Michael Moore is No Rush Limbaugh

With ads such as the above being distributed by Americans United For Change some have looked to see if their is a situation for the Democrats analogous to Rush Limbaugh’s toxic influence on the GOP. Andrew Malcolm asks,  So if Rush runs the GOP, does Michael Moore head the Dems?

There are certainly some similarities. Both are primarily showmen, among other obvious shared traits. Still the question to this question is clearly no.

Michael Moore isn’t necessarily a Democrat. He has referred to Bill Clinton as “the best Republican president we’ve had since Abraham Lincoln.” In 2000 he backed Ralph Nader over both Al Gore and George Bush. Sure, in 2004 Moore begged Nader not to run against John Kerry. Does that make him a Democrat, or just someone who learned from his mistake?

Assuming for the sake of discussion (as there is no good way to really measure this) that Moore and Limbaugh are both equally far from center, there is a major difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. The extremists on the right dominate the GOP while the Democratic Party is far more centrist. For example, look at one of the top issues of the day which Michael Moore has expressed his views upon–health care reform. Moore backs a government run system. In contrast most Democrats, despite the phony cries from the right of “socialized medicine,” are pushing for a far more conservative plan which would preserve both private insurance companies and private practice. A plan as far left as Moore’s isn’t even on the table.

It is debatable whether Rush Limbaugh actually runs the  GOP, but there sure are signs of his influence over it. Start with the fact that the debate over whether Limbaugh runs the party comes primarily from the guy who, on paper at least, really does run it. The argument that Limbaugh runs the GOP is even stronger if you accept Joe Gandelman’s assessment that Limbaugh won in his dispute with Michael Steele.

Limbaugh’s dominance is also seen in the manner in which many party leaders backed him up when Limbaugh made a statement that any honorable political leader would reject.  Back in 1960  conservative John Wayne showed how it should be done: “I didn’t vote for him, but he’s my president, and I hope he does a good job.” Now, during the worst economic downturn since the great depression, Rush Limbaugh expresses hope that Obama will fail. To him it is better that people live in misery than to have liberal economic principles show themselves to be successful.

While any reasonable person would be expected to reject Limbaugh’s statement, many prominent Republicans are backing Limbaugh. I’ve previously given Rick Santorum as an example, but many more have expressed similar beliefs. Bobby Jindal was unwilling to repudiate this statement and even said, “ I think Rush is a great leader for conservatives. I think he articulates what a lot of people are concerned about.”

This does not mean that every conservative wants to grant a leadership role to Rush Limbaugh. I’ve recently quoted both  John Derbyshire and Rob Dreher criticizing Limbaugh. Still, having been invited to be keynote speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference is probably a stronger indicator of where most conservative Republicans stand on Limbaugh.

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16 Comments

  1. 1
    Fritz says:

    I still don’t understand why it is horribly wrong for people to not hope that a massive feckless borrowing and spending spree will benefit the economy.

    Note that John Wayne said that he hoped JFK would do a good job.  That is not the same as hoping that bad policies will succeed.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    It is a question of priorities. Do you care about the outcome for the economy or winning debating points?

    If your top priority is what is good for the economy, then it shouldn’t matter if borrowing and spending should benefit the economy. If you are concerned about debating points, then you might hope that borrowing and spending does not benefit the economy. It is far better to be wrong on the debating points here and to have the economy improve.

    That is a meaningless distinction regarding John Wayne. A president is judged by his policies. If the policies succeed in improving the economy then it is rather meaningless to say they are bad policies. To say you oppose Obama’s policies because they are bad policies regardless of the result of the polices is the same as saying you hope Obama fails, and the economy fails more, merely to win some debating points.

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    Fritz,

    The other question is why you want a policy of increased government spending to fail.

    This is a totally different question from whether you believe it will fail.

    You can oppose the policy because you believe it will fail, but once the policy is adopted it only makes sense to want it to succeed.

    If you oppose spending policy based on pragmatic arguments that it won’t work, once the policy is adopted it is better to turn out to be wrong and have the economy recover.

    The only rational to want the policy to fail once adopted is that you are more concerned that your ideology appear to be correct than you are concerned about what is best for the economy. In other words, do you oppose the policy because you believe it won’t work, or because of more quasi-religious reasons where the success of the ideology is what matters most? If it is purely a matter of believing it won’t work, there is no reason to hope the policy fails once adopted.

