March 18, 2011

Rush, Republicans, and Conservatives

On Tuesday March 16, a woman from Dumfries, Virginia named “Angela” called into Rush Limbaugh’s radio show and read him the riot act. Given that the woman was black – she didn’t identify herself as such, but it was obvious from her dialect – and that blacks vote overwhelmingly for that party against which Rush spends three hours a day everyday railing, one could be forgiven for assuming that Angela’s frustration was a function of her leftist sympathies.

This, however, was not the case.

Angela proclaimed herself a conservative, and though Rush tried to depict her as a “seminar caller” – a liberal posing as a conservative – his efforts came to naught. Angela was the real deal.

So from whence sprang her angst?

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attain a transcript of the exchange that transpired (although you can find the audio of it at Rush’s homepage). But Angela was upset because, in her judgment, Rush invariably suggests that opposition to such possible Republican presidential contenders as Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Sarah Palin is a peculiarly left-wing phenomenon at heart. Conservatives can and do have their own reasons for being less than enthused over these dismal prospects, she insisted, but Rush fails to acknowledge this.

The “King of talk radio” denied the charge – even as he persisted in calling Angela’s credibility in question. Granted, given the considerations she invoked for her rejection of Romney and Palin, it wasn’t entirely unreasonable for Rush to be suspicious. Romney is the father of five sons, none of whom have served in the armed forces. As for Palin, she lacks sufficiently strong maternal instincts, a fact born out by her willingness to run for the vice-presidency despite having mothered five children, most of whom are not yet adults and the youngest of which has Down’s syndrome.

I found this commerce between Rush and Angela telling for a couple of reasons.

It was understandable for Rush to assume that Angela was putting him on, but this is only because Rush evidently isn’t accustomed to receiving phone calls from listeners who are more conservative than himself. Conservatism can be understood in more than one sense. Angela is a moral conservative. A moral conservative may or may not be a political conservative and vice versa. It is quite possible that, politically speaking, Rush may be more conservative than his caller, but morally, matters were clearly otherwise. In short, she was far from the impostor that Rush was trying to make her out to be.

Admittedly, Angela’s reasons for opposing Palin and Romney are not my own. Yet her overall point was as well taken by me as I suspect it was by scores of others who refuse to ever again be taken for granted by the GOP. While Rush insisted that not only wasn’t he guilty of the allegation that Angela leveled against him, but that he wasn’t much more excited than she was over the Republicans whose names were being bandied about in connection with a 2012 presidential run, the truth is that he is typical of establishment conservatism inasmuch as he frequently frames issues in such a way as to imply that they admit of but two alternatives: left or right, with the latter defined, often implicitly, synonymously with the establishment or conventional conservatism of which he is the most visible representative.

If any dissident conservative or right-wing voices are acknowledged at all by the establishment conservative – Ron Paul is one prominent example, here, while Pat Buchanan, Michael Savage, and Alan Keyes are some others – it is in order to either castigate or ridicule them. Usually, though, they are just ignored.

The Tea Party arose because of the many Americans who have become disenchanted with Washington politics. While its ranks swell with more conservative minded folks – those who ordinarily vote Republican – it is as much a backlash against the Republican Party establishment as against the Democrats. The Tea Party has put the GOP on notice that any future betrayals of its constituents would be met with swift, decisive action, namely, a third party that will promise to sweep the Republican Party’s legs out from under it.

Rush and others who want to prevent this would be well served to treat the Angelas of the country with the utmost seriousness.

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D., blogs at Contact him at [email protected]

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