Friday, March 06, 2009

Wanted: An Anti-Limbaugh Big Mouth

This post over at Conventional Folly was a bit annoying at first blush, but then made sense:

I went and listened to the on-air debate between David Frum and Mark Levin at the urging of Massie and Sullivan, and I came away with the surprising conclusion that Levin definitely got the best of Frum (all use of the mute button aside). I think that’s because Frum is not acknowledging a sad fact: the dearth of charismatic political leaders on the right means that Levin’s incessant digs about relevance, as measured in “audience” for their respective work, actually matter. What good is the “idea leadership” espoused by Frum, Douthat/Salam, Brooks, et al. if it has little resonance with the mass of voters who make up the core of the Republican electorate?

The retort that Frum was unsuccessfully trying to make is that demagoguery, which is what Rush Limbaugh, Levin, and their ilk regularly engage in, is a sorry substitute for leadership. And, while that may very well be true, wonkery is an even more sorry substitute for leadership. The people don’t want nuance, substance, or even good ideas. They want something they can easily understand in sound-byte form, something that resonates with their simple, innate notions of justice, something they can repeat around the water cooler and feel good about. That’s something that writerly, intellectual types all too frequently miss. And, I hasten to add, it’s exactly what Barack Obama has been able to provide for the Democrats. (Emaphasis mine.)

I think he has a point. Frum, et al. are good writers, but in the world of politics, there needs to be someone that can take all this wonkery and distill it down to something that can be placed in a soundbite. As Marusic notes, Obama had a good way of taking all the Democratic wonk and distill into a wonderful speech. Bill Clinton could do that. So did Ronald Reagan. The thing is, someone like a Ross Douthat is not something that the average joe is going to get excited about. Which is why so many among the base like Rush: he can take "conservative" notions and make them easy to digest.

What the GOP needs is somewhat that can be "wonky" and accesible at the same time.It might be that someone like a Utah Governor Jon Huntsman could be the guy that takes thoughts from Frum, Douthat, Salam and others make then ready for mass consumption.

In the end, to reach out beyond the base that people like Frum (including myself) want to do, they need to find people who can translate that and make it presentable to the a water cooler conversation. Until that happens, the reform-minded conservatives will be on the losing end of the battle.


Call Stack said...


You're missing the point here. Obama does not distill policy down to digestible talking points. Many of his speeches are downright wonky. He respects his audience's intelligence and as a result dares to sometimes be boring. The imperative to dummy it down for the conservative masses doesn't say much for your party. Stamping out intellectual thought looks a little like the Khmer Rouge killing anyone found with glasses. You're an intelligent guy -- clearly this is not what you want your party to be about.

ormsby356 said...

Responding to David Frum comments he made recently:

I don't think Rush Limbaugh is the face of the party. I think he is just a popular radio host. He has too many faults to be considered as the leader of the party. He does have a roll in the GOP, but he is not PC enough to influence all conservatives. I think I seen a stat that 73 percent of men listen to him, that is not very good. Just because he is the number one radion host I guess over 600 channels. Does not mean that all agree with his views. I listen but disagree with him 40 to 50 percent of the time and I am a conservative. I do disagree that he is just one republican, I think he does influence many, but when it comes down to it I think he is more of a disctraction than a leader. I think President Obama is using him to distract from what he is doing. Talk about Rush and another trillion gone...