    I would also be more willing to accept this as a plausible argument from a libertarian as opposed to a Republican. At least with libertarians there is some consistency to such strong opposition to government acting, no matter what. There is far less justification coming from Republicans who backed big government spending when they were in office.

  4. 4
    nomoreGOP says:

    I think it is funny that there is even a discussion regarding Limbaughs role in the Republican Party..

    Its like my mommy and daddy used to tell me.. ITS ALL ABOUT PERCEPTION.. and right now.. with the apologies and ass kissing.. the PERCEPTION is without a doubt that Rush is the head of the Republican party..

  5. 5
    Fritz says:

    Ron, I think we have a deep-seated difference in our world views.  To me, my political philosophy is much more important than “debating points”.   I do not want government expansion to solve the current mess because I don’t want to live in a socialist country — if I did, I would move to one.  If you wish to call that “quasi-religious”, then I guess that’s how it maps to you. 

    On a pragmatic level, there is always the concern that pump-priming can look like it is working in the short term (as Keynes said, in the long run we are all dead) but then damages the economy long-term, but by then it is too late.  However, I think we have moved past the point where that is likely — if we had had 8 more years of Clinton budget restraint instead of Bush then maybe that would be plausible.  But not now.

    As far as the hypocrisy of big-government Republicans suddenly espousing fiscal restraint now that they are out of power — well, we are in violent agreement there.

  6. 6
    Reader Passing Through says:

    On health care, Moore’s views are in sync with Progressive Democrats and, outside of Congress and those on the dole with the insurance industry, an increasingly body of persons that crosses party lines.  And includes other Democrats, independents and Republicans too (including gun owners).  That is, his opinion on health care — and a single payer National Health Plan, H.R. 676 —  represents 65% of Americans and 59% of American physicians.

    We need to get over identity politics in America.  Well, he thinks so, so if you think so, you’re just like him.

    I’ve really gotten tired of that tactic in U.S. politics that is employed in both major parties.  For example, Democrats who are opposed to single payer, and instead of arguing on the logic, try to associate you with some stereotypical conception of a Michael Moore Head.

    Which is actually Democrats acting like just like Rush Limbaugh.

  7. 7
    Ron Chusid says:

    Nobody is really talking about turning this into a socialist country. That just more scare tactics from the right. We are talking about a mixed economy where the differences between the parties are really not very big with regards to their spending. It is one thing to have a philosophical opposition to socialism because of finding private ownership a virtue in itself. That hardly applies in the case of the stimulus package. Nobody is being forced to turn their businesses over to the government and nobody is being forced to take the stimulus money. If the stimulus works, then it is good for the free market system (to the degree you want to call our system free market).

    Oppositions on a pragmatic level are a totally different issue. You could oppose passage of the plan because you don’t think it will work, but once passed it only makes sense to hope that it does work and the economy improves.

  8. 8
    Fritz says:

    Well, Ron, I am afraid we are in a loop.  I completely agree that in economic matters both of the large political parties are very similar in approach.  Which is why I am not in them.  And we don’t have anything like a free market system — but I see no reason to desire even less of one.

    So it might somehow make sense to hope that increased government involvement helps the economy, but I am afraid that the shade of Friedrich Hayek would rise from the grave and throttle me if I did so.  So instead I hope that it makes things worse and that the American people learn a much-needed, albeit painful lesson from the experience.

  9. 9
    Eclectic Radical says:

    The trouble with not wanting ‘to live in a socialist country’ is that one has to be very careful in throwing labels about. What does a ‘socialist country’ look like?

    Europe and Canada are frequently bandied about as ‘socialist’ by conservatives, but European nations have private enterprise and profit driven economies. So their socialism is certainly not economic. Germany has a national health care program, but that program is not single payer, government provider health care.  It appears to work, certainly the Germans are terribly happy with it. Happier than most Americans are with our system.

    On the other hand, it is hardly ‘capitalist’ to subsidize the building of factories on foreign soil, using foreign labor and foreign resources, to import finished products back into the country to sell to a consumer class increasingly small and wealthy. This is a sort of  mercantile system similar to that which led to the collapse of the British Empire, as the colonies and the ruling class of the UK became progressively wealthier at the expense of the domestic working class. Yet this is the American economic system today. We call it capitalism, yet it is socialism for the financial elite at the expense of the majority of the population.

