Rush Is Not the Problem

I've stayed away from the Rush Limbaugh discussion since it seems the ultimate in Seinfeldian debates about nothing.

My overall sense is that the Frums and the Douthats of the world would be well served by staying away from this argument. As Ross himself has written, the grassroots needs elites -- and the elites need the grassroots. By trying to isolate Rush, the elites break down this elegant separation and veer into micromanaging the grassroots -- a losing proposition, particularly against a brand as sticky as Rush. By staging a power play against Rush, they also play into the Democrats' far-fetched notion that Rush is the GOP's leader -- an 11% proposition -- rather than letting him be as an entertainer and provocateur and popularizer of conservative ideas.

I missed Rush's CPAC address and watching it later on YouTube but was left wondering "What's the big f'ing deal here?" In content, the speech was no different than what Rush has been saying for the last 20 years. Why are we all reacting as if any of this is new? If Rush was going to damage the GOP, he would have done it by now. (In fact, the last time we had Rush in a situation like this, things didn't turn out so bad.)

It's one thing to reject spokespeople with neither egghead credentials nor talent, like Joe the Plumber, or those who are positively cringe-worthy, like Coulter. Rush belongs in neither of these categories. There is value in having provocative voices who know how to string two sentences together with arguments rooted in conservative ideas, not cultural pastiche. And though provocative and sometimes impolitic, Rush's arguments are usually calibrated and thought-out in their own way. Wanting Obama to fail from wrecking a country we all hope succeeds is not something a GOP politician should necessarily say, but is something Rush should be able to say from his perch outside the party. CPAC featured speakers who were still peddling the Obama-is-not-a-citizen nonsense to applause from the crowd. Let's distance ourselves those bumbling ignoramuses, not successful, well-honed voices like Rush.

While You Were at CPAC

In case you've been living in a cave or something, the left has lately gotten good at campaigns to delegitimize and destroy up-and-coming Republicans long before they have a chance at running for President.

For Sarah Palin, the nutroots-ginned-up stories ranged from the fabulist notion that she wasn't the mother of her own child or blowing up stories like questioning her role in the Bridge to Nowhere -- stories that to date generated little controversy even among her local enemies -- into national firestorms.

More often than not, the process goes something like this: a Daily Kos diarist posts something, which is then on Olbermann the next night. Pseudo-journalistic outfits like TPM start making phone calls, which gives the guys at Politico just enough cover to start get in on the action, making it an MSM story, embroling the targeted Republican and forcing them to respond. In Palin's case, sick Daily Kos rumors were given enough credence to precipitate the disclosure of her daughter's pregnancy, which itself became a pretty big national story.

The left's latest search-and-destroy mission is against Bobby Jindal, centering on the segment in Jindal's speech where he talked about commisserating with the late Sheriff Harry Lee about bureaucratic bungling in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. 

It started with a Daily Kos diary shortly after Jindal wrapped up his speech on Tuesday night, the 24th.

This prompted Keith Olbermann to declare Jindal's story of talking to Sheriff Harry Lee "apparently not true" on the Wednesday night's broadcast.

By Thursday, a Zachary Roth piece in TPM Muckraker poured gasoline on the fire, keying off the original Daily Kos diary and adding in some Nexis searches. Roth calls the Governor's office to ask for comment.

On Thursday night, Erick Erickson is the first to push back in Jindal's defense, noting accounts from Sheriff Lee's deputies. There is also a YouTube video of Lee, at the time in question, recounting visits from Jindal.

By Friday morning, the story is all consumming. Politico's Ben Smith, going on Roth's TPM piece, is on the phone for multiple rounds with Jindal's office. That day, Roth files two more dispatches, again based on first-hand reporting.

The Young Conservatives Coalition: An Opportunity to Reshape and Restructure the Movement

BOTTOM LINE UP FRONT: Message to young conservatives who are tired of being told that they're the future of the movement -- it's our turn!

Patrick Ruffini has focused on how Republicans on electoral entrepreneurship, and Rebuild the Party was born. Jon Henke has encouraged political and public policy entrepreneurship, and it encouraged me to focus on building a new theme for an agenda that the Right can move forward with: an agenda of equal opportunity. We did these things because we saw the need for a fundamental change for the Right, the Republican Party and conservatives in how we run campaigns, to formulate policy, to communicate principles, etc.

