Conservatives Reject Rush Limbaugh and Joe the Plumber (But Do We Still Ask Conservatives About Dinosaurs?)

It is a horrible time to be an intelligent conservative. Not only has their party been thoroughly rejected by the voters but their ideas are now being represented by anti-intellectuals such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Joe the Plumber. Some conservatives see the downside to having their ideas be represented by such individuals.

John Derbyshire writes on How Talk Radio Wrecks the Right:

With reasons for gratitude duly noted, are there some downsides to conservative talk radio? Taking the conservative project as a whole—limited government, fiscal prudence, equality under law, personal liberty, patriotism, realism abroad—has talk radio helped or hurt? All those good things are plainly off the table for the next four years at least, a prospect that conservatives can only view with anguish. Did the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Savages, and Ingrahams lead us to this sorry state of affairs?

They surely did. At the very least, by yoking themselves to the clueless George W. Bush and his free-spending administration, they helped create the great debt bubble that has now burst so spectacularly. The big names, too, were all uncritical of the decade-long (at least) efforts to “build democracy” in no-account nations with politically primitive populations. Sean Hannity called the Iraq War a “massive success,” and in January 2008 deemed the U.S. economy “phenomenal.”

Much as their blind loyalty discredited the Right, perhaps the worst effect of Limbaugh et al. has been their draining away of political energy from what might have been a much more worthwhile project: the fostering of a middlebrow conservatism. There is nothing wrong with lowbrow conservatism. It’s energizing and fun. What’s wrong is the impression fixed in the minds of too many Americans that conservatism is always lowbrow, an impression our enemies gleefully reinforce when the opportunity arises. Thus a liberal like E.J. Dionne can write, “The cause of Edmund Burke, Leo Strauss, Robert Nisbet and William F. Buckley Jr. is now in the hands of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity. … Reason has been overwhelmed by propaganda, ideas by slogans.” Talk radio has contributed mightily to this development.

It does so by routinely descending into the ad hominem—Feminazis instead of feminism—and catering to reflex rather than thought. Where once conservatism had been about individualism, talk radio now rallies the mob. “Revolt against the masses?” asked Jeffrey Hart. “Limbaugh is the masses.”

In place of the permanent things, we get Happy Meal conservatism: cheap, childish, familiar. Gone are the internal tensions, the thought-provoking paradoxes, the ideological uneasiness that marked the early Right. But however much this dumbing down has damaged the conservative brand, it appeals to millions of Americans. McDonald’s profits rose 80 percent last year.

Patrick Ruffini is critical of The Joe-the-Plumberization of the GOP:

If you want to get a sense of how unserious and ungrounded most Americans think the Republican Party is, look no further than how conservatives elevate Joe the Plumber as a spokesman. The movement has become so gimmick-driven that Wurzelbacher will be a conservative hero long after people have forgotten what his legitimate policy beef with Obama was.

Actually there was no legitimate policy beef with Obama. Joe claimed that Obama’s policies would result in a tax increase for him when actually they would not.  While there is a lot I disagree with in Ruffini’s analysis of the political parties, at least he does realize that Joe the Plumber is a poor spokesmen for his party.

The Republican Party establishment does not help with this problem, even if you consider those leaders of talk radio to be outside of the party. Joe the Plumber was elevated to his position by John McCain, their last presidential candidate. Even worse, McCain elevated Sarah Palin to a major position in the party and she has become more popular in the party than he is. Rejecting talk radio and Joe the Plumber won’t help the conservatives if they have someone like Sarah Palin as their leader.

Ultimately the conservative movement has the leaders it deserves. With both Palin and many of their followers believing in creationism Derbyshire and Ruffini must face the fact that a rejection of science and reason does represent the current state of the conservative movement even if such views are not universal among conservatives.


  1. 2
    Political Lipskip - Conservative Blog says:

    Not surprisingly I disagree with your assertion that it is a “horrible time to be an intelligent conservative”. When is it ever a horrible time to be intelligent? Are we to give up and not try anymore. Did liberals through the Bush years? No. They developed a plan and succeeded in 2008. As the Democrats ruin their chance to lead with fiscal retardation, so too will the Republicans have a chance for redemption. It will require intelligence that we need. Not to shy away from.

