Skip to comments.The Limbaugh schism
Posted on 03/05/2009 7:15:37 PM PST by yongin
For conservatives, the news of the week was Rush Limbaughs speech to the annual CPAC conference in Washington DC. The speech achieved all and more that Rush could have hoped: It was rapturously received by the more than 8,000 conference attendees and broadcast live on Fox News. Better still, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, appearing the next morning on CBSs Face the Nation, acclaimed Rush as the voice, energy, and intellect of the Republican Party.
So everybodys happy, right? Well, everybody except Republicans who care about their partys future electoral chances. As ardently as Rushs fans adore him, Limbaugh is one of the less popular figures in American public life. He polls especially poorly among two groups whom Republicans must attract in the future: independent voters and women. Independents take a negative view of Limbaugh by a 45-22 margin. As for women well Rush himself has acknowledged the problem. Thirty-one point gender gaps dont come along that often, he mused on his Feb. 24 program.
Rahm Emanuel knows what he is doing: The more hermetically he and his team can affix Rushs image to our Republican behinds, the more difficulty we shall have climbing out of the hole we have dug for ourselves.
In a blog post Monday, I pointed out this (not exactly secret) problem. Then I engaged in a rare act of conservative lese-majeste: I actually explained it.
Heres the duel that Obama and Limbaugh are jointly arranging:
On the one side, the president of the United States: soft-spoken and conciliatory, never angry, always invoking the recession and its victims. This president invokes the language of responsibility, and in his own life seems to epitomize that ideal: He is physically honed and disciplined, his worst vice an occasional cigarette. He is at the same time an apparently devoted husband and father. Unsurprisingly, women voters trust and admire him.
And for the leader of the Republicans? A man who is aggressive and bombastic, cutting and sarcastic, who dismisses the concerned citizens in network news focus groups as losers. With his private plane and his cigars, his history of drug dependency and his personal bulk, not to mention his tangled marital history, Rush is a walking stereotype of self-indulgenceexactly the image that Barack Obama most wants to affix to our philosophy and our party. And were cooperating! Those images of crowds of CPACers cheering Rushs every rancorous wordwell be seeing them rebroadcast for a long time.
Rush knows what he is doing. The worse conservatives do, the more important Rush becomes as leader of the ardent remnant. The better conservatives succeed, the more we become a broad national governing coalition, the more Rush will be sidelined.
But do the rest of us understand what we are doing to ourselves by accepting this leadership? Rush is to the Republicanism of the 2000s what Jesse Jackson was to the Democratic Party in the 1980s. He plays an important role in our coalition, and of course he and his supporters have to be treated with respect. But he cannot be allowed to be the public face of the enterpriseand we have to find ways of assuring the public that he is just one Republican voice among many, and very far from the most important.
Well, that put the cat among the pigeons! The reaction from my conservative friends has been ferocious. Heres my one-time editor, Rich Lowry of National Review: I find the attacks on Rush from the right mostly stupid, cringe-inducing, and wrong. For good measure, he explicitly described my words as particularly nasty and personal.
But personal is the one thing this dispute is not. What we are arguing about is the kind of party the GOP will be. Over just the past couple of weeks, Limbaugh has compelled apologies first from a Republican congressman, then from the chairman of the Republican National Committee, for criticizing him. He has extracted tributes praising him as aif not theleader of the party from the RNC chairman and the governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal. Not since the Republican wilderness years of 1993-1994 has Rush held such uncontested sway. But back then, Rush was content to play a supporting part. Now he has assumedor been concededthe starring role.
Back in the 1970s, on the eve of the great Republican victories of the 1980s and 1990s, we on the right aspired to displace Americas liberal governing elite with an elite of our owna counter-establishment as journalist Sidney Blumenthal aptly described it. But our last experience of government was a disappointing one to say the least, and the whole problem of government seems to interest us less and less. Increasingly, we are vexed and motivated only by what we call the culture. Its never quite clear what precisely we mean by that: maybe only the sum of all things that annoy conservative-minded people.
We are gradually shrinking from our former ambitionto governand taking our pleasure instead in alienation and complaint. Those journalists who cover the conservative world are surprised by how relieved and happy conservatives seem to be about having lost the 2008 election. No more irritating compromises, no more boring policy debates! We can recline into the pure assertion of conservative dogma, a job nobody does better than Rush Limbaugh himself. As Limbaugh told the CPAC crowd: We need no new policy ideas. Conservatism, he said, cannot be reshaped or reformed, and those who suggest otherwise must be stamped out. And who knows? That view may prevail among Republicans for some long time to come. But if it does, watch out. Just as the American left retreated from politics into the universities in the 1980s, soif Rush has his waywill the American right retreat from politics into the airwaves in the 2000s.
For my part, Ill adopt the justly famous philosophy of that anonymous American soldier who, upon reaching the front line at the Argonne just as the French army was giving way, exclaimed: Retreat hell! We just got here.
from’s a jerk.
I hate him. What a putz.
Frum again? Hasn’t he had enough?
Frum is seeking relevance with the very people who will never win elections for Republicans.
Got bitter jealousy?
If you were to say the name “Frum” in a group of, oh, say, 1000 how many would know it?
Say the name “Rush Limbaugh” in a group of, oh, say 3, all would know it.
David Frum is an ass. He is so in love with 0. Oh, how I despise moderates. Frum thinks he is so self important. What a mental midget!
Heard from Rush today that Mark Levin eviscerated Frum last night on his show.
If “Conservative” was synonymous with “Republican” the author would have a point. Alas, he does not.
Frum is a pathetic POS. I hope Rush whacks him tomorrow.
I received a free subscription to the Week magazine years ago and they sent it for free for at least 10 years. I used to laugh about it. Then Margaret Carlson took it over and they stopped sending it. I could care less.
Why doesn’t Frum take Democrats to task, instead of dumping on his fellow Republicans? This is no time for Republicans to be fighting with each other, and Frum is a tool if he thinks this is helpful in any way to Republicans. Fight with the Democrats, fool, unless you want them to succeed.
Yep, Levin tore into the schmuck.
Hah. Rush has NEVER wanted that “mantle” as the “face” of the Republican Party. He’s a Conservative to the bone, and the further like the Democrat Socialist Party the Republican Party gets, the further away they get from Rush. The RP has just simply been closer to his philosophy than the DP over the years. IF there were a pure Conservative Party, Rush might be more up for that.
Frum is still in his snit because he no longer has a position of influence.
People in Washington have no beliefs. They are only interested in their careers and egos. They will flip in a heartbeat if it will advance their personal fortunes.
Frum, Brooks, Scott McClellan, Christopher Buckley, Colin Powell, Kathleen Parker, Linda Chavez are exaples of spoiled little brats grown old who can’t believe no one listens to them any more.
will david frum just go away .
what an idiot .
even the fox people are mocking him now!
I guess its all a popularity contest....right David?
Frum is the jerk.
There is no schism except from those who fear open debate or from those who are in denial about comrade obama’s communism.
In fact I have set a old line democrat on the limbaugh education program because.......Rush likes cigars and he is sick of hippies attacking his cigar smoking.
A win is a win.
Thanks for the link. I’m listening to it now.