To win the future, conservatives need to give voters a positive image of a can-do America and a can-do Republican Party *UPDATED*

For the past four years, conservatives have been fighting a relentlessly rearguard, defensive action.  For those same four years, conservatives have lost every rearguard, defensive action that they’ve fought.  Or if they haven’t actually lost, the best that they’ve managed is a stalemate that stalls Progressivism, but doesn’t advance conservative values.  Even the stunning 2010 “shellacking” proved ineffective, as shellackings really only work if you take over Congress entirely, rather than just getting half of it.

Anger

Conservative also don’t seem to be faring too well in the culture wars.  To use abortion as just one example, in the 2012 election, conservatives lost the chance to take over Congress when Progressives successfully demonized two Republican Senate candidates who are pro-Life.  More than that, it seems as if, contrary to past trends showing that Americans are inclined to a pro-Life view, a recent poll gave a definitive victory to American support for abortion.

Ironically, right up until the 2012 election, many conservatives (myself included) thought that these tactics would work. We believed that a jobless recovery (a stock market that benefited from Obama’s crony capitalism, even as more and more people became unemployed), creeping inflation, flabby home sales, depreciating savings, rising medical costs, and all the other signs of a sick economy, would turn voters against Obama.

We also thought that proofs of corruption (Fast and Furious), incompetency (Benghazi), and crony capitalism (Solyndra), would turn voters against Obama.  They didn’t.

Sad

Sure we knew that Romney, although a good and intellectually brilliant man, was only a decent candidate, but we thought that, given all of Obama’s failures and dishonesty, Romney’s charisma deficit wouldn’t be a problem.  And had Romney been a Democrat, it really wouldn’t have been a problem.  He was a Republican, though, which meant that sterling character and brilliant economic chops were inadequate to fend off the extraordinarily vicious character assassination that the White House and the media launched against him.

We conservatives hadn’t counted on Americans buying such disgusting canards or ignoring ugly facts, but they did. Between the media running interference, general disinterest from voters more fascinated by Honey Boo Boo and Jersey Shores than by politics, and Americans’ probable fear of voting a black man out of the White House, conservatives got to watch Obama win again.

In the wake of Obama’s victory, conservatives in the media and in the blogosphere have responded by amping up their previous tactics.  Considering that Obama won’t be running again in 2016, spending all of our political capital and emotional energy attacking him doesn’t seem like a good use of resources.  Be that as it may, conservatives are Obama is still Target No. 1.  There certainly is a lot to get fired up about, most notably the way in which Obama seized upon Sandy Hook as an excuse to seize guns.  Nothing will come of it, of course, since there are too many Democrats who like guns too, but Obama has successfully framed the issue to be one of life- and child-loving Democrats squaring off against gun-crazed, child-murdering Republicans.

Rather than running about like headless chickens who are still trying to peck the President to death with details, we might do better focusing on very specific weaknesses and not letting those weaknesses vanish from the public eye.  To me, the most obvious are (a) the economy and (b) his handling of Benghazi.

Backstabbing

Not content with putting even more effort into tactics that have been proven failures, Republicans are adding something new:  finger-pointing and back-stabbing.  Stephen Sondheim’s “It’s Your Fault,” from Into The Woods, summarizes perfectly the spectacle that Republicans are now making of themselves:

Here’s the thing: Anger can only last so long and fire us up so much. After anger comes depression, which some say is anger turned inward, but I say depression is anger exhausted.

If even true believers like me are turned off and are tuning out because of this relentless negativity and internecine viciousness, can you imagine what’s going on with ordinary, rather disengaged voters?  On the one hand they have an ebullient, confident President who has proudly announced an “inclusive” agenda (never mind that it excludes the 49% of the country that didn’t vote for him) and, on the other hand, we have a dispirited, mean-spirited, flabby conservative movement.

Not only do people like winners, they dislike sore losers.  Worse, the media isn’t there to pick up the pieces for us as it did when Bush kept the White House for a second term.  Instead, it’s going to prey on our relentless negativity, magnify it, and throw it back at us — all while the American people shy away from the political party that smells like old roadkill.

Well, that was my own carping and finger-pointing.  It was a necessary premise to what comes next in this post — coming up with a strategy to re-position conservatives as a winning team.

It’s tempting to begin by trying, yet again, to define conservativism.  I’m not going to make the mistake, however, of sticking myself onto that tar baby.  Unlike the relentlessly lockstep Progressives, whose allegiance to the party line helps them win, conservatives are a diverse lot.  Some have had way too much schooling and some have had less than they would have liked.  Some are already wealthy and some hope to be wealthy.  Some live in urban areas, some in suburban enclaves, and some live on farms or in the back woods.  Some have roots reaching back centuries in America (black or white, Asian or Hispanic), while some are recent immigrants from every part of the globe.  Some are pro-Choice and some are pro-Life.  Most support the Second Amendment, but with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Patriotism

Indeed, when I think about it, there are only two things I can say with absolute certainty about American conservatives:  This first is that they truly love America.  It’s a pure love.  They believe that America is an exceptional place, not in spite of her founding principles, but because of them.  While they recognize that America has erred in the past, they also understand that she, unlike just about any other country in the world, has corrected herself, sometimes at the cost of much spilled American blood.