    Not sure what you mean that the party has been “thoroughly” rejected by the voters. Of those who chose to vote in the past election 46% chose McCain. McCain won 22 states. Certainly there is enough to build upon.

    That said, the republican party has no leadership. It prefers liberal principles of tax and spend. Is it any wonder that fiscal conservatives, myself included, gravitate to those individuals like Hannity, Rush, Boortz, Levin and Beck, who still believe in the values that were once the foundation of the GOP? They are simply saying what we want, what we need,  conservatives to be saying on the hill. When a jackass like Lindsey Graham comes out and says he is not opposed to nationalizing our banks, then clearly the Republican party has lost its way. When 40% of the earmarks in the omnibus are Republican, cleary they have lost their way.

    And of course the bashing of Palin continues. I find that interesting from liberals. Just can’t let that one go.

  2. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    At least one good thing for conservatives is that you are no longer tied to Bush and his record. This gives conservatives a chance to promote some meaningful ideas. So far this is not being done, and following people like Hannity and Limbaugh won’t help matters.

    McCain might have won 22 states but the overall trends remain pretty poor for the GOP considering that many of the states he won are small with few electoral votes and considering how many formerly solidly Republican states he lost. When a Republican loses Indiana it is not a good sign. The changes in Congress in 2006 and 2008 further show that the Republicans are becoming primarily a Southern regional party (along with support in some sparsely populated Western states).

    Bashing of Palin will continue as long as someone as clearly unfit for national office as her continues to look like a front runner for the 2012 nomination.

  3. 4
    nomoreGOP says:

    “And of course the bashing of Palin continues. I find that interesting from liberals. Just can’t let that one go.”

    Let it go? The decision to throw Palin in front of the whole country so haphazardly was nothing more than a slap in the face to anyone still calling themselves Republicans.. Here look at this eye candy.. dont worry about the fact that she has NO idea about anything outside of Alaska.. It was the most pathetic move I think I have ever seen from the Rove machine..

    And I guess we should all just “let it go” when it comes to the BILLIONS of dollars that Cheney and Bush just gave away to their buddies at KBR (which happened to be a subsidiary of Halliburton, the company run by Dick Cheney before he was vice president).

    Im not very convinced that you, sir, are one of the intelligent Republicans.. Anyone that “gravitates” towards the lying Limbaugh bafoon has lost any and all credibility in my opinion. Wake up and smell the rape buddy…

  4. 5
    Political Lipskip - Conservative Blog says:

    The argument will clearly rage as I could make the case of Omaba being unfit for office as well. A couple of years in the state senate along with a couple of non attendance years in Congress does not make for a great resume for leader of the free world (or what’s left of it) IMO. But he made it in. Clearly the majority liked what they saw and didn’t care about his lack of experience. Besides, he lets Pelosi runs things anyway.

  5. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    It is far more than a question of resume. While Obama has far more relevant experience than Palin, the real differences are in their intellect and understanding of the issues.

    From your description of Obama it is clear you have paid zero attention to his actual qualifications and are just repeating the uninformed talking points from the likes of Hannity and Limbaugh. Your lack of understanding of what is actually occurring can also be seen in the totally absurd claim that he lets Pelosi run things. Pelosi would love that, but so far Obama has taken a number of positions she objects to, along with clearly being in charge of the White House.

    This propensity for conservatives to make ridiculous statements without any regards for the fact is a major reason why conservatives are in the position they are in. Until you develop fact-based positions as opposed to unthinkingly repeating the nonsense Hannity and Limbaugh make up there is little hope for the conservative movement.

  6. 7
    Jcrucial says:

    Bravo Chusid, nomoreGOP!
    What really baffles me is how these people claim to be intelligent, then jump head first into debates using Limbaugh talking points. Then this happens, and they cannot answer without repeating same said points!

    Like nomore said, “Anyone that “gravitates” towards the lying Limbaugh bafoon has lost any and all credibility in my opinion”.

