While putting fresh newspaper in the birdcage this morning, I couldn’t help but notice the New York Times column from David Brooks, who takes a potshot at conservative radio hosts who boosted presidential candidates, including Fred Thompson. When not taste-tasting the latest latte flavors at exurban malls, Brooks can be found on PBS doing his best imitation of David Gergen.
Brooks belittles “lazy pundits,” of which he may be counted. How else to explain his attempt to portray conservatives as the entire Republican Party, or his seeming lack of understanding of the role individuals like Rush, Sean and Mark Levin play within the conservative movement?
It may be that Rush or Mark Levin, or now Fred, for that matter, endorse or encourage support for a particular cause, but conservatives, particularly grassroots conservatives, are independent thinkers. They do not simply walk in lock step with their radio overlords, unlike pundits in Washington who enjoy getting a call from the Obama White House and touting The One at every turn.
This is a good thing, not a failing. Republicans lost the election in 2008, not because of misplaced faith in the power of talk radio; they lost because as the party they broke trust with the conservative values that most Americans on some level agree with. And these are the same values many of our radio commentators espouse. And while conservative talk radio may not stuff the ballot box, it does have an impact: from the immigration debates of 2007-08 to the tea parties, the health care debate, and what I am sure now will be the critical debate over Obama’s bungling of Afghanistan.
Men like Rush, Sean, Mark and Fred were sticking to their principles, and talking about those principles, like free markets, the rule of law, respect for life, federalism, long before the 2008 campaigns, and have continued to do so. They haven’t shifted with the political winds. The same cannot be said for Mr. Brooks.