Politics & Policy

Republican Civil War

Imitating Democrats has failed miserably to get votes.

As if it is not enough that they have been decimated by the Democrats in the past couple of elections, the Republican survivors are now turning their guns on each other.

At the heart of these internal battles have been attacks on Rush Limbaugh by Republicans who imagine themselves to be so much more sophisticated because they are so much more in step with the political fashions of the time.

New Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele’s cheap shot at Rush’s program as “ugly” set off the latest round of infighting. That is the kind of thing that is usually said by liberals who have never listened to the program.

Regular listeners to the Rush Limbaugh program or subscribers to the Limbaugh newsletter know that these contain far more factual information and in-depth analysis than do the programs or writings of pundits who use a more ponderous tone or put on intellectual airs.

Why Michael Steele found it necessary to say such a thing — except as a sop to the liberal intelligentsia — is one of the many mysteries of the Republican party. Steele has since apologized to Rush, but you cannot unring the bell.

More important, the mindset it betrays is at the heart of many of the problems of the Republican party, going back for years, long before Michael Steele appeared on the scene.

There has long been an element of the Republican party that has felt a need to distance themselves from people who stand up for conservative principles, whether those with principles have been Ronald Reagan, Rush Limbaugh, or whomever.

The latest example is John McCain’s daughter, who has said how embarrassed she is by having to explain Ann Coulter to her friends. If it wasn’t for articulate conservatives like Ann Coulter, both the Republican party and the country would be in even worse shape than they are now, for there are extremely few articulate Republican politicians who can make the case for any principle. Certainly Ms. McCain’s father is not one of them.

The only time John McCain led Barack Obama in the polls last year was after Governor Sarah Palin joined the ticket. The economic collapse doomed their candidacies, but McCain would have had no chance at all with another inconsistent and inarticulate Republican like himself on the ticket.

Yet many in the Republican party seem to have felt as embarrassed by Governor Palin as they have been by others who articulated principles, instead of trying to be in step with the fashions of the time — fashions set by liberals.

Maybe those Republicans who put a high value on being accepted in elite circles should be embarrassed by the narrowness of their elite friends, who disdain or demonize people whose principles they disagree with, instead of answering their arguments.

There has even been an undercurrent among some Republicans of a sense that it is time to move away from the image of Ronald Reagan, to update the party and court newer and less embarrassing segments of the voters than their current base.

There is certainly a lot to be said for inviting wider segments of the population to join you, by explaining how your principles benefit the country in general, and those segments in particular. But that is fundamentally different from abandoning your principles in hopes of attracting new votes with opportunism.

No segment of the population has lost more by the agendas of the liberal constituencies of the Democratic party than the black population.

The teachers’ unions, environmental fanatics, and the ACLU are just some of the groups to whose interests blacks have been sacrificed wholesale. Lousy education and high crime rates in the ghettos, and unaffordable housing elsewhere with building restrictions, are devastating prices to pay for liberalism.

Yet the Republicans have never articulated that argument, and their opportunism in trying to get black votes by becoming imitation Democrats has failed miserably for decades on end.

It seemed, for an all-too-brief moment, that Michael Steele might have been the one to provide such much-overdue articulation — and possibly he still might, but only if he stays out of the Republican trap of trying to appease opponents by throwing supporters to the wolves.

Thomas SowellThomas Sowell is an American economist, social theorist, political philosopher, and author, whose books include Basic Economics. He is currently senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

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