    The most successful ‘Communist’ nation in the world does not operate on true socialist principles: China operates a system of private enterprise supported by state socialism that is properly called ‘fascism.’ The United States has, at times, veered dangerously close to this model.

    Our economic policy needs to be more capitalist, and reject monetarism. Our social policy needs to include more socialist programs without our government becoming ‘socialist’ in the sense I believe Fritz means.

    I fully admit to a certain philosophical tendency to democratic socialism, but the emphasis is firmly on the ‘democratic’ and I am a pretty rabid civil libertarian.

    I am curious though…

    How many of the people who recoil at the word ‘socialist’ have an idea what the word means?

  10. 10
    Ron Chusid says:

    Fritz,

    Why don’t you want to live in a socialist country? I wouldn’t because I like owning my own business for a variety of reasons, and because overall I think this would lead to less economic prosperity.

    However, we are not talking about pure socialism by any means. Those of us who own businesses will still own our business. More of us will keep our businesses if the economic stimulus works, making its success beneficial for the market.

    Moving beyond the general issue of private ownership (as this isn’t really in question), why would “socialism” (in reality increased government spending be bad if it led to greater as opposed to less economic prosperity?

    Remember, I’m asking why it would be bad if it led to greater prosperity, not whether you believe it will. Once the measures are passed it no longer matters whether you want them or whether you think they will be of value.

  11. 11
    Fritz says:

    Ron, that is a question that is going to require more than a few minutes of thought between bouts of code writing. 

    In some ways it is a religious issue — I developed a distaste for government at an early age.  I will work on this over the weekend.  It feels like an FEE essay contest.  :)

    But in practical, non-ideological terms, I figure that the only country that is going to be able to successfully run a stimulus package is China — because they have such huge cash reserves.  I am convinced that for the US, the UK, and others this will take what would have been 3 or 4 years of really bad pain and transform it into decades of lower-level pain accompanied by a permanent increase in government control and ownership of the economy.

  12. 12
    Ron Chusid says:

    Fritz,

    In writing your essay keep two things in mind:

    1) There is no cash prize, and

    2) With regards to your final paragraph, remember that the premise here is that the the economic stimulus will work, It’s  not a question of whether it can work or you wanted it to pass. While I object to the view of hoping it will not work, expressing the view that you don’t think it will work is fine (as long as not accompanied by also hoping it will not work).

  13. 13
    Fritz says:

    I will endeavor to spend as little time as possible stating why I believe it won’t work, since that is not in scope.
     
    First, I want to point out my visceral offense at the very notion that I am supposed to “hope” that government policy works, and that it somehow is unpatriotic or disloyal to not wish for victory. This is emotional blackmail.
     
    The closest parallel I can think of is in the final scene of the play “Peter Pan” when the cast breaks the fourth wall and tells the audience that Tinkerbelle will only live if everyone claps to show that they believe in fairies.
     
    I don’t believe in fairies but I am not going to cause little children to cry about it so I clap. But I resent it. I am a piss-poor Objectivist, but even I don’t deal well with that level of arm-twisting.
     
    This kind of emotional blackmail is annoying in a play. It is absolutely unforgiveable as an element of political discourse. “If we all clap together then the stock market will rise!” is not a rational policy.
     
    There is no possible reason for me to want to hope for the success of immoral policies. I did not hope for the success of our immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq. I don’t hope for the success of the US government spending my children’s money like a drunken sailor on shore leave. I don’t hope for the success of the government nationalizing banks and propping up mismanaged corporations.
     
    And thus we get to the core issue — fiscal policy has a moral basis. Yeah, yeah, it’s only money. But we are talking about money that people worked for. And the government is using “fiscal stimulus!” to block any attempt to ask why they are spending money on any scheme they choose. It’s this year’s “It’s for the children!”. Again – this is a core difference. To you, fiscal policy is mostly outside of the realm of morality. If the government owns a collection of factories or if a corporation of stockholders owns those factories – there is no difference. To me there is a world of difference — it is the difference between a candy store being owned by a guy running it or being owned by Tony Soprano, who got it on the promise of breaking legs if he didn’t get it.
     
