Tom Ridge is now using Limbaugh's popularity to get in the news. The new strategy among the marginalized moderate Republicans is to say something negative about Limbaugh so they will get interviewed by the media. Ridge believes the rhetoric coming from Limbaugh is too shrill, and that the Republicans should stick to criticism of ideas. He says little of vicious ad hominem attacks coming from the left against Limbaugh. There's no need to get into the schoolyard justifications of -- "Johnny started it!" -- but it is strange that Ridge and others are more concerned about Limbaugh's attacks on the left than they are the left's constant attacks on Limbaugh and the Republican Party in general.
As a nonpartisan libertarian, I find this whole controversy interesting. I understand that moderate Republicans don't want to be left out of the national debate over major issues, and that they feel pushed out by the more popular Limbaugh, but why aren't they framing their moderate stance as a repudiation of attacks from both left and right? For the most part, Limbaugh talks about ideas much more than the attack-dogs on the left -- I don't think I've ever heard Olberman rationally discuss the difference in ideas between the liberals and Limbaugh -- mostly, from Olberman, Stewart, Matthews, etc. -- it's just name-calling and ridicule.
If I could give the moderate Republicans some advice, I'd suggest they develope a list of ideas which are better than the Democrat's ideas and use their time promoting these ideas. They also need to show how Democrats are attempting to use their moment (perhaps a long moment) in the spotlight to frame Republicans as idiots and obstructionists. Most of the people who hate and attack Limbaugh will never be Republican supporters, so I wouldn't worry too much about Rush's style -- he adds fire and interest to the debate. The moderate Republicans have to understand that even if Limbaugh and that wing of the party disappeared, the Democrats would then come after anyone left in the party -- their objective is to beat the Republicans in every election. They are focused, and you don't see their leaders calling off their attack-dogs.
The reason the Democrats are fighting so hard is to protect the control they're gaining over the economy. If they can control the economy, they can maintain control of government, because so many citizens and special interest groups will be dependent on them. They see an opportunity to use the Republican mistake of enlarging the power of the state and presidency, and the economic crisis, to empower the state even more and place the Democrat Party as the engineers of recovery and the go-to party for future benefits. They are financing the biggest feeding trough this country has ever known. There are a growing number of dissatisfied citizens who don't want a big-ass feeding trough, so the battle line is being drawn between dependents and independents. If the moderate Republicans aren't appalled at what Bush did and what Obama is continuing tenfold, then they may as well become Democrats. At least Rush is criticizing the statist move to gain more power, even if his style is distasteful to more sedate and well-behaved conservatives. Rush doesn't go far enough toward a libertarian position for me, but he does have a libertarian bent.
This is another problem with moderates like Lindsay Graham -- they don't understand classic liberalism and libertarian ideas -- in other words, they are unfamiliar with the ideas of Jefferson and the Founding Fathers. If the moderate Republicans want to capture the independent vote, they have to understand what drives Limbaugh, Beck and the independents. They can criticize the style and methods of Limbaugh and Beck, but they should start listening to the basic message and understand their popularity. If the moderate Republicans simply want to continue the game of swapping control of a statist government bent on controlling the economy and denying personal freedoms, then they may as well disband as a party, because the Democrats are winning that game and there might not be anymore swapping of control.
The Republican Party has to be anti-statist and pro-free market and pro-individual liberties or they are nothing but Democrat-lite and they will miss what's happening with independents.
That's my free advice. I'm still waiting for Penn Jillette to run as the candidate for a new party called Freedom Parteee!
Here is an article that makes my point even better:
I don't know how to express my disgust at this report of waste in Afghanistan, on top of the waste in Iraq. All across America, people are sending in hard-earned money to pay their taxes, and our government allows billions upon billions to be wasted -- going to who knows what. This is the same government that wants to run our economy. How can we continue like this?
How many people identify themselves as Christians yet uphold few of the Christian fundamental tenets taken literally from the bible? What passes for religion today is mostly a moral stance which borrows certain "nice" principles from Christianity, while ignoring the troublesome aspects which don't hold up to what we've learned about the world in the last 500 years or so. Perhaps, we need a new "religion" - a belief in reason and freedom. In politics, both parties are guilty of attempting to impose morality through legislation, yet the religious right is in the spotlight of contempt in a hypocritical attempt by progressives to prevent a commingling of church and state.
I call it 'hypocritical' because in a real sense the liberal "priest" class is a throw back to hierachical arrangements of a religious past which only began changing with the ideas of Locke regarding natural rights -- however, the structure of the priests, the warriors and the laiety is still seen in our interventionist state which promotes the idea of esoteric knowledge at the top passed down to the plebians. The common folk are expected to have faith in the wisdom of the liberal priests. This esoteric knowledge which guides our moral direction is deemed necessary because the common people of the market and public sphere are driven by base desires and limiting self-interest, so moral guidance must be enforced from above to sustain orderly direction and fairness.
It's the commingling of a quasi-religious state and the market that's now the problem. The omnipotent state has replaced a personal god, but the principles are the same. For a while, after the American and French revolutions, humankind had made progress moving away from a hierarchical societal structure but we are quickly returning to this illiberal arrangement.
Although I promote a separation of church and state, a separation of state and economy is just as important to a truly liberal society. If there is any realm today that's conducive to untarnished liberalism, it's the public sphere where unreason is punished either by the rule of law established by humans to protect basic rights or the laws of reality which exist in nature and the logical consequences of certain actions. The rule of law, if not irrational and subject to the whims of fashion and political pressure, creates the limitiations we live within, and reason is our guide to understand the laws of reality. When we begin thinking the omnipotent state can suspend the laws of reality and create laws which engineer behavior in the public sphere to some predetermined end based on an enforced morality decided on by the state, we're going backwards to an illiberal, religiously intolerant past.
We don't need priests, we need representatives limited in power who answer to the Constitution and abide by a rational rule of law. Recently, when the public sphere expresses itself, you hear cries from the priests -- "populism!" -- "anit-intellectualism!" -- as they sniff and snort at the common folk who don't know what's good for them -- "We gave you a tax break, didn't we?". But this is all a silly game made up of cartoon characters which the media exploits. The public sphere has its realm and it's made of individuals, a variey of personalities, beliefs, capabilities, levels of education and knowledge. The public sphere is the human advancement which created a freedom of movement, of thought, of action, of innovation and creativty that's revolutionized the world -- it's outside the political realm with a life of its own, far different than the caricatures of Bubbas and Homers and plain Jane simpletons who are driven by impulses they barely understand. There are people not well-known outside their communities who are far more interesting than those in the media -- some far smarter than most, more talented than many -- the public sphere is diverse, dynamic and powerful.
There should be a celebration of this diversity and freedom, not a fear of it. If as humans we need religious fervor, let's place our faith in each other, the rule of law, the public sphere, the genius spontaneous order guided by a desire for human flourishing, reason and excellence, not simple greed and irrational impulses -- certainly not by the power-mongers who would be priests.