Having recently attended a youth leadership conference just over two weeks ago, I thought it worthwhile to take a look at some of the key speeches of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
CPAC was dominated by youth and it is my belief that the youth (college students) who attended the conference were most energized by Rush Limbaugh’s and Ron Paul’s speech.
It’s not that others were not good (and by good I mean they made conservatives feel secure in their conservatism), but for the most part, if you combine those two speeches, you can find the platform, the policies, and the values that the Republicans will be using to “take this country back” now.
The platform, policies, and values spoken about in the two speeches will be what create the ethos for youth who wish to lead the conservative movement into the future.
First off, the conservative movement should be thought of as more of an occupation than a movement. As Limbaugh claims in his “Address to the Nation,” factions within the “movement” are “seeking power to dominate it and worst of all redefine it.” He says, “Conservatism is what it is and it is forever.” That means it is not something you can bend, shape, flake or form.
If the premise for organization in the “movement” is that there’s “nothing stale about freedom” and “nothing stale about liberty”, the organization is not a movement no matter how strong. The movement is a guard, a guard seeking to withstand blows to a fort that many find to be sound and strong and that others find to be a house of cards.
To Limbaugh and his followers, the worst threat to conservatism is the fact that the party right now might be arguing over the way forward and worse, the ideology that the party will uphold when vying for election.
Limbaugh and conservatives have what progressives need --- a lexicon of buzzwords that can ensnare anybody who listens for a moment. Instantly, no matter where you are in Limbaugh’s speech, you can understand that he is seeking to appeal to your emotions and he is seeking to appeal to you based on his character. (Whether the emotions he is appealing to or his character is wrong is irrelevant.)
From the speech, one can pick up terms and phrases which are packaged and ready for any talk around the water cooler at work: “drive-by media”, “everybody to succeed”, “for country to succeed, individuals must succeed”, “producers” and “earners” (to characterize the most wealthy in America), “not about revenue generation, about control”, “we are Americans”, “Democrats seek failure of America”, etc.
I suppose the speech Limbaugh gave could be distilled and summed up with the many phrases that CNN chose to run in the lower left-hand corner of the screen under Limbaugh’s name as Rush Limbaugh spoke.
“Conservatives we love people. Our beliefs are core, are from our heart. We cringe to watch capitalism insulted. Liberals have 2 sets of rules: one for them, one for everybody else. We want the country to succeed. Conservatives want every American to be the best. Where is the compromise of all this spending? Stimulus package relies on the complacency of the American people. We got out of the recession (80s) with tax cuts. No reason to punish the wealthy. Capitalism: there will be unequal outcomes. Democrats have one responsibility: follow the Constitution. We conservatives can take our country back. Conservatives we don’t hate anybody. Pres. Obama wants people in fear and angst. We need conservative leadership. We conservatives are not quitting, we are not giving up.”
The conservative guard, not the conservative movement, is prepared to hold strong. The guard is prepared to convince Americans that the government wants them to think they are being discriminated and are not being allowed to live their lives as they please. And, the guard is prepared to make you treat the most wealthy in America with the utmost respect even as they get bailed out to supposedly increase the flow of credit in America and instead use it on corporate outings to the beach and office redecorations.
As misguided as one may think Limbaugh is, Limbaugh has the capacity, ability, and power to take the Democrats and the growing progressive movement on and win. So long as Rahm Emanuel and other Democrats will engage him, there is that small possibility that his views (which are a grandiose populist manifestation of what many Americans are thinking in their gut) win.
Americans know conservatism. Americans do not know progressivism.
They can define conservatism. Can they define progressivism?