Token New York Times "conservative" pundit David Brooks' latest rant about true conservative talk radio hosts Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity et al shows once again that "moderates" who want so badly to reshape the Republican Party really have no clue how to go about it, much less what they're talking about. All they know is that they're angry with, and perhaps more than a tad jealous of, Rush and his cohorts.
All right, Brooks admittedly landed a blow in his rather fuming diatribe when he noted how little apparent impact the talk radio folks had on the 2008 Republican primary elections, evidenced by the eventual nomination of Sen. John McCain, the guy most true conservatives love to hate. However, Brooks missed, maybe conveniently, a couple of key points that the talkers could do little if anything about.
While Brooks raved that Rush et al extolled the virtues of Fred Thompson only to see the latter flop in the primaries, this is akin to saying that Sparky Anderson was a failed manager for hyping a young ballplayer to the skies only to see him flop in spring training—which happened often, by the way. The point is, Rush couldn't get Fred Thompson off his rear end to campaign with the needed fire in his belly any more than Sparky could swing the bat for the young prospect. And Thompson's lack of urgency, more than anything Rush Limbaugh could have done to influence the outcome, was responsible for his campaign tanking.
Second, and even more important, the talkers can only do so much to sway voters. They are largely "preaching to the choir" of mostly conservative listeners who are involved, voting citizens. But their votes only go so far—20 million listeners in a nation of 330 million are not all that many relative to election numbers. It's the party's so-called "leaders" who with their words and deeds need to bring out the vote. And the Republicans, through their fear of the media and other opposition (that is, the other Democrat Party besides the media), have by and large not had the guts to state their principles and stand proudly behind them. And those few who do are muffled, ignored or impugned as extremists by the same dastardly media.
But the point Brooks ignores most of all, since he is after all a highly paid employee of the queen of all leftist media, is that Rush and his cohorts started an alternative media revolution that has destroyed (hopefully once and for all) the "mainstream's" monopoly on what was passed off as news. If Brooks is right that Rush et al have had little influence on voters in primaries, he cannot with a straight face turn around (although he will try) and say that they made a bunch of mind-numbed robots attend the rash of tea party and town hall protests that rocked the nation over the last few months. These folks did all of that protesting on their own, perhaps fueled by what they heard from Rush and others, but armed with their own very personal beliefs about it.
By the way, Mr. Brooks, the last four moderate Republicans who ran for president—Ford, Bush I, Dole and McCain—all lost. The reasons Bush I won in 1988 had nothing to do with his "moderate" policies. It was simply that people were vicariously electing through him a third Reagan term and that he ran against an absolute loser in Michael Dukakis. The Republicans lost Congress in 2006 by trying too hard to be Democrat-lites, not by being "too conservative." So it seems that your desire to push the Republican Party to that oh-so-sacrosanct center of yours will, rather than rejuvenating it, more likely will push if off the cliff on which it's now teetering.