But when it comes to the conservative movement (the people, the organizations, the institutions), it seems as though some of the status quo leaders are still in the wilderness: still wanting to run a 1980s version of an election, still harkening back to Reagan, still valuing old methods of communication, and (most disappointingly) still shunning any intellectualism. Nothing confirmed these feelings more than going to CPAC today: looking at the agenda, attending some panels and speeches, and roaming through the halls of the Omni Shoreham Hotel.

I'm not sure that we're sending the right message about how best to advance conservatism to many of the students and young people attending CPAC. As Daniel Ruwe points out, if and when conservatives do have the White House and Congress again, it's not guaranteed that Republican control of government will lead to less of it. As Daniel asks: is it possible to advance conservatism?

Well, young people now have an opportunity to share their ideas on how to reshape and restructure the conservative movement: the Young Conservatives Coalition ...

In order to educate and articulate conservatism to a new American generation of voters and activists, a representative group of young professional conservatives in the Washington, DC area have formed the Young Conservative Coalition (YCC). They will formally launch their organization during their "Rebuilding the Movement" Brainstorming Session at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this Friday, February 27th from 10-11 AM at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in the Palladian Ballroom in Washington, DC.

"The YCC is an advocacy organization dedicated to leading the next generation of the conservative movement by organizing and mobilizing young professional conservatives across the country," stated YCC President Christopher Malagisi. "It's our turn to step up and start taking a greater leadership role within the movement by harnessing the power and ingenuity of young conservatives, while at the same time dispelling the myth that all voters under the age of 40 are liberals."

I am a charter member of YCC, and was a part of coming up with the Lake Anna Declaration, a platform for young conservatives to look to for 2009. I don't like everything in the platform, and a few things that I would've liked to see in the platform aren't in there. But the fact is that it should serve as a baseline for how the conservative movement can advance our principles in creative ways, and even promote healthy debate over how to formulate sound public policy.

There's one thing in the platform that I think all of us can agree with:

Every challenge facing the American people does not require a federal office and federal funding, especially during times of economic uncertainty.

For those of you at CPAC, please join the launch of the Young Conservative Coalition tomorrow morning, participate in "Rebuilding the Movement" brainstorming session and make your voice heard. Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) will be joining us.

Why did I join the YCC? Simple. I'm tired of being told that I'm the future of the movement. I'm here now. I'm ready now. Yes, this is only the first step towards reshaping the conservative movement, but it will be a great start!

CPAC Notes: Day One

Today is the first day of CPAC at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington DC.  I attended today from roughly 9:30 to 1:30.  Here are my observations:

  • Most interesting development of the day.  Both Paul Ryan and Steve Moore advocated restoring the gold standard.  Before today, I didn't know of mainstream "movement" type conservatives who were advocating fixing the currency.  I guess the influence of Ron Paul is growing.
  • Michael Barone drew upon his extensive knowledge of the political realm to offer advice on what conservatives need to do to win again.  One obvious focus was on the youth vote.  Another idea was to exploit the tensions within the Obama coalition--a top-bottom coalition with varying goals and priorities.  If a new Obama proposal to repeal tax deductions on charitable donations is passed, then it would adversely affect the affluent voters that gave Obama strong support.
  • I didn't really care for Saul Anuzis' quip that there are two kinds of people, "Democrats and Americans."  That approach is surely the road back to majority status.  The rest of his talk was fine, but that tone will only appeal to the already converted.
  • 27 year old Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock was very impressive.  He already could artiiculate his beliefs better than many long time veterans.  He also advocated for expanding conservative outreach to places we don't go, like black and Hispanic communities.  He should have a bright future.
  • Last speech I saw was Mike Pence, who got the crowd on its feet the most because he hit the applause lines very hard.  There will be no backing down on Pence and the House Republican caucus's part.  He said that "Republicans will be faithful and loyal in our opposition.
  • I also had the pleasure of meeting Rob Willington, director of Rebuild the Party, in line at Chipotle.  It is nice to meet people who you only see online.

The next two days will be busier, so I imagine there will be better things to report back.


CPAC Agenda Shows Conservatives Still in Denial

The theme of this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) should be “Cocooning our way to Irrelevancy” or perhaps “How to lose the next 5 elections in 10 easy steps.”

