Rush Limbaugh, the popular and controversial radio talk show host, delivered the headliner speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington D.C. on Saturday. The overflow crowd greeted him with great enthusiasm.
Rush Limbaugh started with his view of what it means to be a conservative. Rush Limbaugh’s vision of conservatism is that of individual freedom, tempered by the rule of law and eternal moral truths.
“When we look out over the United States of America, when we are anywhere, when we see a group of people, such as this or anywhere, we see Americans. We see human beings. We don’t see groups. We don’t see victims. We don’t see people we want to exploit. What we see — what we see is potential. We do not look out across the country and see the average American, the person that makes this country work. We do not see that person with contempt. We don’t think that person doesn’t have what it takes. We believe that person can be the best he or she wants to be if certain things are just removed from their path like onerous taxes, regulations and too much government.”
Rush Limbaugh defended conservatives from some of the clichéd accusations leveled against them by their opponents. One of the complaints conservatives often have of people who oppose them is name calling against them by people who often practice the very things they accuse conservatives of doing.
“We don’t hate anybody. We don’t — I mean, the racism in this country, if you ask me, I know many people in this audience — let me deal with this head on. You know what the cliche is, a conservative: racist, sexist, bigot, homophobe. Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen of America, if you were paying attention, I know you were, the racism in our culture was exclusively and fully on display in the Democrat primary last year.”
Rush Limbaugh meant by that last statement that Democrats very often practice identity politics. The Democrat primary featured, for most of its duration, a contest between an African American, Barack Obama, and a woman, Hillary Clinton. The joke was that Democratic voters had a choice between being racist, and voting for Hillary Clinton, or sexist, and voting for Barack Obama. Rush Limbaugh is clearly suggesting that liberals tend to be far more conscious of a person’s race or gender than are conservatives. Conservatives tend to judge people as human beings.
When Rush Limbaugh turned to the subject of Barack Obama, it was more in sorrow than in anger. It was a critique that was respectful, even admiring at some points, but devastating in its indictment.
“President Obama is one of the most gifted politicians, one of the most gifted men that I have ever witnessed. He has extraordinary talents. He has communication skills that hardly anyone can surpass. No, seriously. No, no, I’m being very serious about this. It just breaks my heart that he does not use these extraordinary talents and gifts to motivate and inspire the American people to be the best they can be. He’s doing just the opposite. And it’s a shame. President Obama has the ability — he has the ability to inspire excellence in people’s pursuits. He has the ability to do all this, yet he pursues a path, seeks a path that punishes achievement, that punishes earners and punishes — and he speaks negatively of the country. Ronald Reagan used to speak of a shining city on a hill. Barack Obama portrays America as a soup kitchen in some dark night in a corner of America that’s very obscure. He’s constantly telling the American people that bad times are ahead, worst times are ahead. And it’s troubling, because this is the United States of America.”
Those who listen to Rush Limbaugh know that one of his reoccurring themes is how to inspire Americans to be the best they can be. Rush Limbaugh is suggesting that Barack Obama could do this too, but instead is enabling victimhood, the idea that one’s lack of success has to do less with a lack of effort or skill than with circumstance and the actions of others. Rush Limbaugh is suggesting that whereas Ronald Reagan believed in Americans, Barack Obama does not.
Rush Limbaugh then proceeded to skewer everything liberal from the War on Poverty (“America’s longest war”) to the main stream media to various other liberal political figures such as Barney Frank and John Kerry (“who served in Vietnam”) to even some fellow conservatives whom Rush Limbaugh feels are backsliding. This part of the speech was vintage Rush Limbaugh, combative, sarcastic, funny, and uncompromising.
And finally, there came the words of advice. The following is important, considering where the conservative movement finds itself. Conservatives find themselves, once again, where they were after Barry Goldwater was defeated in 1964 and after the victory of Jimmy Carter in 1976. Indeed, some analysts are writing off conservatism as a force for American politics altogether. Rush Limbaugh is suggesting that is a premature judgment.
“So as you leave here, as you leave here optimism, confidence, not guilt, it’s not worth it. There’s nothing to be guilty about. Don’t treat people as children. Respect their intelligence. Realize that there’s a way to persuade people. Sometimes the worst way is to get in their face and point a finger. Set up a set of circumstances where the conclusion is obvious. Let them think they came up with the idea themselves. They’ll think they’re smart that they figured it out. Who cares how you persuade them, the fact they can be persuaded is factually correct, it’s possible. But the main thing to do here is stop thinking that we are a minority. Stop thinking that it is being in the minority that liberates you. It is your beliefs. It is your core principles, it is your confidence that liberates you. It’s not being in the minority.”
Rush Limbaugh’s speech, and the enthusiastic reaction to it, reflects a kind of new combativeness on the part of conservatives in the United States. Conservatives now have an enemy, Barack Obama, to focus on, and a threat, Obama’s agenda, to fight against. It can be said that conservatives thrive more when they are out of power than when they are in it. For now, with Obama still popular and with large majorities in the Congress, that is enough. But if conservatives hope to govern after overthrowing President Obama, installing one of their own in the White House and taking back the Congress, they must learn to govern. Otherwise any future victory will just be part of the same tiresome political cycle that will lead to a future defeat.
As proof that Rush Limbaugh can touch a nerve across the political spectrum, CNN’s Bill Schneider had some caustic things to say about Limbaugh’s CPAC speech. “The tone of this speech was mocking, bullying, it was full of contempt, and I thought it was a very harsh speech.” Evidentally Rush Limbaugh’s often stated wish that he hopes that Barack Obama will fail is still being seen as seditious among the Left. In any event, the battle is joined.
Source: Rush’s First Televised Address to the Nation: Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Speech, Rush Limbaugh, RushLimbaugh.Com, February 28th, 2009
CNN’s Bill Schneider: Limbaugh Speech Was ‘Angry, Mocking, Bullying, Harsh, and Full of Contempt’, P.J. Gladnick, Newsbusters, March 1, 2009