    Every government action is backed up by men with guns. That does not mean that there should be no government action, but it does mean that any such action should be serious enough to warrant violent enforcement. I believe, for instance, that it is appropriate to use violence to require everyone to contribute to communal defense — if the villagers are amassing wealth to defend against reavers and one ass in the middle of the village figures he doesn’t need to contribute because everyone else will have to protect him anyways — well, I think that justifies explaining to him that he contributes or he gets burned out. You might be able to justify to me that national road upkeep meets that criterion. You will not be able to convince me to justify using force to fund a museum of organized crime in Las Vegas.
     
    I don’t want socialism (or even massive stimulus spending) to work simply because it is an immoral policy. There are long-term consequences to success – you will get more of those policies.
     
    Democrats won – fine. They have the votes to enact the policies they want. So it’s time for the Democrats to push through their policies and be judged in two years. I want Democrats to stop whining about how Rush doesn’t want them to succeed and to stop looking to Republicans for cover.
     
    I absolutely agree with you that almost all Republicans are as bad – they were spending money as fast as they could when in power and have rediscovered fiscal restraint only now that they are on the sidelines. But their blatant hypocrisy does not mean that I should endorse expanded government control.
     
    Let’s say socialism “works” over the next four or eight years and the Federal government winds up owning more and more businesses. This will eventually alter how American approach opportunities. I just spend a wonderful vacation in Chile and Argentina. Absolutely great countries and I am planning to return. But in both countries, when listening to tour guides and talking with people, I heard much more deference to government will than in the US – that “the government told people to settle here in the early 1900’s” instead of the North American experience of settling ahead of government control. I don’t want to lose that entrepreneurial American spirit and I don’t want my grandkids to grow up in a society where people wait for the government to tell them what to do.
     
    However (and, yeah, now I get back to practical realities), I don’t think it is going to work. If we were starting from the ground floor (like China), we would stand a chance. But we aren’t. We are starting from the bottom of a deep hole, courtesy of the Bush administration. However, it’s not like the Democrats in Congress were pushing for fiscal restraint while the Bushies racked up enormous deficits. And after the Bush fiscal hole and after the Obama fiscal hole, we will then hit the demographic disaster of the baby boom generation retiring and going on Social Security and Medicare. It’s going to be an ugly ride.

  14. 14
    Ron Chusid says:

    So, you hate Tinkerbell! That’s almost as bad as hoping that the economy collapses so you can win some debating points for Objectivist economic views.

    I’m afraid I still see no rational logic in your argument. Just a few examples of why I don’t buy your argument that it is better if the stimulus fails:

    “There is no possible reason for me to want to hope for the success of immoral policies. I did not hope for the success of our immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq.”

    No comparison here. There are strong arguments to calling a war immoral. Calling government spending programs immoral is hardly analogous. This comes back to the fact that your opposition is essentially a quasi-religious issue (and, while Rand would protest, Objectivisim is essentially a religion base which holds economic views based upon faith just as much as other religions take their religious teachings on faith). I still cannot agree with someone who wishes that the country suffer so that your religious views might turn out to be correct.

    “I don’t hope for the success of the US government spending my children’s money like a drunken sailor on shore leave. I don’t hope for the success of the government nationalizing banks and propping up mismanaged corporations.”

    Why not? It is one thing to believe it will not work. However why wouldn’t you want it to work. If you care about your children’s money then you should hope it does work so there will be a stronger economy left for them. The goal here is not to nationalize or prop up businesses but to enable them to get back on their feet.

    “If the government owns a collection of factories or if a corporation of stockholders owns those factories – there is no difference. To me there is a world of difference — it is the difference between a candy store being owned by a guy running it or being owned by Tony Soprano, who got it on the promise of breaking legs if he didn’t get it.”

    But the stimulus is not about the government owning factories. The point is to get the free market system working again so that there will be private ownership. Here you are not responding to the actual stimulus but are just repeating Rush Limbaugh’s straw men attacks.

    You also act as if the result of doing nothing is to allow the free market to suddenly thrive again. The reality is that we are in a cycle of businesses failing which will only lead to more business failures unless something stops this.

    “I want Democrats to stop whining about how Rush doesn’t want them to succeed and to stop looking to Republicans for cover.”

    Another straw man argument being  pushed by the right. The Rush Limbaugh stuff is a side show, primarily coming from writers and people out of government–not the Democrats actually in the government. It is useful for Democrats to show the mindset of the opposition but bringing this up is not using Republicans for cover.

