Media Matters

Rush & Reagan

Unserious critics are trying to write them off in the race for the Republican nomination.

By 1.22.08

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This past weekend saw the vocalization of a much hoped-for wish of liberals everywhere: that, as one left-wing blogger put it, "Republicans are a collection of 'Lost Boys' right now, desperately looking for a national leader in the wake of the Bush disaster." Juan Williams on Fox News Sunday happily posited, "There's not a re-assembling of the Reagan Coalition."

From the right, movie critic and radio talk-show host Mike Medved has concluded that "the big loser in South Carolina was, in fact, talk radio: a medium that has unmistakably collapsed in terms of impact, influence and credibility because of its hysterical and one-dimensional involvement in the GOP nomination fight."

Medved went on to explain that "[John] McCain and [Mike] Huckabee are both decent and principled conservatives." I don't know about you, but a Republican who recently called the U.S. Constitution "a living breathing document" and another who is the icon of those who seek to curtail political free speech don't represent my idea of conservatism. But are there any conservative candidates in the race who can win the nomination?

Old reliable Frank Rich, writing aboard the sinking ship that is the New York Times, has a predictably leftist answer. In a charming pieced titled "Ronald Reagan Is Still Dead," he opines: "The G.O.P. presidential field's lack of demographic diversity by age, gender, ethnicity or even wardrobe, let alone race, is simply the leading indicator of how out of touch its brand has become."

This kind of logic recalls the fashion stylings of Democrats past; like Al Gore's alpha-male, beige trousseau or John Kerry's blue bunny suit.

SO FAR WE'VE heard that the Reagan Coalition is dead, conservatism is in tatters, and the influence of talk radio giants like Rush Limbaugh has gone belly up. As to the first charge, it's true that none of the current roster of candidates is Ronald Reagan; but that's akin to saying that the GOP is no longer the party of Lincoln because there's no Honest Abe in the race.

What has changed is that, just as we have let the opposition obscure the fact that it was Republicans, and not Democrats, who supported and passed the Civil Rights Act, we have also allowed them to define conservatism and its true adherents for us.

So how should we interpret the early primary results? Well, in the first two contests, Iowa and New Hampshire, the majority of registered voters are Independents, and this showed when they cast their ballots for "surprise" winner Mike Huckabee and John McCain, respectively.

McCain and Huckabee also finished one/two in South Carolina, a state that has the most sizable military presence of any in the Union, as well as a huge Southern Baptist population; tailor-made demographics for these two.

In the meantime, almost imperceptibly -- media-wise anyway -- Mitt Romney posted wins in Wyoming, Michigan and Nevada, racking up more delegates in those states than any of his rivals has scored in total so far.

In taking Nevada, Romney garnered only one less delegate than did McCain in capturing South Carolina, and with considerably less fanfare. Romney's current delegate total (72), in fact nearly doubles that of his closest rival, the senator from Arizona (38). Out of a possible 2,380 national delegates, so far only 156, or just 6 percent, have been chosen; hardly a reason for panic.

So why are McCain and Huckabee, and once again, Rudy Giuliani, garnering all the ink and airwaves while Romney does not? The answer is simple: conservatism is not dead. If it were truly dying, its opponents would do more to attack its principles and tenets instead of propping up its false practitioners on the basis of their personal magnetism or populist allure.

IF THE REAGAN Revolution is stalled in this election cycle, it is because those at the head of the movement have stopped emphasizing its personal appeal to the average American. This is not the fault of Limbaugh -- who is rightly perturbed that he must constantly spell out a candidate's conservative bona fides or lack thereof -- but of those who forget that conservative ideals can resonate with voters in a way that liberalism cannot.

While folks who listen to Limbaugh can proclaim their core beliefs from the rooftops, liberal "values" must be slowly indoctrinated into the mainstream. This is why liberal talk radio is such a failure. Except for their radical base, not many people can take the left-wing mantra straight up. To succeed, they must cloak their message in pleasant euphemisms like "choice" and "equal rights."

Whatever polls may say, the majority of the American people do not embrace higher taxes, the culture of perpetual victimhood, government intervention in their lives, the taking of innocent life, and the defeat of our military at the hands of those who would see us all dead.

The first candidate who climbs up on the rooftop with the Rush and the rest of us and shouts these things out loud will be the one who walks away with the prize this summer.

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About the Author

Lisa Fabrizio is a columnist who hails from Connecticut (mailbox@lisafab.com).