Sunday, February 10, 2008

Redemption for right wing leaders

By Rick Morris

The fawning embrace given to Mitt Romney by so-called conservative leaders (bloggers, talk radio hosts, activists/lobbyists) was deeply damaging to their own credibility – but it was also unfortunately hurtful to the interests of the larger movement they claim to represent. While I’m not losing sleep about the harm done to the reputations of those like Hugh Hewitt who so consistently demeaned and undermined legitimate candidates in the race, I do recognize their power to diminish the future of this country since so many give them credit for speaking for the conservative movement. I do think the revolt against these people was a positive development, as the arrogance we’ve seen on display indicates that they’ve lost touch with those they purport to lead. Every intellectual revolution, such as this one that started with Goldwater, Buckley and Reagan back in the early ‘60s, eventually ossifies and becomes exactly that which it was supposed to oppose. For right-wingers, the Romney bandwagon of 2007-08 was the Animal Farm moment.

Herewith, my free advice for how these luminaries can get out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves and American conservatism:

^ Have the humility to read this column all the way through. Already, there are signs that the grand poobahs still don’t get it and want to foist the Mittster on us again four years hence. In this article, it is revealed that, in an insanely presumptuous and egomaniacal move, American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene took it upon himself to personally welcome Romney into the conservative movement at C-PAC. [Side note to Davey: You did nothing but induct him as a member of your little Beltway boys club. It’s very interesting that you have such contempt for the fact that a majority of conservatives in this country rejected your pet and would never call him one of their own. Who died and left you as The Sultan of American Conservatism? I’m just wondering if you put him through some rituals as part of a ceremony, such as “pinky swears” or a quiz on Bill Buckley’s five favorite Latin phrases.]. The continued arrogance of those who refuse to “get it” about Romney is unbelievable, inasmuch as they should be able to read the cold hard facts; if Mitt were the “great right hope,” then McCain and Huck put together wouldn’t have been able to stop him and he would have been more than a doormat in the bastion-of-conservatism Southern states. Leveling spurious charges of religious bigotry against the folks you clearly perceive to be nothing more than Flyover Country peasants won’t get you anywhere either. You need to accept the fact that the work many of you did for Goldwater in 1964 and Reagan in 1976 could very well be invalidated by the destructive moves you’ve pulled lately and in some cases persist in doing.

^ Crawl out of your echo chamber and be willing to defend your opinions. This piece of advice applies mostly to the talk radio potentates, most of whom hide behind the skirts of their call-screeners. Take a lesson from Michael Medved, who not only accepts calls from those unfriendly to his point of view but specifically seeks them. You have to get in fighting trim and go beyond accepting arse-kissing missives from vapid folks like “Dittoheads” and be willing to mix it up and articulate your principles in a consistent manner or learn to deal with irrelevance in a world fast leaving you behind.

^ Take an honest look at where you went wrong. Most of you were silent when you had a chance to boost Fred Thompson. Some of you, like Hewitt, actively slimed him. Regardless of how far off the reservation you went, you damaged the advancement of vital American causes. You did so in the false belief that you were embracing a candidate as sleek and supercharged as the American Motors company his father once ran. Instead, you ended up climbing aboard an Edsel that could not meet any necessary performance standards (justifying the megabucks investment in the early state contests, connecting with voters on any level, finding explanations for a myriad of conveniently-timed policy changes, creating an even moderately-successful campaign message). At long last, you need to admit that you picked the wrong “vehicle” and stop blaming others for the inevitable crash into the ditch.

^ Stop bashing populism. This edict applies specifically to good old El Rushbo, who denounced populism as part of his intellectually dishonest critique of Huck. One wonders exactly what he considers his denunciation of entities such as Nancy Pelosi and the “intellectual elites!” I realize that I speak as a member of the paleoconservative wing of the movement, which unfortunately accounts for a small minority, but let it be said once and for all that populism is a good thing! Certainly, Rush doesn’t like the concept when it’s turned on him, but that should have been an early sign that he was in the wrong. Some types of populism, such as the economic form of it that panders to folks of an illiterate mentality, are idiotic. But always, in making a choice between the people and their leaders who are pushing them down the primrose path, I side with the people and anyone aspiring to lead the conservative movement must also do no less.

^ Speak truth to power. The conservative intelligentsia has spent the last seven years toadying up to the Bush crew at all costs – Limbaugh and Hannity in particular come to mind. They’ve overlooked a host of offenses against sound policy but now ask us to get outraged about ones made by John McCain! [Another aside: how the heck does George W. Bush get a hero’s welcome at C-PAC from the same audience of “purists” who had to be begged not to chuck tomatoes at McCain? Again, not that McCain’s Mr. Right himself, but he’s made no more transgressions than Dubya and arguably has had less. But Bush pretends harder to be a consistent conservative than McCain does and appeases the sheep that way. Quite a shame the way the psychology works]. A little less worry about access to the Bushies and a little more pressure to do the right thing would have been better for the country, even if the individuals involved wouldn’t get invited to as many ice cream socials. The idea isn’t to be loved by the political elite, it’s to keep them honest. You people don’t need my admonition to hold McCain’s feet to the fire; it’s a tragic shame for our country that you chose not to apply the same standard to “The Decider.”

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