From my point of view, it really is that bad. With the exception of some effort to bring conservatism into the 21st century communications-wise, the program appears to be an excellent panacea for what ailed conservatism in about 1980. It’s as if the debacles of 2006 and 2008 never happened. Does it matter that the very same people who helped get us clobbered the last two election cycles are running seminars and roundtables at the conference? Not if you’re a movement still in denial that it will take more than “message tweaking” and better utilization of the internet to bring conservatism back and make it relevant to a large portion of Americans again.

The side conference being sponsored by PJTV - “Conservatism 2.0” – looks interesting but here again, we have familiar faces who haven’t expressed much interest in real conservative reform. (Some panelists on the communications side are the exception.) Glenn Reynolds and Michelle Malkin are internet friends of mine and I agree with them on many issues. But are they really the people to be running a “Conservatism 2.0” conference? Perhaps I misunderstand what they are trying to accomplish. And I may be pleasantly surprised. But before we can even get to “Conservatism 2.0” perhaps we should be thinking of taking a remedial course in what conservatism should mean in our modern society. I’m afraid this sort of introspection will reveal how far afield conservatism has strayed but may also generate thoughts and ideas about how conservatism can be relevant in a 21st century industrialized democracy.

Online activism is fine and seeking new ways to communicate is an excellent idea. But does it matter what we will be trying to get across? If so, I’m not sure that this PJTV side conference will accomplish anything useful.

Alright…so. My idea of “reform” is probably a helluva lot different than most conservatives. But maybe we could start with the recognition that in elections, the way you win is by getting one more vote than the other side. And no matter how you want to add up the numbers, the 30% of so of the nation that identifies itself as “conservative” will always fall short of 50% + 1. I hate to break this news to my fellow conservatives; you can use any kind of mathematical hocus pocus you wish but there just aren’t enough of us to only allow “true conservatives” a place at the table. The absence of conservatives like David Frum, Peggy Noonan, David Brooks, and others who probably agree with 90% of conservative positions on the issues but have been driven from the movement for their apostasy—real or imagined—is as incomprehensible as it is depressing.

This is the way back? It’s not a question of being “moderate” or “true-blue” but rather how long does conservatism want to wander in the wilderness? Ideas on how to reform conservatism—and I speak of real reform, not the cosmetic solutions that appear will be offered at CPAC —must come from as many sources as possible. Some conservatives might not like the smell inside the “Big Tent” but turning up your nose at people who disagree with you on one or two issues is just plain nuts. “Litmus tests” and the like are all well and good unless you are a minority, getting smaller and less relevant, and don’t wish to find a way back in order to compete in the marketplace of ideas.

Our dire situation doesn’t seem to have sunk in yet. This is evident by how many sessions are scheduled that appear to have been lifted from the agenda of a decade or more ago. To wit:

ACU blows it on threat of CPAC facebook group legal action

The American Conservative Union sent a message to Beau Correll, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney in Martinsville, VA, and former National Coalitions Director for Rep. Tom Tancredo's presidential campaign, who created a facebook group right after CPAC 2008 to gin up excitement for CPAC 2009. The letter informed Beau that ACU would take legal action to get the facebook group removed. Beau sent the letter out to the whole group. All of the letters are below.

ACU is wrong and doesn't get it.

First of all, these are supporters who have publicly declared their intention to go to CPAC, mostly a year early. Why on earth would you antognize them? These are mostly people who have attended in the past. Beau and the other organizers tried to bottle the excitement from the last CPAC and drive it forward for the next. I do not recall a CPAC in recent years that I did not get an invite to join a similar group immediately after CPAC. This is standard practice, and if ACU didn't do it, they were clearly behind the curve.

Second, this shows how so much of the old conservative movement doesn't understand how organizing has changed. The barrier to entry for supporters to organize is so low, especially on social networks. You no longer controll your brand, just as candidates can no longer control their message. They can shape it, but there is such a cacophony of organizers and activists who share your goals that all you can do is share information with them. Again, I know Beau, and I cannot imagine that he would not have helped.

It seems like we run into this routine every couple of months. Candidates try to take over groups, turning organizers into adversaries because they insist on total control and won't play nice. Why won't candidates or organizations learn?

See all the correspondence after the jump. And join the group.

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