James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist

  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘Conservative Political Action Conference’

GOP doing Limbaugh Limbo; how low they can go to be ‘rest of the story’

Posted by James McPherson on March 1, 2009

Like the traditional conservative Republicanism that in many ways he embodied, Paul Harvey is dead. Coincidentally, on the same day that Harvey died, the man who had long since replaced Harvey as the voice–and, sadly, as the “conscience”–of the GOP, “brought a cheering crowd to its feet several times at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington as he called on fellow conservatives to take back the country.”

As CNN reports: “Limbaugh used his self-described ‘first national address,’ which ran more than an hour longer than his allotted 20 minutes, to accuse President Obama of inspiring fear in Americans in order to push a liberal agenda of ‘big government.'” (emphasis added)

Limbaugh apparently did what he does best, combining bluster and a disregard for reality (and really, who could blame Republicans for wanting to avoid reality at this point?) with a series of attacks on straw men created specifically for that purpose. For example: “We conservatives have not done a good enough job of just laying out basically who we are, because we make the mistake of assuming that people know. What they know is largely incorrect, based on the way we’re portrayed in pop culture, in the drive-by media, by the Democrat party.”

Rush, the problem isn’t what Americans know about conservatives based on other media (which they, like you, tend to distrust). The problem is what they know about modern conservatism as voiced specifically by people like you, in the conservative media.

Pretty much everybody in America knows who and what you are: a pompous, mean-spirited, self-aggrandizing buffoon. It may therefore be natural, even if unfair, for Americans see modern conservatives in the same light, especially when those conservatives cheer as you go on for four times your allotted time–no doubt because they have no better ideas of their own with which to fill the time.

Furthermore, the problem also isn’t that Americans don’t know what Republicans are. In fact, Republicans don’t know what they are. It may be encouraging that the party’s leading 2012 candidates are Mitt Romney (depending on which rendition of Romney they mean) and Bobby Jindal (who probably can’t win but who, despite last week’s poor speech, probably remains the most intelligent and dynamic of the potential candidates). Less positive is that the runners-up are Ron Paul and Sarah Palin.

If conservatives truly want to go back to what they once were–protectors of individual rights even when it sometimes made them uncomfortable (Harvey supported abortion rights, for example) and willing critics of even their own party (he famously criticized Richard Nixon over the Vietnam War)–they could do worse than to look to Harvey’s example.

Like most Americans, Harvey once got carried away with fears of communism. Like most of us, he occasionally said stupid things. Unlike Limbaugh, however, he didn’t make saying stupid things a point of pride, and conservatives of his era didn’t look to his stupidest comments as stepping stones to lead them out of their self-imposed wilderness retreat.

Next-day update: OK, not really an update, but a way to share the following lead paragraph from a well-worth reading  piece by Tom Watson for the Huffington Post: “Looking for all the world like the sweating floor manager on the late afternoon shift at Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club in an unbuttoned shiny black shirt and undersized sport coat, Rush Limbaugh leaned his meaty hands on the lectern at the CPAC conference and slipped a greasy dollar bill into the G-string of the writhing conservative dead-enders packed into the garishly lit Omni Shoreham in Washington DC.”

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