  7. 8
    Eclectic Radical says:

    I would note that some of Derbyshire’s own statements make it difficult to separate him completely from Limbaugh and Hannity. In the very column quoted, as he bashes them, he makes claims of a very similar nature to theirs:

    “Taking the conservative project as a whole—limited government, fiscal prudence, equality under law, personal liberty, patriotism, realism abroad—has talk radio helped or hurt? All those good things are plainly off the table for the next four years at least, a prospect that conservatives can only view with anguish. ”

    ‘Equality under law, personal liberty, patriotism, and realism abroad’ are conservative political values not shared by anyone else and are entirely out the window because we have a centrist president? If Derbyshire really believes that, what exactly IS the difference between him and Rush? Is this kind of hyperbolic denunciation of liberals and their alleged lack of regard for American values not exactly what is wrong with ‘lowbrow’ conservatism?

  8. 9
    Sanity says:

    Every single moment Liberals/Progressives spend watching and criticizing  Conservatives is a moment they miss enjoying their time in the sun. Why do you all give a hoot what the GOP or Conservatives are doing anyway? What is this all about — you won after all, correct? As we just saw recently, you only need 3 GOP in the entire Congress to have your way in revolutionizing government and America. Move on…carry on…you believe the people are behind you, so why the bashing of those you believe to be irrelevant and dead?  Hmmmm, not logical. Be careful — as objective observers could well conclude you aren’t really sure of what you are doing at all. There seems to be some tangible fear beneath your contuning obsession with the other side.  Maybe you all are just remembering that what goes up must come down? All fantasy bubbles eventually break. Parties, liked markets, rise and fall and sometimes the crash is pretty hard. But as Enviros know, a forest fire brings renewal beneath the ashes. So enjoy your time in the sun while you can as eventually all flowers and grasses wilt  in the heat and blow away and one is hard pressed to recall they ever existed.  

  9. 10
    Ron Chusid says:

    Your open hostility towards free debate and freedom of expression is really disturbing. Political debate is an important part of a democracy. If you oppose such freedom of expression, you at least might avoid the blogosphere as such expression is a basic part of what blogs do.

    Beyond that there are major errors and contradictions in your argument. You write about winning and one side having its way, assuming that all of politics comes down to just two competing ideas. The world is far too complicated a place to divide it between two views as you and many ideologues of both sides too often do.

    Before commenting with generalities to a blog post you should read the blog and respond to the actual beliefs being expressed, not the beliefs you project upon others. You believe I only need a pick up of three Senate seats, assuming incorrectly that I am a Democrat or wish for one party to have total control of government. If you actually read this blog you would realize I am an independent who often has been critical of both parties. I have written of the dangers of one party, regardless of which party, having total control, and expressed a preference that the Democrats remain shy of sixty Senate votes. Ideally I would prefer that we do not even have one party control both houses of Congress as well as the White House.

    There is a problem with a preference for divided government when one party has ceased to be able to respond meaningfully to current problems. There is a reason why independents have been moving towards the Democratic Party in recent years. Rush Limbaugh is a showman. He has no coherent political views beyond a set of simplistic talking points. People like Limbaugh, Coulter, and Hannity appeal to the worst parts of human nature and ignorance and do attract an audience. This does not mean that their views should become the guiding principles of a political party. Hoping to see the restoration of a viable two party system, I am interested when some conservatives support rejecting the anti-intellectual, authoritarian, no-nothing mindset which has taken control of the conservative movement.

    You also contradict your own premise. If the world was really divided into two political sides your argument against debunking the other side when wrong would still make no sense. You totally contradict yourself when you write of parties rising and falling. If political dominance is transient, this would only provide increased reason to continue to show where the other party is wrong to delay the chances of them returning to power.

    Of course in a two party system it is inevitable that the other party will return to office. It was the conservatives who lived in a fantasy bubble, believing they had built a permanent Republican majority. It is the Republicans who crashed quite hard. It is both inevitable and desirable that the Democrats will not remain in power forever. A Democrat would therefore have interest in internal debates among Republicans as to which ideas will dominate. As an independent, I have an even greater stake in this.

