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March 08, 2009

Patterico at Hot Air

Yes, it's still about Rush Limbaugh. No, the story will never die. Too much to excerpt and whatever I take will get me accused of something or other.

Read the whole thing.

Later: Okay, that was super passive-aggressive. This isn't going to help, but let me try and explain why I'm so tired of this little spat.

In sum, Patterico and others have said that he does not want Rush Limbaugh to be the de facto head of either the Republican Party or the conservative movement because he is too controversial. The idea is that while Limbaugh's controversial statements and offensiveness are great for his show's ratings, they alienate voters.

On the other side is a whole host of alternative views. Here are some of them, and I'm trying to be evenhanded about this:

(1) Some suggest that conservatives (or Republicans) shouldn't hold back, that "playing nice" is what got us President Obama, and that---by contrast---it was Democrats' unleashed hater-ade which won them power. For this group, playing nice is equated with being a moderate or a RINO.

(2) Some claim that being true to conservative principles requires "calling it like it is" and if that's offensive then so be it. The intent is not to be offensive, the intent is to be truthful. Not a few of these folks have also said that conservatives should not compromise on their principles. To silence themselves now would cause them to go out with a whimper when they'd rather go down fighting.

(3) Another alternative (and these alternatives aren't always mutually exclusive, by the way) is that a cabal of cowards in media has, as it has always done, worked to suppress and oppress the conservative movement within the Republican Party. That's what Steele was up to; that's what Frum, Brooks, and Krauthammer are up to; that's what Patterico is up to. Some of the people who subscribe to this alternative talk about starting their own Conservative Party.

(4) Finally, some dispute the premise that Limbaugh is controversial or alienates voters or that he wants to be the de facto leader of anything other than the Dittoheads.

My first response was weariness. If the argument is merely about how rude and crude the party should be defending its principles then it's just a waste of time. We're always going to have folks who are more apt to foam at the mouth than sit down at a table and work out a winning coalition. Telling them to change their methods just results in another round of argument (as it did with Limbaugh this past week). This is what we see with folks whose livelihoods depend on ratings. Coulter, Limbaugh, Malkin, I'm looking at you.

On the other hand, as the argument has been proceeding it has rapidly morphed from one about methods to one about message. Limbaugh is seen as carrying the conservative standard. Therefore, in the minds of many, those who oppose him must be doing so, not because of something so elementary as his method, but because they oppose his conservative message. Once that step has been made, the argument becomes much more important because now it is about the Future of the Republican Party.

And Yet More: It occurs to me that I didn't explain why I find this tiresome. I find it wearying and a waste of time because I don't believe Patterico was making an attack on Limbaugh's conservative message. Patterico was talking about the methodology. To the extent people have gone on to construe this as an attack on conservatives, their objection is a non sequitur.

As far as the four alternatives I listed above, when we consider them on the merits, they all fail in one crucial respect: they do not lead to electoral victory. Folks who believe the first alternative should consider that the Democrats won in spite of their feces flinging rather than because of it. There was a little bit of an Iraq War Slump in 2006 and an economic meltdown in 2008 that more readily explains their victories. After all, they lost quite badly in 2002 and 2004, despite rolling out the Chimpy McBushHitler namecalling.

As for the second alternative, being conservative and being true to conservative principles does not require that a person be offensive. Ur-example: William F. Buckley. Additionally, individuals who do not work and play well with others, that is, compromise, will have little success re-taking Congress and the White House. Democrats, and their preposterous coalition of interest groups with competing interests, are now running this country. They did it by highlighting the issues on which they agree and compromising on the issues about which they disagree.

Third, conservatives splintering off into their own party is not a recipe for the electoral success of their new party or the rump party they leave behind. How many years do you want to wander in the wilderness?

Finally, folks who do not believe that Limbaugh is offputting to a large group of people aren't paying attention. The Dittoheads aren't large enough to carry elections all on their own. Suggesting that the solution to his low ratings among independents and moderates is "More Rush, Louder" is, well, stupid. We've had More Rush, Louder for twenty years. Consider that it's not the message that is alienating potential voters, but the method.

In any case, the bottom line for me is this: Wouldn't it be nice to win back Congress and the White House? The current argument does not help us do that. So, for the love of Pete, can we please get over it?

Okay, For Reals The Last Update: Ultimately, Obama would like this to be about a choice: Choose Obama (who represents all Democrats) or Choose Limbaugh (who represents all Republicans). Obama likes this false dichotomy because he knows that his ratings are much better than Limbaugh's and that he has an even bigger microphone than Limbaugh.

So why the hell are we playing Obama's game? We should not pretend that our only options are to support Obama or to support Limbaugh. We should not pretend that Limbaugh represents all Republicans, or assume that Obama represents all Democrats. We have more freedom than that. Knee-jerk defensiveness gets us nowhere.

If we play his game, "You're either with me or you're with him" we lose. If that game worked, we'd have a Republican in the White House right now.

UPDATE (Russ from Winterset): Sorry about amending your post Gabe, but I had an insight that I thought would get lost in comments, plus I don't want to create ANOTHER post on the topic when you've wrapped it up fairly nicely yourself.

When I linked to Protein Wisdom on Friday, Patterico showed up in the comments to that post to disagree with my characterization of his position. I'd like to say that his disagreement was done in a very civil manner, and I'm always open to his opinion on any and all issues. What I have a problem with is his "You're mischaracterizing my position" position.

Correct me if I'm wrong here, but isn't that the same argument that Rush's supporters made against your original interpretation of Rush's "I hope he fails" comment? If you're going to criticize Rush for making a statement that COULD be twisted by his opponents into a willingness to blow up the American economy in order to be able to tell Obama "I told you so", then I think it's fair game for your opponents to interpret your "I hope Rush fails" statement as support for the Quisling Right (Frum, Chris Buckley, Noonan, Parker, et al) and their current War on Lowbrow Conservatism.

Even though I don't agree with Patterico on this issue, I do realize that a successful resurgence of Conservatism in America will require a truce between the Protein Wisdom and Patterico's Pontifications factions of the movement. Even though Patterico thinks that Rush Limbaugh made a mistake here, he's still "one of us" and we should be trying to convince him that his position is mistaken rather than firing up the rhetorical wood chipper that we use on apostates.

And the commenters who are lighting up Gabe for his post?

Three words, baby. Lighten up, Francis.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 11:31 AM

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