Archive for March 2nd, 2009

Is you is, or is you ain’t my constitchency?

March 2, 2009

Poor Rush.  He must see somebody new every morning when he looks at himself in the mirror.  Either he’s the beating heart and rapier mind of conservatism — the sine qua non; bigger than Reagan, even — or he’s an incendiary boob with an ugly show, who’s burning conservatism to the waterline.

And that’s just if you ask conservatives.

In fact, you can get that full range of opinions from a single conservative on consecutive days.  I’ve lost track of how many elected Republicans and other conservative luminaries have had to cut and run from Rush in the past month.  One day they criticize him in very harsh terms; the next day they apologize and fawn over him.

The latest lamb restored to the ninety-and-nine is the RNC’s recently elected chairman, Michael Steele.  Saturday night, he said, “Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh — his whole thing is entertainment. He has this incendiary — yes, it’s ugly.”  Today, he said, “I went back at that tape and I realized words that I said weren’t what I was thinking.  It was one of those things where I thinking [sic] I was saying one thing, and it came out differently . . . He brings a very important message to the American people to wake up and pay attention to what the administration is doing.”

In Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, there’s a brief storyline about, well, the madness of King George, which would come and go at random.  His oldest son basically wanted him either killed or cured.  The narrator adds wryly, “It must be difficult to wake up every morning not knowing if you are the king of England.”  Rush knows the feeling.

The larger issue that all these apologized-for criticisms are part of is American conservatism’s and the Republican Party’s ongoing efforts to figure out where they go from here.  Should they purge, purify and come out the 200-proof essence of right-wing conservatism?  (A bold, fresh piece of ideology, one might say.)  Or should they re-think, re-tool, and come out with a more moderate conservatism that might have a chance of appealing to more than 30% of the electorate?

Rush, Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin, and, increasingly, Newt Gingrich argue for purifying.  Eric Cantor, who fancies himself a latter-day Newt, agrees.

David Brooks, David Frum, Rod Dreher, and, unexpectedly, Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah argue for diversifying.

George Will, Mitt Romney, John McCain, and many others blow with the prevailing winds, shifting from moment to moment.

It’s already an ugly fight, and it’s going to get uglier before it gets better.