    Some partisan Democrats do hope that the Limbaugh/Palinization of the GOP continues as it will make it harder for them to win in the future. As an independent I totally reject that line of thought. I believe the country would be better off with two viable political parties which are presenting different but sensible plans to respond to the nation’s problems. This means that the Republicans will need to change their direction. They must abandon the anti-intellectualism of the Limbaugh and Palin followers which ignores any facts which do not fit into their extreme ideology. They also must abandon the form of social conservatism which advocates using the power of government to impose their religious views upon others. It is not a matter of whether anyone is right or wrong on these social issues but that they do not belong in government policy. Hatred of others, which is the core belief of Limbaugh and his followers, has no place in a political party.

  10. 11
    nomoreGOP says:


    putting a bunch of words that are bigger than you normally use in day to day conversations is one of the easiest ways to see that YOU HAVE NO IDEA WTF YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT.

    I would give more of a response as to why I think you are an idiot, but Ron took care of it already.

  11. 12
    Conservative Blog - Political Lipskip says:

    nomoreGOP why the insults? No I don’t think Palin is qualified to run the country yet. No I don’t think Obama was qualified either. Yes I researched his credentials and frankly did not like what I saw. I thought the Dems had candidates that were far more qualified but the public chose style over substance.

    We can argue this point all day and trade insults back and forth. It’s meaningless. The fact is we have people in office that have not got a clue what they are doing. They are playing silly immature games like demonizing a talk show guy to draw attention away from the FACT that the economy continues to circle the drain. We have Republicans that talk about fiscal responsibility and yet 40% of the pork is theirs. I don’t expect Democrats not to waste and spend, but I expect better things from Republicans. But they aren’t to be believed anymore than Dems.

    Obama had a chance, and still does, to correct the HUGE mistakes that Bush made. Yet he preferred to sign a bill loaded with lard. He campaigned nightly about how he would get rid of earmarks and yet his first budget is filled with thousands of them. “Last years business”. Uh huh. Who signs it? Obama. He doesn’t have to. He could work at having the waste removed. He doesn’t have the will. Bush was a moron. He gave Obama a trillion dollar deficit. Added to the debt. Obama could have corrected that mistake. What does he do? Triple the damn thing.

    I find the bashing of talk show hosts that are conservative rather unappealing. It has no basis other than their opinions differ from yours and you choose to ridicule the people who listen to them. Liberals are working overtime to discredit conservative talk. I can only assume it’s that they are afraid of it. 20 million listeners of Rush is nothing to scoff at. Glenn Beck has higher ratings in his time slot than MSNBC, CNN and CNBC combined. Neil Boortz wins his timeslot in just about every market he is in. What I love is not so much the messae they spew but the fact it pisses liberals off so much. It’s rather hysterical to watch liberals have their little hissy fit over these blowhards.

    I too would be interested when “(liberals) support rejecting the anti-intellectual, authoritarian, no-nothing mindset which has taken control of the (liberal) movement”. But somehow I don’t think the lemmings watching our media and entertainment, those that wait until Oprah and Ellen tell them what to do, are what you had in mind.

  12. 13
    Ron Chusid says:

    Again you ignore reality to make attacks which lack any substance. Just look at your last paragraph. It is conservatives who promote anti-intellectualism and a no-nothing mindset while liberals have opposed it. There are many conservatives who reject science and believe in creationism. There are many conservatives who reject the scientific consensus on climate change. There are many conservatives who base economic arguments on ideology while ignoring actual economic facts. There are many conservatives who supported the war based upon false claims such as that Saddam was involved in 9/11 or that he had WMD. It is conservatives, not liberals, who back candidates such as Sarah Palin which make anti-intellecualism a centerpience of their campaign. It is also conservatives who support authoritarian policies while liberals oppose them. You might think you are being clever substituting liberal for conservative but there is no basis to the charge when this is done.

    Your reference to Oprah and Ellen is also nonsense. Oprah and Ellen do not have influence over liberals. In contrast we have seen many conservatives support the most extremist comments from Rush Limbaugh and we’ve seen him be invited to speak before a major conservative gathering. There is no comparison between Oprah and Ellen as opposed to Limbaugh.

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