‘Victory” is not exactly what I’m feeling right about now. After the month we’ve had, I’ll bet I’m not alone. Which is why Sean Hannity’s timing is just about perfect.
Today, he releases a new book, Conservative Victory, which he describes elsewhere on NRO. In it, he demonstrates the same clarity he showed before the 2008 election, when he was way ahead of the curve in reporting about Jeremiah Wright and detailing what he read in Dreams of My Father.
Essentially, the book is a full-throated case for principled partisanship. Hannity sees, simply speaking, two worldviews in American politics today. For all the differences within each of the camps, they still boil down to two basic ways of looking at the world: One sees America as exceptional, based on a natural law, and an incubator of freedoms; the other sees America as a nation that — like Cambridge cop James Crowley — has acted “stupidly,” both in recent policy and remote history, for which stupidity it must apologize and atone — and offer reparations in the form of government handouts at home and spinelessness abroad.
Hannity describes the state of play between the two sides in the plainest possible terms: “I believe we’re facing a crossroads in America’s future — a choice between, on one hand, a disastrous path of socialism at home and weakness on the world stage, and on the other, free-market capitalism, moral authority, and steadfast security.” If you doubt him, think back over the past week — not only to the health-care vote, but also to the little-talked-about student-loan takeover that went along with it.
This is exactly what Hannity, during the 2008 campaign, warned would happen, and his book rehearses facts we’ve known all along about Barack Obama — his early influences and pre-presidential record — that should have made it obvious that he is a radical liberal. Hannity, in his review section, highlights a particularly condescending passage of Dreams from My Father in which Obama describes himself as “extremely well mannered when compared to other American children. [My mother] had taught me to disdain the blend of ignorance and arrogance that too often characterized Americans abroad.”
Obama won despite his own tendency to condescension and arrogance, partly because he spoke with a conservative pitch from time to time — even though doing so required him to lie. “The left may wax complimentary today about Ronald Reagan’s personal attributes,” Hannity warns, “but don’t believe them for a minute: They were vicious toward him when it really mattered.” It’s almost as if Hannity predicted that President Obama would cite Ronald Reagan in his final health-care rally to the Democratic caucus (which Obama did).
Hannity sees Obama’s characteristic arrogance in the Democrats’ health-care reform — “They knew [what] was in the people’s best interest even if they were too ignorant to realize it themselves” — which is why he has such sympathy for the tea partiers, who, he thinks, are feeling “an unprecedented degree of alarm . . . about the direction of this country.”
Here he does the Republican party a huge favor: He makes the case for the GOP as the proper recipient of the tea parties’ political support.
Hannity doesn’t treat it as a given that the GOP will become the tea partiers’ electoral home; the GOP has to earn it. But he throws freezing-cold water on third-party talk — although he confesses to having considered it after watching Republicans do dangerously dopey things such as confirming Eric Holder as attorney general. But the “throw the bums out” reflex is not necessarily the most “constructive,” he cautions. And given his reasonable coverage of the tea-party movement (a far cry from the likes of MSNBC and the Washington Post), I would surmise that Hannity’s book is addressed exactly to the audience most prone to that reflex.
Hannity warns Republican candidates to stick to conservative principles — especially after being elected:
When Republican Party leaders forget who they are — when they lose the courage of their convictions, abandon their principles, dilute their policy positions in that quixotic quest to be more moderate or to appeal to independents — history tells us that they lose the confidence of their constituents. . . . How well did centrist John McCain fare against Barack Obama? McCain was the liberals’ ideal Republican: a centrist, a moderate, a guy who agreed with them on campaign finance reform and torture and was always willing to attack his fellow Republicans. But even against the most radical leftist who has ever run for the office of the presidency under the banner of one of the two major political parties, the centrist, John McCain, got trounced.
Hannity points to the Contract with America as a success, but one that was incomplete in messaging, implementation, and follow-through. And he’s realistic about the reasons for Republican losses of late — he doesn’t delude himself or allow others to excuse those political defeats as merely cyclical:
The Republican Party has achieved major reforms in the past several decades. But they haven’t been able to build sufficiently on those gains, nor have they been able to stop the perpetually expanding federal government — no doubt in large part due to Democrats, but also because they lost their own way. In both the 2006 and 2008 elections, Republicans were punished — “thumped,” as President Bush said — for abandoning their conservative principles. Ironically, the voters turned out the Republicans for their spending excesses, only to replace them with Democrats who would dwarf them in the spending department.
But past failures are no excuse for whining, and neither is the irony that Americans punished spending excesses by electing excessive spenders: “We can cry unfairness all we want, but no matter what Democratic politicians do, Republicans cannot excuse themselves by pointing the finger at their rivals.”
Self-consciously, Conservative Victory is a self-help book aimed at guiding the Right to electoral success. “[W]e must conquer whatever insecurities may recently have handicapped us in the marketplace of ideas. We must learn again to believe in ourselves and the superiority — yes I said it, superiority — of our beliefs and our policy prescriptions.”
While he describes himself as a “Reagan conservative,” Hannity isn’t living in the past, and encourages the Right kind of policy innovation — “a new, positive vision” of “bold, ambitious ideas” “tailored to meet our current challenges, but based on our timeless principles,” while warning against mere “gimmicks.” Hannity devotes a chapter to outlining, in very broad strokes, a vision for the future. To lead effectively, Republicans must, in part, “draw clear and sharp distinctions” on national security, offer more than “phony platitudes” on economy policy, and prove themselves “responsible stewards of the environment” while promoting energy independence.
Reading Conservative Victory, it’s easy for one to see why Hannity is so popular on radio and TV. The bottom line with Sean Hannity is always a tireless optimism and a faith in American “resilience.” As the White House plots to divide the Right in time for the midterms — using immigration seems to be their likely route — Hannity seeks to remind conservatives, Republicans, and the right-leaning tea-party crowd how much they have in common with one another. It’s certainly more than they have in common with the folks who, two weeks ago, kept Congress in Sunday session until they got their way, the will of the people be damned.
In Conservative Victory, Sean Hannity has no interest in reinventing the wheel and doesn’t pretend to try. His point to conservatives and Republicans is simple and fundamental: The American people are largely with us; they’re open to our ideas, so let’s present those ideas and, once elected, let’s be true to them. Let’s have integrity. That’s the only victory worth having.
– Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.