The ever-shrinking Elephant Party, who've been actually behaving for so (too) long like bulls in a china shop, have left the shop (i.e., our country) in shambles, and have been properly politically punished for the mess they've left for the next guy. You'd think that the few Republicans that are still left standing might have actually learned something from the past couple of national elections, and that they'd be thankful enough to still have a job that they'd want to who work to help fix what they've so blithely broken, but apparent repeated mass repudiation of their neo-con agenda means nothing at all to a party more beholden to ideology than to anyting resembing the common good. Nope. No, sir. Rush say that's socialist talk, maybe even communinism.
If the minority Republicans buy Rush's line that it's not the message that's defective, it's that the volume at which said message has been broadcast hasn't been cranked up enough & if the "R's" insist on simply standing in President Obama's way complaining about the mess & the smell they have made as he & the other Democrats attempt to sweep out the shards & the elephant droppings, they might as well get used to their well-earned status as the increasingly-irrelevant Party of "No". I have to say, it couldn't happen to a more-deserving group of dittoheads.
But they can vote against Republican candidates for Congress. They can vote against Republican nominees for president. And if we allow ourselves to be overidentified with somebody who earns his fortune by giving offense, they will vote against us. Two months into 2009, President Obama and the Democratic Congress have already enacted into law the most ambitious liberal program since the mid-1960s. More, much more is to come. Through this burst of activism, the Republican Party has been flat on its back.
We need to modulate our social conservatism (not jettison—modulate). The GOP will remain a predominantly conservative party and a predominantly pro-life party. But especially on gay-rights issues, the under-30 generation has arrived at a new consensus. Our party seems to be running to govern a country that no longer exists. The rule that both our presidential and vice presidential candidates must always be pro-life has become counterproductive: McCain's only hope of winning the presidency in 2008 was to carry Pennsylvania, and yet Pennsylvania's most successful Republican vote winner, former governor Tom Ridge, was barred from the ticket because he's pro-choice.
We need an environmental message. You don't have to accept Al Gore's predictions of imminent gloom to accept that it cannot be healthy to pump gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We are rightly mistrustful of liberal environmentalist disrespect for property rights. But property owners also care about property values, about conservation, and as a party of property owners we should be taking those values more seriously.
Above all, we need to take governing seriously again. Voters have long associated Democrats with corrupt urban machines, Republicans with personal integrity and fiscal responsibility. Even ultraliberal states like
In the days since I stumbled into this controversy, I've received a great deal of e-mail. (Most of it on days when Levin or Hannity or Hugh Hewitt or Limbaugh himself has had something especially disobliging to say about me.) Most of these e-mails say some version of the same thing: if you don't agree with Rush, quit calling yourself a conservative and get out of the Republican Party. There's the perfect culmination of the outlook Rush Limbaugh has taught his fans and followers: we want to transform the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan into a party of unanimous dittoheads—and we don't care how much the party has to shrink to do it. That's not the language of politics. It's the language of a cult.
I'm a pretty conservative guy. On most issues, I doubt Limbaugh and I even disagree very much. But the issues on which we do disagree are maybe the most important to the future of the conservative movement and the Republican Party: Should conservatives be trying to provoke or persuade? To narrow our coalition or enlarge it? To enflame or govern? And finally (and above all): to profit—or to serve?