of Republicans say McCain has not been aggressive enough, but a majority of voters think they have been too aggressive.

Looking to the future, a large majority of Republicans say the party needs to “move more to the right and back to conservative principles,” while an even larger majority of all voters say, it should move to the “center to win over moderate and independent voters.”

When Rush and Blankley tell us the blueprint is there, if only we would follow it, they are telling us something that is not true. They are offering flattering illusions when we need truth. They are leading us to disaster - and beyond disaster, to irrelevance.

David Frum's Diary on National Review Online