Limbaugh, Jeb Bush & Reagan

Was moving around this morning and picking up Rush Limbaugh in the car. He had some interesting things to say. In talking about Obama’s notion of what constitutes “sacrifice,” Limbaugh intoned, (I am paraphrasing) “sacrifice is only sacrifice when it is voluntary. Otherwise it is compulsion.”

I’ve been saying that for a long time.

There is an enormous difference between a few dozen people voluntarily giving up their worldly goods for communal living, and forcing people to participate in such a society against their will. The first brings freedom for those who choose it. The second, historically, has brought tyranny, poverty, slaughter and the gulag.

Limbaugh went on to play some tapes from a talk given by, among others, former Governor Jeb Bush, who the headlines say has dissed the memory of Ronald Reagan. Limbaugh began by seeming unsure if Bush was in fact saying that the GOP needs to “leave Reagan behind” or if that was the press saying it for him.

Limbaugh, of course, defended Ronald Reagan and his memory, and that’s all fine, but he said a few things I disagree with, and I’ll try to get proper quotes from him when his transcripts are up, but one of them was that the Democrats had personality in the last election, and won on personality, but Reagan won on ideas.

I would venture to say that Reagan won on ideas AND personality. Reagan did not win his two terms exclusively on his conservatism, and to suggest that he did, shows Limbaugh engaging in some wishful thinking. The truth is, many people who voted for Ronald Reagan did not have a clue what he was talking about, not really, just as many people who voted for Obama had no idea what was about. They voted for a guy they liked, period. Also true of Dubya.

I am not sure the conservative message resonates so well with many people when the one delivering that message has the personal charisma of paste. The really successful and compelling communicators of conservative ideas are the ones with outsized personalities; Reagan, Thatcher, Gingrich, Palin, even Limbaugh, himself. They are the people who have managed to deliver the iron message on a bed of velvet. When conservativism is being sold through clenched teeth, even by good people, it goes nowhere. Palin came in late to the election (and was ruthlessly destroyed by the press in a mindlessly obedient hate-fest that still gets me shaking my head for the sheer viciousness of it) and she was ill-prepared for the national exposure, but she may be able to make a come-back if she is smart about it and manages to co-opt her media haters by becoming media, herself.

But I digress. Limbaugh suggests that Jeb Bush is saying “let go of Reagan-nostalgia,” and on his program he seems to be concluding that such nostalgia does not exist. Bush said (again, I paraphrase) “there was too much looking back in the last election, too much looking for Reagan, not enough looking forward.”

To that Limbaugh scoffed “who was looking for Reagan in the last election, where was this so-called nostalgia?”

I beg to disagree with Limbaugh. If you look at comments threads at various center-right blogs and forums from a year or so again, (I wish I’d saved some of my emails) you will see many commenters asking, “where is Reagan? Where is our Reagan?”

In fact, I believe I posted on this, and suggested that the GOP was so busy longing for RWR that it was not focusing enough on the candidates at hand, for not focusing at all. Ah, yes, I did write on it:

I reject the premise that the Democrats “selected” John McCain. Had conservatives managed to find that “Ronald Reagan II” they were demanding, he/she would have been immune to stray Dem hijinks; if the conservatives couldn’t find/groom a preferred candidate when they’ve known they needed one for the past 4 years, they shouldn’t whine about it or blame others. (Please don’t tell me “Mitt was perfect” – you only loved him when you had no other choice but McCain, and you got McCain because no one else was “good enough” and Thompson was never serious.

Some may remember the big fights we got into around here, specifically because so many people were waiting and wailing “for another Reagan,” and finding faults with every available candidate, none of whom passed the “pure conservative” test. Nothing less than 100% conservative would do, not 80%, not 75%. The conservatives went all-in and came up with no one at all.

When Fred Thompson seemed to be dipping a toe into the election, a lot of folks nostalgic for Reagan were jumping up and down: “Thompson is our Reagan! FDT = RWR!” There was even a site called Another Ronald Reagan! Many Thompson supporters clung to him long after it was clear that he had no interest in being the top of the ticket; Thompson was a true “Reagan Conservative,” but he was not serious about the Oval Office. His supporters mourned his withdrawal for a pathetically long time and only managed to perk up again when Palin came on the scene.

By then it was too late. The Obama-juggernaut was not about to be derailed, in the minds of the press, by some hick-from-the-sticks. While the McCain-Palin ticket actually briefly led in the polls (by about 3 points), the combination of McCain’s weaknesses, a full-on-media-get-Palin, and the weird-and-perfectly-time ‘financial crisis’ carried the day.

In the ’08 Election, the conservatives were indeed looking for Reagan, and because they were, they rejected one potential candidate after another, until they were left with a guy they didn’t even like very much, Sen. John McCain, who Limbaugh himself had so thoroughly demonized with his rhetoric and stinging impressions that there was no way to credibly walk him back.

Conservatives are still looking backwards at Reagan. For goodness sake, Hannity plays Reagan quotes every day on his show. The quotes are great, and history must be studied, but all of that, combined with Obama-saturation from the happy-gassed press and a very thin-looking conservative bench, is certainly creating a mood of nostalgia.