In this undiluted patriotism, conservatives differ from the Left, which loves America as a wife-beater loves his wife:  “I show my love for my wife by focusing only on her flaws and failings.  And because I really love her, I routinely beat the crap out of her to help her improve herself.”

The second thread binding conservatives is that they want smaller, cheaper Federal government.  They differ on how much smaller and how much cheaper, but they recognize two things about the government we have.  The first is that it’s breaking the bank, which may not worry Obama, but which is very worrisome for those who have the wits to see what happens to Western countries that go bankrupt.  Today’s news shows as Greece, which is becoming scarily primitive; yesterday’s news shows us post-WWI Germany, that responded to economic chaos by inviting genocidal socialists into the Reichstag.

The second thing conservatives recognize when they look at Obama’s inauguration announcement that he intends to keep spending taxpayer money to enlarge the federal government is that bigger government means less individual freedom.  Conservatives may disagree about the precise amount of individual freedom necessary for happiness, but they’re pretty sure that individuals aren’t happy when the state has too much control over their lives.

Knowing that patriotism and individual freedom are the ties that bind conservatives, shouldn’t we be embarking upon a campaign to appeal to them and, moreover, to show them that we conservatives are Happy Warriors, not whining, vicious losers?  It’s my rhetorical question, so I get to answer with a resounding YES.

Ronald Reagan - the Happy Warrior

Having answered my question to my satisfaction, the remaining question becomes what form should this Reagan-esque Happy Warrior initiative take?  Here’s a list of three things we can do:

1.  Write to your favorite radio hosts (Rush, Sean, Dennis, Hugh, Mark, etc.) and ask them to devote at least one hour a week to highlighting the good that is America.  Even better, have this pro-America hour reach out to minorities who share conservative values, but who have been scared into thinking that the Republicans are the party of White Supremacists and the KKK.  It’s useless to point out that this kind of racism was the Democrats’ stock in trade.  In the here and now, Republicans are stuck with that label and need to counter it.  What better way than to interview a Vietnamese woman who escaped the fall of Saigon, came to America with nothing, started a business, raised a family, and now can point to successful children and grandchildren, all of whom, after leaving college, went to work in the family’s thriving business.  Ditto for the Nicaraguan man who escaped the Death Squads, the East Asian family who fled their small village’s grinding poverty, and the black woman who broke free from the crime and degradation of America’s welfare-funded inner cities.

2.  Instead of carping about Progressives on Facebook or Twitter (which preaches to the choir without converting anyone else), keep posting American success stories that are premised on traditional American values:  hard work, honesty, self-reliance, etc.

3.  Leave comments on this blog (or write to me:  Bookwormroom *at* gmail.com), giving practical suggestions for revitalizing a positive conservativism that engages people.  I want concrete initiatives that ordinary conservatives can do on a daily basis, whether shopping, seeking out entertainment, socializing, working, blogging, etc., that will help to advance a positive, welcoming vision of conservativism that’s predicated on an abiding patriotism and a belief that federal government must become smaller and cheaper.

Everybody likes a winner.  We’re not winning right now, but it behooves us to start projecting a winning attitude.  Otherwise, we’re just going to be the crazy uncle in the attic who scares voters away.

UPDATE:  WIN!  (Hat tip: JKB and Newmark’s Door.)

Criticism, constructive and otherwise — or talk radio can serve us better

During the past week, whenever I found myself alone in the car during good drive-time talk radio (i.e., Rush), I did something unusual:  I didn’t listen.  Instead, I turned to mindless pop music.  I was thinking about this peculiar behavior on my part, because I truly love Rush.  I think he’s a radio genius, someone who understands perfectly the lines between entertainment, news, and analysis.  He’s also one of the sharpest political thinkers out there.  No wonder the Left hates him.

But still….  I didn’t want to listen.

Analyzing my bizarre retreat from Rush, I realized that my problem is that the things that used to energize me during Obama’s first term — conservatives reporting on the faults and foibles of the administration, even as the MSM ignored them — no longer stir me up.  I’ve had four years to learn that Obama is not the “hope” promised, unless your hope was for a jobless stock market recovery, endless welfare rolls, increased racial tension, a simmering Middle East that constantly threatens to explode, negative pressure on core Constitutional rights, and all the other practical and ideological changes Obama’s presidency has brought to America.  The problem is that, while you and I were riled by these stories, none of this data penetrated the minds of less engaged American voters, all of whom who listened to the media’s siren song and reelected Obama.

