Monday, March 09, 2009

Compelling Conservative Commentary

Today I was drawn toward the headlines of several columns written by authors who are generally considered to situate themselves to the right of the political center, some closer to the middle than others, and one teetering on the fringe.

I see myself as a little bit left of center, and since I consider it important to try to know what the entire spectrum is thinking, I regularly seek these opinions out. It's easy enough; just surf Drudge and HuffPost and you'll have most of it covered pretty well.

I found three of these columns of particular interest and entertaining to read, and thought I would share some highlights from them, along with some miscellaneous thoughts.

By far the most high profile of the three is David Frum's cover story for this week's Newsweek, which details many of the ways that Rush Limbaugh is the wrong choice to act as either a point man for conservatives or as the de facto head of the GOP:
"Rush knows what he is doing. The worse conservatives do, the more important Rush becomes as leader of the ardent remnant. The better conservatives succeed, the more we become a broad national governing coalition, the more Rush will be sidelined.

But do the rest of us understand what we are doing to ourselves by accepting this leadership? Rush is to the Republicanism of the 2000s what Jesse Jackson was to the Democratic party in the 1980s. He plays an important role in our coalition, and of course he and his supporters have to be treated with respect. But he cannot be allowed to be the public face of the enterprise—and we have to find ways of assuring the public that he is just one Republican voice among many, and very far from the most important."
What Mr. Frum appears to be saying is that, as I've said before, Rush comes from an industry in which hype, exposure, and influence are tangible commodities. His quest for those in the quantities that satisfy his ego will maintain and exalt a dedicated base of listeners and GOP voters, but not in sufficient numbers to establish a winning consensus among the American electorate. Quoting again:
"Forty-one percent of independents have an unfavorable opinion of him, according to the new NEWSWEEK Poll. Limbaugh is especially off-putting to women: his audience is 72 percent male, according to Pew Research."
Of those within the Republican Party lining up to try and steer it toward continued relevance in the current political and economic climate, Rush Limbaugh is the nuclear option.

Speaking of fingers you would not want to have on the button, Michelle Malkin penned an interesting column trying to establish a connection between the 'tea party' protests popping up at different locations around the country and the philosophy of Ayn Rand, most effectively communicated through the character of John Galt in her novel Atlas Shrugged. Ms. Malkin passed along the stated interest of many 'tea partyers' of "going Galt", or deliberately reducing or eliminating their personal productive output so as to deny the government revenue, or at least get below the $250,000 income level.

I haven't read that book; I was more interested in The Fountainhead, which is rumored to be based on Frank Lloyd Wright. Both works contain within them as essential to the story Rand's core philosophies on individual achievement and liberty, laissez-faire capitalism, and according to Wikipedia:
"...holding that the sole function of government ought to be the protection of individual rights, including property rights. Rejecting faith as antithetical to reason, (Rand) opposed any form of mysticism or supernaturalism, including organized religion."
My first gut feeling when confronted with this approach is that it is inherently selfish. The attitude of scorn being stated in some circles for those with mortgage default and other problems is disturbing to me.

While I see some of the inherent value in an uncompromising approach to one's own productivity, this approach also raises a question that the Republican leadership will have to deal with, given Rand's disdain for religion and a stated contempt for what she termed
"today's mawkish concern with and compassion for the feeble, the flawed, the suffering, the guilty."

How do human beings act toward one another when they truly believe that they are not accountable to someone greater than themselves? How does the GOP balance something like that with its' evangelical base?

Thanks to Rick Wagner for highlighting the Malkin column. Ann Coulter with curves, indeed.

In the food for thought department, George F. Will deserves considerable attention for today's column on the Department of Agriculture and its' new head, former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack. The real topic was this Department's self-stated importance to so many facets of American life, primarily through our food supply.

Will went on to cite and lament the overabundance of corn-based foods and animal feed (which winds up as part of our food supply), and how this has contributed to obesity, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease since the end of World War II:
"Vilsack's department is entwined with the food industry that produces a food supply unhealthily simplified by the dominance of a few staples such as corn. This diet, (food author Michael) Pollan says, has made many Americans both overfed and undernourished."
I resemble these remarks. Leslie admonished me this evening for, in part, spending too much time typing and not enough being active in doing more things. It's up to me to change that, so I will start doing that. Small moves at first, but with the extra light of the day and a more temperate climate, it's time to break out the bicycle and start paying closer attention to what I stuff in my face each day.

Have a good rest of the week.

1 comment:

Gene Kinsey said...

You’ve written a thoughtful piece. I’d like to add a few thoughts.

There is a difference between selfishness and self-interest.

I too, want to help the less fortunate. I do not want the government to take money from me a gunpoint (if you think that is an exaggeration, try not paying your taxes) and give it to whomever the government thinks needs help. I’d like a little money left over to donate to Hospice or whatever I decide.

Most people who love to criticize Rush have never listened to him. They just repeat some criticism they’ve heard. Everyone who actually listens to him, tends to like his show. Ann Althouse, liberal blogger and law professor is an example. See, Rush is everyman - a self-made man, a college dropout, self-educated, thoughtful, funny and a great talker.