What I see is the Democrats running with the hagiography of Reagan, co-opting him for themselves and pressing forward, while the GOP has gone splat and the conservatives within the party are still busy lighting candles to Reagan’s memory and then kicking around anyone who is willing to serve, but lacking in ideological purity.

Limbaugh is a very smart man; he is a fellow with ideas, passion and values, and those are all to the good. But he is not doing the best he can for the conservative movement he so loves if he is unwilling to admit that yes, Jeb Bush is correct, there is currently too much looking-back to what conservatism has done, and not enough looking ahead to what conservatives can and must do.

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  • Gayle Miller

    I think it’s a gross insult to the memory of the sublime Ronald Wilson Reagan to expect a DUPLICATE of him to arrive. I believe we now need to find a candidate who will be just that much MORE than was Reagan and just that much MORE in terms of character, morality and strength of vision. That’s what I think anyway and I’m sure I’m not alone.

    As to thinking that a lot of people didn’t know who they were voting for with Reagan, I suspect that was true during the first election, but not the second term! As to our current President, those who voted for him were voting for their fantasy of who he actually is – a second rate Chicago pol with no character, no sense of history and no competence!

  • exhelodrvr

    Anyone who is right of center on the political spectrum needs to accept less than 100% of what they would like, or the country is doomed. And they probably need to make concessions to get some of those who are slightly left of center. Like it or not, the demographics of the nation have shifted, and are continuing to shift, in ways that favor the left.

  • tim maguire

    I’d like another Reagan. Someone who believes in limited government, strong foreign policy, respects his party, loves America, speaks well and presents and defends his ideas coherently. Good humored, good natured and unafraid of a fight where necessary. I don’t want a carbon copy of Reagan (and doubt anyone else does either)–he ran from terrorists in Beirut, let congress explode the deficit, gutted social services (they needed reform, but his reforms did a lot of damage).

    But Morning in America, I’d like some of that.

  • Bender B. Rodriguez

    A few barely related thoughts –

    A month or so ago, Turner Classic Movies showed a bunch of Ronald Reagan movies, and I caught a couple. I had never really seen an entire Reagan movie, only a clip here and there. After I was able to get over seeing him as President Reagan, I have to say he was a quite good as an actor. The first movies I saw, the romantic comedy, The Girl from Jones Beach, had him playing an artist who poses as an immigrant in Virginia Mayo’s English and citizenship class as part of a scheme to recruit her to be his model for his pin-up art. The other movie was the one with Nancy, Hellcats of the Navy, where he is a submarine commander. Both movies highly recommended. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to see more of them (and for free at that).

    Rush is a bit unfair to Jeb, I think, but that seems to be because he’s relying on press accounts of what was said. Moreover, it looks like Rush and Jeb are talking about Reagan and the Republicans in two different ways. McCain is and was clearly not anywhere near Reaganesque, which is what Rush was focused on, while Jeb seemed to be saying that the grassroots, who are Reaganesque, cannot spend too much time longing for the good old days, but must take on today’s challenges in language that people today, who might not remember Reagan, will respond too. It is a waste of breath to try to win over a 25-year-old today by referring to Reagan, just as it is a waste of breath for Dems to raise the specter of Nixon.

    Besides, Jeb is actually the most conservative of the Bushes and most pro-life, so I doubt that he would be part of that faction of the Republican Party that wants the social conservatives to go away — Jeb is a social conservative and proudly so.

    As for Rush, he too has always been pro-life, but in the past it seemed like he was not as vocal about the issue (and has chided single-issue voters, of which pro-lifers are the biggest). The last year or so, though, Rush has been much louder and more explicit in regards to pro-life issues.

  • YogusBearus

    Yes, we probably are going to have to accept and support a candidate that we may not agree with 100%. Good grief, I’ve even caught myself thinking how much better off we would be with Hillary in the White House.

    Our society continues a spiral into secular humanism and a general lack of morality that those on the left are quite comfortable with. I don’t honestly think this is reversible but we do have a obligation to put it off as long as possible.

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  • joeh

    I think we need a voice now who does not have the name Bush. We need a new leader for the Party that can articulate the truth of he conservative movement that also must include the issue of abortion which some seem to want to ignore. W. Bush had problems because he was not articulate enough to go direct to the American people and teach and sell them on what direction he was going which left it to the press to do in their own biased way. I think Bob Dole and McCain had the same issue and ran almost the same type of campaign. Right now I have no idea who that is after the last election produced a bunch of good guys, but no one at all able to wow an audience or flip a joke at the drop of a hat to make the point with humor. The best speakers were also pro abortion which can never happen in the republican party and have it stay viable.

    I also think that the peson needs to be a solid conservative in the area of size of government and spending and also on protecting the borders and immigration issues. So, yes, we do need a Reagan, but we also need to have a much stronger base of republicans that are actually republicans in congress as well.

    [I agree with you that it's time to perhaps give Bush's a rest. That was never my point. -admin]

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