Rush at CPAC

Posted by Mike Merritt in Politics on

Ah nothing like my lunch hour during a work-at-home day to blog.

So I finally got an opportunity to listen to Rush Limbaugh’s speech at CPAC.  I haven’t heard much Rush before, so going into it I was prepared to hate it all.  Coming out of it, I didn’t hate it, but also didn’t find much to which I could nod my head.

To me, his overarching message was basically that of “remain steadfast to core conservative principles,” “oppose bi-partisanship no matter what,” and “Democrats are destroying America.”  While I’m flexible on the first element, and might be able to somewhat believe the third (when you add Congressional Republicans to it), the second I believe is the wrong approach for conservatives.

It’s not to say I completely disagreed with Rush.  There were a few points where I nodded.  Mostly they were his pleas for what I call attitude conservatism, or using conservatism to guide your daily actions.  These are things such as thinking through an issue or not worrying so much about offending everyone (as in his anecdote about the 100 point basketball game being called off).  He also made good points about how freedom should be a prevailing principle in our life.

What I disagreed with is a much longer list.  First off, Rush, like many Americans, can’t seem to separate socialism as an ideology with the autocracy implemented by Joseph Stalin.  It might not be his fault, though.  For decades, the two were linked by propoganda, after all.  Not saying socialism is a good ideology, and yes, its so-called leaders around the world have often used violence used to implement it, but there is a fundamental difference I think more people need to understand.

Anyway, at one point, Rush was talking about bi-partisanship and his problems with it.  He derided Democrats for defining it as a call for Republicans to abdandon their principles and flock to the Democratic side.  He then gives his definition for it, which is essentially the same thing he just complained about, but this time all the Democrats go to the Republican side.  Umm…okay!  Sure.  So, essentially, he’s saying it’s bad for Democrats to have an “our way or the highway” attitude, but that it’s okay for Republicans to do it.

Here’s my definition for bi-partisanship.  Brainstorm a bunch of solutions for a given issue, then take the best parts from those solutions and make them work together if you can.  If you can’t, you might have to come up with something else.  Yes, I know this is a pipe dream, but I’ll dream about pipes if I want to!

Later on, Rush started attacking those he says want to “re-define conservatism,” including conservative intellectuals.  And here I think Rush really doesn’t get it, since conservatism is constantly being redefined.  I’d remind Rush that 150 years ago, it might have been “redefining conservatism” to support abolition.  60 years ago, it might have been “redefining conservatism” to support desegregation of the country (though the way it was done is still debated today) or interracial marriage.

What I don’t think Rush gets is that change in society happens all the time.  One of his examples of this re-definition was abortion.  The trouble is that the debate on abortion is not necessarily a domain of conservatism.  Yes, it is a domain of religion and perhaps a domain of the Republican Party’s platform.  But being against abortion, homosexuality, contraception, etc.  These things are not inherent principles of conservatism as Rush would have us believe.  Can secular conservatives oppose abortion and homosexuality?  Sure.  But there are many branches of conservatism, and not all are socially conservative, at least on those issues.

Finally, his constant suggestions that liberals want to destroy lives.  This fear seems to be universal among partisans, no matter which side of the debate they come from.  Conservative partisans might say that liberals want to destroy lives by binding people to the state or telling people what they can watch, eat, or wear, which are fair arguments.  But liberal partisans are equally as likely to say that conservatives want to destroy lives by not giving them any assistance at all or attempting to legislate morality by banning homosexuality and the like.  Which are also fair arguments.  My point is that neither side has a monopoly on trying to destroy lives.  Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress do it all the time.  So, in some ways, Rush is right here.  He just can’t pretend it only comes from one side.  Not without being dishonest.

In the end, listening to his speech was not bad, and I didn’t end up becoming apopletic or anything, which can only be good.

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