Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Looking for Heroes in All the Wrong Places

An article in the Sunday paper claims that Rush Limbaugh's star is rising (again) as the leading spokesman for conservatives (by which is meant – as usual – Neoconservatives, i.e. the Wilsonians of the right as opposed to the Wilsonians of the left). And it is true that Limbaugh is much more comfortable in an outsider's role, as he was during the Clinton years, when he took great delight in tormenting the Clintons at every opportunity -- his efforts exceeded, perhaps, only by those of R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. of The American Spectator. And let's face it – Limbaugh is, and was, and will undoubtedly continue to be, very good at what he does, even if he is shackled by a revived Fairness Doctrine. He is a friend to the (politically) friendless and a voice for the disenfranchised. But his career as an “insider” during the Bush years left much to be desired. For one thing, he was more Republican than the Republicans when it came to falling for some of the more blatant hoaxes of that era, such as the “Global War on Terror” and the Patriot Act, and he never questioned the advisability – much less the sanity – of our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. He showed, in fact, every promise of being the last man standing, Republican-wise, after Bush & Co. retired from power and most of the rest were either voted out of office or rendered totally impotent by the Obama tectonic shift. The fact that he supported a president, and policies, that were largely responsible for the Republicans' repudiation at the polls in November doesn't seem to have penetrated the thinking of people who organize events like the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), at which Limbaugh spoke last week. At least they didn't fly Bush back from Texas for collective adulation; but Limbaugh is a close second.

One commentator put it best: “Conservatives certainly have a lot more energy, creativity and ideas this year opposing the Obama agenda than they did supporting the Bush administration.” Well, this is hardly surprising, since the Bush administration had absolutely nothing in it, or about it, worth supporting. In fact, a true conservative would have opposed the Bush agenda as vehemently as they opposed the Clinton agenda, or now the Obama agenda. In all cases we have the basic, unarguable premise that government exists to do for the citizens what they cannot, or will not, do for themselves... and that the citizens exist to serve the government... sort of a twisted concept of symbiosis. To this, in the “conservative” case, is added the premise that America exists to do for the rest of the world what they cannot, or don't want, to do for themselves, and that they exist as (1) a mission field for American evangelical Wilsonism/utopianism, (2) a market for American goods and services, and (3) part of the American Empire, which is, of course, highly correlated with reasons (1) and (2). In no case does either side advocate simply leaving the rest of the world the hell alone – America is, after all, the Anointed Nation, and all we want the rest of the world to do is give peace (American style) a chance... and if they spurn our offer we'll give them a few tastes of the alternative. And this is all done, mind you, in the face of not only ever-diminishing freedoms here at home, but looming bankruptcy of our entire economy. It's like a preacher lecturing his flock about chastity from his deathbed, where he lies in the terminal stages of some STD contracted at a bawdy house; hypocrisy doesn't even come close to describing the utter absurdity of it. And yet, this is the world view, and the position, that Limbaugh supports, and has been supporting, for years. It has resulted in the Republicans being consigned to the outer darkness... it has resulted in catastrophe abroad and massive waste and corruption at home... and it has led, fairly directly, to the almost-overnight conversion of our economy to one of national socialism. But as far as the CPAC is concerned, Limbaugh is a hero and a superstar, and an anointed spokesman for the indefinite future.

The same commentator also offers this: “Not confined by the Bush political message or machine, conservatives are freer to explore a better way to lead and govern the country.” Yeah. Well, I'll name you at least one person – a Republican to boot – who was never “confined by the Bush political message or machine”, and that's Ron Paul. And he already _has_ “a better way to lead and govern the country” -- namely to leave people the hell alone, and leave the rest of the world the hell alone. But how much traction did his ideas have among mainstream Republicans this last election? He was universally shunned, derided, and censored by the very people who should have been listening, and who had tied their own fate to that of the Bush administration and/or John McCain, AKA Bush on Steroids. No, the last thing the Republicans are interested in is a better way to lead and govern the country. Put them back in office and it will just be more of the same Bushevism, but this time with Sarah Palin dressed up like Wonder Woman to provide a bit of comic relief. Now, I suppose if it were up to Limbaugh, and he could bring anyone he wanted back to life to run the country, it would be Reagan – and that's not bad. It certainly beats former president Pinhead. But Limbaugh has been talking all these years as though Bush was Reagan's rightful heir – and that is, of course, a very non-discerning view of the matter. Reagan may not have been perfect, but he was a man of principle, whereas Bush was a man of... what? Nothing at all, that I can think of. The next edition of Webster's is going to have his picture printed next to the term “empty suit”. But he's all the Republicans had for eight years, and in the name of party loyalty and solidarity, yadda yadda, they had to tough it out. And I guess that's typical; I mean, how many Democrats have ever apologized for Clinton? Very few. As usual, it's party first, country last (if ever). And in Limbaugh's case, he seems to have this fanciful notion that the Republican Party – or “conservatism”, as represented by the Republican Party, is still the last, best hope for America, compared to which the Democrats and liberals are Satan's own spawn pouring forth from the depths of Hell. Not that I disagree with that last point! But Limbaugh, like so many others, draws a very false dichotomy when he says, or implies, that the only available choices are between socialism and socialism “lite”. No – the choice is between socialism of any stripe and liberty. Not one of those sterling qualities that “made America great” is represented by the Republicans any longer – assuming it ever was. Oh, sure, the party has morphed quite a bit over the past few decades from being the political arm of big business and the country club set to being the last redoubt of Angry White Heterosexual Southern Men and a few Heritage Foundation-type eggheads. But what it mostly is is the political arm of the Evangelicals, AKA Christian Zionists. Businessmen have become entirely cynical and have shifted their support to the Democrats, who promise even more no-bid contracts for social utopian schemes than the Republicans ever dreamed of. And the war industries, in particular, know that the Democrats love war even more than the Republicans do, if the cause is right. So you have to write off business as a source of Republican largess or an example of American ideals or “greatness”. And we have finally dumbed democracy down to the point where it actually _might_ be “spreadable” to the rest of the world – why not, since it's no longer a threat to the powers that be or to any known form of oppression?

But mainly, the rise and fall and rise of Rush Limbaugh that accompanied the fall and rise and fall of the Republicans shows that, as always in politics, its the propaganda and the “narrative” that propel the process, and not the reality. Limbaugh rightly railed against the corruption and sleaze of the Clintons and their hangers-on. But when it came to the offenses of Bush & Co., which were just as great and many, he became strangely silent, and shifted his theme to the broader one of What Makes America Great and why we have to keep the Democrats from regaining the White House again, ever! And now that they have, he's back on the prowl for all the gory details – and he doesn't have to look far, let's admit. So far we have an administration made up largely of Clintonista retreads, Chicago and Illinois political hacks, tax scofflaws, and hard-core collectivists. These people are about as hard to pin something on as a nymphomaniac at NBA training camp. And when it comes to exposing the liberal agenda, Limbaugh is matchless. But when it comes to the failings of the Republicans, or “conservatives”, he has a massive blind spot and a massive case of denial. Which means that his “support” can only hurt the Republicans even more than they've already been hurt – mostly by themselves. The only thing that can be said for the idea of making Rush a hero again is that it will drive the liberals/Democrats batty, just as it did before; and that is a good thing. But that in itself will not help the true conservative cause.

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