    On the other hand, the Republicans are repeatedly trying to avoid blame for their policies. The right wing is putting out tons of false arguments why the problem is the fault of the Democrats despite the fact that they dominated the government for years. Republican policies failed. If Republicans are trying to pretend they were not the ones in power and the ones who instituted the failed policies, Democrats are justified in reminding them of this fact.

    ” Let’s say socialism “works” over the next four or eight year…”

    Nobody is advocating socialism. Once again arguments against the stimulus based upon opposition to socialism are total nonsense.

    “I don’t want to lose that entrepreneurial American spirit and I don’t want my grandkids to grow up in a society where people wait for the government to tell them what to do.”

    Reviving the American economy and entrepreneurial spirit is the purpose of attempting to stimulate the economy. This paragraph gives reasons to hope the stimulus succeeds, not that it fails. Again you are repeating the straw men arguments of the far right, not responding to what is actually being done.

  15. 15
    Eclectic Radical says:

    I think I’ve said this here before in other threads, and I know I’ve said this elsewhere, but it bears saying again:

    There is a huge difference, Fritz, between Objectivist libertarian economic theory or Monetarist neoconservative economic theory and ‘free market capitalism.’ Capitalism is based on entrepreneurialism and competition; ‘capital’ makes the former possible and the former drives the latter, but capital is not what makes capitalism. In fact, an overconcentration of capital in a few hands is bad for the free market: heavy concentration of capital in a tight web of large corporations serves to suck capital away from entrepreneurs and into said web of large corporations. Commercial corporations are then able to drive said entrepreneurs from the market by weight of capital, without any actual competition taking place. This is why we go through ‘bubbles’ in the stock market: massive influxes of capital suck more capital after them, and the more the capital concentrates in one place the more capital is attracted to that one place and away from the others. The bubble grows and other markets shrink. Then the bubble bursts, the corporations that sucked up the available capital are badly damaged or fail, and the rest economy is damaged from the artificial influx of capital into the bubble that is now lost as the bubble becomes worthless.

    None of this has anything to do with a healthy, entrepreurial business using capital to provide goods and services at a profit. Instead it is a system that raises and distributed capital for the benefit of brokers, at the expense of investors, consumers, and even the companies themselves in the long run.

    That is not capitalism, and doing something to restore a free, competitive market is not socialism.

    I also have to take issue with this claim:

    “Again – this is a core difference. To you, fiscal policy is mostly outside of the realm of morality.”

    Nothing could be further from the truth. Economic policy, to me, is entirely about morality. It is moral that those who work to produce goods and services should be paid a fair wage for their work and share in the benefits of their production. It is moral for consumers to be able to demand value for their money. It is moral for investors to be given the information necessary to make informed decisions, rather than to be left with little choice but which of the bookies operating the glorified policy rackets our capital markets have become they trust with their money. It is also moral to demand that those who attempt to use fraud, extortion, and weight of capital to stifle competition, inflate their market share, or provide inferior products or services be held accountable for their actions.

    I am a great believer in capitalism. Pirates make markets less free, not more free, and I do not believe it is socialism for society (through the auspices of the government) to fight piracy where necessary.

    Objectivism advances a theological argument against the immorality of poverty while Monetarism advances a theological argument in support of the moral superiority of wealth. Neither is rational, and claiming so will not make it so.

    One can argue that some social programs are political socialism, though I would argue that political socialism is not a bad thing if it strengthens the base of society by broadening membership in the working and middle classes. One builds a house from the foundation up, no the roof down.

    Properly regulating the market, to prevent bubbles during times of prosperity and stimulate the economy in times of depression, is not socialism. It is the only to make capitalism work and prevent corporate fascism from driving entrepreneurs from the market and holding consumers hostage.

  16. 16
    Fritz says:

    Eclectic,

    Yeah, if you could come up with a political solution that recycled a bit of capital, I could be quite interested.  But power has its own dynamics, and I don’t see how to create a structure that has the authority to remove the capital but is not self-serving.  This is the classic dilemna of socialism — if the state has the power and authority to take the capital it will do so in its own interests, not yours.

    Your description of the dynamics of bubble creation does not match the dotcom bubble — money flowed to all sorts of entrepeneurs, including ones who had no idea what they were doing.  It was quite amazingly not one of “money flows to the big guys”.   Do you think that was a one-off event, or does your model need work?

    We have all sorts of market regulation and corporate accountability — remember the passage of Sarbanes-Oxley?  So what happened?

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