Having accomplished its job, the media is suddenly discovering that there are some problems with Obama’s first term, everything from violently antisemitic and anti-American “friends” in Egypt, to the coming economic and medical disaster that is ObamaCare, to the corruption that’s always swirled around his administration.  As I told my mother when she pointed to such stories, this isn’t just a case of too little, too late.  It’s nastier than that.  The media is doing these stories as cover:  when the second Obama term brings badness to America (although Obama may still escape unscathed), the media has provided itself with some plausible deniability.  It can point to these articles and say “We told you so” — the big con being that they only told the American people so after they’d ensured that Obama locked up a second term in office.

The fact is that four years of conservative media pointing out what Obama and the Dem Progressives are doing made no difference to the ultimate outcome in 2012.  To be sure, there was a ton of criticism from the Right, but it wasn’t constructive, because those who needed it (Obama and the Dem Progs) weren’t listening and wouldn’t have changed anyway.  It was criticism in a vacuum.  It made the minority party feel better, but ultimately had no effect.

I want marching orders, not whining mourners.  I want to hear ideas about how to change the body politic, not another story about what weasels Obama and his buddies are.  I already know that stuff — and the media, for reasons of its own, is finally doing a little heavy lifting and is starting to report on a few foibles in the Obama administration.  The fact is that Obama will not run again.  He’s already old news.  What conservatives need know is to disengage from the war with Obama and begin, instead to plot a strategy for 2014 and beyond, one that ignores this little man and, instead, focuses on shaping ideological issues in ways that excite the man on the street.  Talk radio, with its vast reach, should be a source of inspiration, rather than relentless, mis-focused anger.

Hustling for gigs

I drove Mr. Bookworm’s car today.  That means that, when I turned on the radio, I got NPR.  I don’t listen to NPR anymore.  I find very dull the carefully packaged stories, all of which advance, with greater or lesser subtlety, a Progressive political agenda.  I prefer freewheeling talk radio, where hosts do live interviews of people with whom they agree and, even more interestingly, with people with whom they disagree.

Today, though, I listened to NPR long enough to hear a promo for an upcoming show, the name of which I forget, which looks at the fact that more and more people are free-lancers rather than employees.  It was clear that NPR disapproves of this trend, because the show was sold as a look at people who are pathetically hustling for work without the security of full-time employment.

I used to be one of those people, although I never thought of myself as pathetic.  I did my best lawyering when I stopped being a wage slave and started working for myself.  Instead of resenting every hour worked, because it simply put more money into the boss’s pockets, I threw myself into my work because it benefited me.  When I hustled, there was a direct return on effort.

The economics of what I was doing meant I never made as much money working as a free-lance attorney, hiring my services out to other law firms, as I did when I worked for the big firms.  I also actually worked harder for that lesser amount of money.  But I was so much happier.  The direct connection between labor and profit was incredibly satisfying.  Yes, I was out there hustling, but I was free.  And while it’s true that I’d lost my “safety net,” the fact is that my employers could have fired me at any time.  So that safety net was an illusion.  Working for myself, I knew what I had to offer and I knew I could survive.

What Obama really seeks to destroy by destroying Fox News

Charles Krauthammer identifies the enormous damage the Obami risk doing as they attack and try to destroy national entities associated with conservatives (the Chamber of Commerce, talk radio, Fox news):

There’s nothing illegal about such search-and-destroy tactics. Nor unconstitutional. But our politics are defined not just by limits of legality or constitutionality. We have norms, Madisonian norms.

Madison argued that the safety of a great republic, its defense against tyranny, requires the contest between factions or interests. His insight was to understand “the greater security afforded by a greater variety of parties.” They would help guarantee liberty by checking and balancing and restraining each other — and an otherwise imperious government.

Factions should compete, but also recognize the legitimacy of other factions and, indeed, their necessity for a vigorous self-regulating democracy. Seeking to deliberately undermine, delegitimize, and destroy is not Madisonian. It is Nixonian.

But didn’t Teddy Roosevelt try to destroy the trusts? Of course, but what he took down was monopoly power that was extinguishing smaller independent competing interests. Fox News is no monopoly. It is a singular minority in a sea of liberal media. ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, NPR, CNN, MSNBC vs. Fox. The lineup is so unbalanced as to be comical — and that doesn’t even include the other commanding heights of the culture that are firmly, flagrantly liberal: Hollywood, the foundations, the universities, the elite newspapers.

I long for the Bush days. If nothing else, Bush was ever the gentleman, and he presided over a remarkably civil administration.

Long hidden species carefully emerges from hiding *UPDATED*

Thought to be extinct, Marinicus Republicanus is emerging from its long dormancy and beginning to make itself known.  Tonight, I attended an enthusiastic rally of at least 100 people crammed shoulder to shoulder in a beautiful home in Marin. People were informed, excited, and refused to be intimidated by the polls.

