Stop the attacks?

Matthew Schmitz wants counter-conservatives to stop attacking the right-wing talk radio pundits:

If the goal of Conor and others who have attacked talk radio is to save the Republican Party,  I’m at a loss as to how this helps. By going after these talk radio personas, they are merely raising their profiles as the embattled defenders of “authentic” conservatism. Having Rush’s face on the cover of Newsweek, especially for a very negative article, only increases his reputation among his supporters and his legend among media types. It does much, much less to help the Republican Party, conservatism, or anyone else other than David Frum, who can build a reputation as the anti-Rush.  If Frum and Friedersdorf do want a conservatism that can win again, I think they would be well-advised to find enemies who do not have everything to gain by being attacked.

If Rush and Levin (et al) didn’t already have extremely high profiles then I might agree with this analysis.  As it stands, the much less well known figures like Conor, Frum, and Dreher are hardly likely to raise their profiles as “the embattled defenders of ‘authentic’ conservatism.”  Indeed, such dust-ups are more likely to raise the profiles of Conor, Frum and Dreher.

Either way, it can’t hurt to try.  Just doing nothing is simply not enough.  While Rush and Beck and Levin may indeed be their own worst enemies, it never hurts to point out why they’re wrong and how conservatives can, and should, do better.

Beyond this, it seems that the very self-destruction that Rush and co. are engaging in is, if anything, spurred along by in-fights with other conservatives like Frum.  We can already see how the right is devolving into irrelevance by promoting their pundit class – and hugely unpopular former vice presidents – as the standard bearers of the movement.  Forcing them to do battle in public may bolster their reputation with the fast-dwindling base, but it will at the same time reveal that there are indeed conservatives out there who have something to say that’s worth listening to, beyond merely attacking the leaders of the current conservative movement.  And it forces them into that awkward position of not only being opposed by those damned liberals, but by conservatives as well.  A lot of voters don’t realize that they have a choice – that other forms of conservatism exist outside and beyond the movement.

The saying goes, all publicity is good publicity – but I’d say that’s only true if you happen to be rather obscure to begin with.  If you’re already on the top of the world, like Rush, you should think about another cliche – what goes up, must come down….

Update.

James Poulos accuses Mark Levin of bad postmodernity.  Truly, Poulos has stepped over the line this time….

(h/t Dreher)

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21 thoughts on “Stop the attacks?

  1. I think it’s important for conservatives to criticize Limbaugh, Levin, etc. because they help shape the public sense of what conservatism means, and frankly, they’ve taken its meaning to indecent places. I lean conservative in many ways, but I hesitate to use the term in part because of its association with war, torture, alienating rhetoric, and other things far removed from the permanent things. I remember hearing Rush Limbaugh list support for the Iraq War as one of the defining characteristics of a conservative. This is not to say conservatives cannot support a war based on conservative principles, but support for war, contrary to the teachings of Limbaugh, is not a conservative principle! So I for am glad other conservatives are raising their voices. Conservatism is a great thing; I hate to see it given a bad reputation by the Great Ones.

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  2. I think it takes all kinds. The way Rush and Beck tweak their opponents is an embarrassment to the opponents. You have to be creative and humorous to fight Limbaugh or Beck — you can’t come off as bitter, shrill and patronizing, because it doesn’t stick. The best thing moderate Republicans could do is stand up and make their case without anger, with a relaxed, humorous style, directly to Beck and Limbaugh, acknowledging the points of agreement and making a case on the points where there is disagreement. The conservative voters don’t buy it when Rush is accused of being an idiot, or the other extreme ad hominem attacks thrown his way. It just doesn’t come off well to make extreme charges, when Rush can merely turn it around on them and make them look bitter, envious and foolish. The moderates would do well to make peace, then in a friendly way hash out the differences and overcome the weaknesses of Rush ( because everyone who opines for a living, and has to entertain daily, has weaknesses) by presenting reasonable ideas that win approval on their own merit.

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  3. Matthew Schmitz offers this bit of conjecture, “If the goal of Conor and others who have attacked talk radio is to save the Republican Party….”

    I will counter with my own bit of conjecture.

    I’m guessing that Frum, Dreher and Friedersdorf are probably more interested in saving conservatism than the Republican Party.

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  4. Unlike David Frum, I don’t think the primary drawback of Rush Limbaugh is that he turns off independents (though I do think he turns off independents).

    For me, the primary drawback is that he causes his audience to adopt flawed ways of thinking. For example, the Rush Limbaugh meme that liberals aren’t just mistaken, but mendacious, is adopted by many of his listeners, and it makes these legion conservatives less able to grasp where liberals are coming from, and therefore less able to refute their actual arguments and convert those who are convertible.

    I take Matthew’s point, but I see no way to fight this tendency except by criticizing talk radio hosts when I find things they say to be mistaken.

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  5. Exactly right, Conor. And likewise, to criticize liberals when they are similarly outrageous, mistaken, and so forth – something you’ve done as well. If this were a war, and we were supposed to support the military tactics of generals who were obviously losing the conflict, simply because they were the leaders – well that wouldn’t make a damn bit of sense either. Far better to throw the bums out and pick better tacticians, more sensible strategists, etc. Loyalty to leadership should always be secondary to loyalty to the cause.

    I say keep it up.

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  6. Quite frankly the entire discussion is BS.
    We are, of course, all socialists now. Get used to it.
    The Dems and GOP represent opposite ends of the “liberal political tradition” if Dr. David Walsh’s rather interesting theory is correct. The only thing I can’t figure out is if the liberal/conservative “debate” is referenced to our “shared” convictions, why is it I get the impression we are drifting further and further toward an inimicable statism that is obviously derailed and ignorant of the transcendent qualities of man and a threat to “the inviolable liberty and dignity of the individual.”

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  7. The problem with the big radio guys is that they were given the choice between defending Republicans and defending Conservativism, they chose the former.

    In doing so, they ceeded the most important part of the debate to the opposition.

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  8. I also think that “conservatism” itself needs to be reconsidered. Neither the word nor the concept fits well in the modern debate. If there was some way to transcend the differences among all people concerned with a government rapidly growing in power, so that the issues are framed as anti-statism vs statism, it would clarify a national debate muddied by distinctions with very few differences.

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  9. And also between “centralization” and “decentralization” I think. And distinctions also need to be drawn within statism – i.e. welfare vs police state and so forth, or the use of state to create safety nets vs the expansion of military powers.

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  10. I definitely believe in a non-interventionist foreign policy, and protection of personal liberties regardless of terrorist threats, but then I also think the welfare state is broken and private sector efforts to deal with poverty and unemployment would be much more effective.

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  11. As a Democrat that’s ended up here from the Daily Dish, all I have to say is Limbaugh, Beck and Cheney taking up the leadership of the GOP is like Christmas come early, long may it continue.

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  12. Semra – yeah you’d think that would be pretty obvious but for some reason, they just don’t see it….

    (By the way, I’m not a Democrat or a Republican. Some people refer to me as a leftist and others call me a conservative, so I’m not particularly invested in the fate of the GOP. I would like to see a smart, sensible conservatism take shape, however….)

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  13. E.D.

    Yes I gathered that from your moderate, sane view of the situation, which today amounts to treason in the Republican party. The problem for you is that the GOP will not represent the conservatism of which you speak for a very long time, if ever again, so I wouldn’t hold your breath.

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  14. “The problem for you is that the GOP will not represent the conservatism of which you speak for a very long time, if ever again, so I wouldn’t hold your breath.”

    So, how’s Obama working out for you?

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