Melanie Morgan, former conservative talk show host and founder and chairman of MoveAmericaForward.org, was the big draw.  As you might guess given her career, she’s a great public speaker — clear, vivacious, intelligent and amusing.  She has one other quality that completely endeared her to me:  she’s petite.  Indeed, she’s what used to be called a Pocket Venus — a lovely woman from head to toe, only on a someone smaller scale (although at about 5’2″, she’s still taller than I am).

Melanie’s speech touched upon a few main themes, familiar to all conservatives:  Obama’s “spread the wealth” socialism, his frightening unpreparedness for attacks against the US (both because of his inexperience and his temperament), the huge risk of a complete Democratic takeover of the government (a government that will be far to the Left of anything Roosevelt, Truman, Carter or even Clinton envisioned), and the death of the conservative media.

As to the last, Melanie warned those assembled to make no mistake:  The very first thing an entirely Democratic government will do is pass a bill with the Orwellian title of “Fairness Doctrine.”  This will mandate that any radio or TV show that has political content must give equal time to both Democrats and Republicans.

While I can guarantee you that this “fairness” won’t be imposed against MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, or CNN, the Democratic controlled FCC will come down like gangbusters against Fox News, Dennis Prager, Rush LImbaugh, Hugh Hewitt, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, Michael Medved, and any other national and local conservative shows you can think of.  The FCC will warn any station carrying these shows that, unless they start airing Air America too (or like shows), they will lose their licenses.  And the radio stations, unable to afford the financial black holes of liberal talk radio, will go with the obvious response:  they’ll take conservative radio shows off the air.  Progressives will still have MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC or CNN (since Democrats profess to believe that these networks are “objective”), but conservatives will have . . . nothing.

But that’s not entirely true.  Conservatives will still have the internet, whether written or podcasts.  And I think conservatives should start having guerilla radio.  During World War II, resistance fighters and local partisans all over Europe set up underground radio stations that beamed real news — not Nazi propaganda — to those who still wanted the truth.  Heck, even in the last Harry Potter book, the good guys set up secret radio broadcasts aimed at keeping community alive and thwarting the Death Eaters.

Don’t you love the idea of a secret Rush Limbaugh radio show?  Because it will be illegal, it will immediately gain the same cachet as other illegal activities, such as marijuana use or underage drinking.  College students will start having parties in darkened dorm rooms, behind locked doors, as they chase the elusive Rush across the radio dial.

Before long, these same college students, their minds finally stimulated by an alternative to the Marxist doctrine taught in their classrooms, will be taking to the streets, demanding that the government “Free Rush Limbaugh.”  It will be exciting.  There will be riots.  Nancy Pelosi will barricade herself in her San Francisco mansion as deeply committed college students mount 24 hour a day protests on her street.

As the streets become maelstroms of free speech protests, the MSM will be forced to report on the story, complete with dire warnings about the dangers to youth from illegal conservative radio.  Concerned parents, anxious to know what kind of ideology is sparking their childrens’ behavior, will “try” rush (although few will admit to this kind of mental inhaling).

To their horror, most of them will find themselves agreeing with him.  Some will have to go into therapy.  Many will go into deep denial.  But some, those who have a youthful rebellious streak, will begin covert listening operations as well, and find themselves hanging out at skate parks trying to have the boarders give them info about the next place and time for a Rush broadcast.

After that, heck, anything can happen.  Stick around long enough, and by 2012 or 2016, we may have a successful Palin-Steele, or Palin-Cantor, or Palin-Jindal ticket, that can start the long, painful work of undoing all the damage done to America by several consecutive years of unbridled socialist . . . um, Democratic rule.

UPDATE:  BTW, Melanie Morgan’s own blog is here.

Rush Limbaugh in the NYT

Because Zev Chafets wrote it, I was reasonably sure the profile of Rush in the NYT Magazine would not be a hit piece, and I was right.  Read it and enjoy getting a little closer to the great El Rushbo.  By the way, I particularly liked this little bit from the article, which puts in their place those who sneer at Rush’s Dittoheads:

Limbaugh’s audience is often underestimated by critics who don’t listen to the show (only 3 percent of his audience identity themselves as “liberal,” according to the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People and the Press). Recently, Pew reported that, on a series of “news knowledge questions,” Limbaugh’s “Dittoheads” — the defiantly self-mocking term for his faithful, supposedly brainwashed, audience — scored higher than NPR listeners. The study found that “readers of newsmagazines, political magazines and business magazines, listeners of Rush Limbaugh and NPR and viewers of the Daily Show and C-SPAN are also much more likely than the average person to have a college degree.”

It’s no wonder that the Democrats are desperate to destroy talk radio.