As the midterm elections and the lame-duck session of Congress clearly demonstrated, conservatives and conservatism are on the ascendancy.
Conventional wisdom after the historic election of President Barack Obama, though, hardly predicted such a quick revival. Liberal strategists were proclaiming 40 years of liberal dominance and many on the right were afraid to attack Obama, even his most liberal-leaning policies and pronouncements, for fear they would be called “racist.”
Many figures — ranging from Glenn Beck to Sarah Palin to Rick Santelli to the myriad of Tea Party organizers — have been given credit for contributing to conservatism’s quick revival.
None of these figures, though, would have been as successful as they were without the groundwork laid by two old conservative bulls — Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin — when conservatism seemed to be at its nadir.
Limbaugh and Levin issued clarion calls of sorts to discouraged conservatives. Limbaugh did so with a rousing and now legendary speech at CPAC that was covered endlessly. Levin did so by writing a book, “Liberty And Tyranny,” that was ignored by the mainstream media but discovered en masse by conservatives.
Limbaugh’s speech and Levin’s book reassured conservatives that they were the majority in what has always been a center-right country and conditioned them to fight against the liberal agenda Obama and Democrats would try to impose.
As the year and this Congress comes to an end, it is worth examining where the conservative revival started, particularly so conservatives do not stray from those principles once they gain more power inside the Beltway.
Limbaugh opened his CPAC speech by declaring that when conservatives “look out over the United States of America — we don’t see groups. We don’t see victims. We don’t see people we want to exploit. What we see — what we see is potential. We do not look out across the country and see the average American, the person that makes this country work. We do not see that person with contempt. We don’t think that person doesn’t have what it takes. We believe that person can be the best he or she wants to be if certain things are just removed from their path like onerous taxes, regulations and too much government.”
For the next two years, conservatives would rally fiercely against Democrats in Congress who tried to overtax and regulate everything from the economy to health care and the environment.
Limbaugh also reminded his audience at CPAC about past failures of misguided liberal attempts to remake society and warned against any future attempts to do so.
“We don’t want to tell anybody how to live. That’s up to you. If you want to make the best of yourself, feel free. If you want to ruin your life, we’ll try to stop it, but it’s a waste, ” Limbaugh said. “We look over the country as it is today, we see so much waste, human potential that’s been destroyed by 50 years of a welfare state. By a failed war on poverty.
“Their problems don’t get fixed by government. And those lives have been poisoned. Those lives have been cut short by false promises, from government representatives who said don’t worry about it, we’ll take care of you. Just vote for us.”
Limbaugh also warned that the media would love to brand conservatives as “racist” and that conservatives should not be fearful of being called racist just because they oppose Obama’s policies even though the race industry “won’t go away.”
“You know what the cliche is, a conservative: racist, sexist, bigot, homophobe. Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen of America, if you were paying attention, I know you were, the racism in our culture was exclusively and fully on display in the Democrat primary last year. It was not us asking whether Barack Obama was authentic. What we were asking is: Is he wrong? We concluded, yes. We still think so.”
And most importantly, Limbaugh emphatically reminded conservatives, that in a center-right nation, conservatives were not a minority, “and if you start thinking of yourselves as a minority, you’re going to be defensive. And you’ll allow the majority to set the agenda and the premise and you’re responding to it. The American people may not all vote the way we wish them
to, but more Americans than you now live their lives as conservatives in one degree or another. And they are waiting for leadership. We need conservative leadership. We can take this country back. All we need is to nominate the right candidate. It’s no more complicated than that.”
“In Liberty and Tyranny,” Levin was more surgical in how he predicted the leftward shift the Obama administration would try to impose on a center-right country. His book becomes even more prescient when read in hindsight.
For instance, in his chapter on “Faith and the Founding,” Levin wrote that “in ideology and practice, the Statist believes rights are not a condition of man’s existence but only exist to the extent the Statist ratifies them.” As if on cue, Obama infamously left out “by their Creator” when referring to the Declaration of Independence in what was an epic Freudian slip that revealed the fundamental difference between conservatives and liberals.
While conservatives believe rights are endowed by a Creator and thus cannot be taken away by a sovereign, liberals, more often than not, want to be the ones that grant rights to the citizenry. For if a sovereign grants rights, the sovereign can just as easily take those same rights away.
On immigration, Levin wrote, “No society can withstand the unconditional mass migration of aliens from every corner of the Earth. The preservation of the nation’s territorial sovereignty, and the culture, language, mores, traditions, and customs that make possible a harmonious community of citizens, dictate that citizenship be granted only by the consent of the governed — not by the unilateral actions or demands of the alien — and then only to aliens who will throw off their allegiance to their former nation and society and pledge their allegiance to America.”
Conservatives fiercely opposed The Dream Act, which would have provided pathways and multiple loopholes for amnesty, and supported a bipartisan effort undertaken by Arizonans, in passing SB 1070, to take back their borders because the federal government had been derelict in its duties for so long.
On what he called “enviro-statism,” Levin wrote that “the more dire” an environmental threat such as Global Warming is made out to be, “the more liberty people are usually willing to surrender. This scenario is tailor-made for the Statist.”
While Democrats tried to impose a “Cap and Tax” climate bill, which narrowly passed the House, by trying to scare Americans into thinking the world was going to end due to overheating, the fierce opposition to it by most Americans essentially killed the bill and cost many members of Congress who voted for the bill, such as Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.), their jobs.
And in writing about federalism and the commerce clause in his book, Levin took to task a Supreme Court decision which found it constitutional for the federal government to regulate “private economic activity conducted for the sole purpose of self-consumption and occurring wholly within a state’s borders.”
The Obama administration tried to stretch out the Commerce Clause even further by trying to force unwilling individuals to buy health insurance. And just last week, a federal judge in Virginia ruled it was unconstitutional for the federal government to attempt to mandate the purchase of health insurance and a Florida judge seemed to imply the same during oral arguments.
Besides giving conservatives the emotional lift and intellectual firepower and reassurance that many needed after the 2008 election, Limbaugh’s speech and Levin’s book showed how powerful conservatism is.
When the mainstream media showed images of Limbaugh jumping up and down at CPAC to try to mock him, thinking those images would turn off regular Americans, these Americans listened to Limbaugh’s words and most found them to make sense. And when the same mainstream media all but ignored Levin’s book (Levin is still ignored to this day by mainstream media elites, as evidenced by Barbara Walters’ editing out Sarah Palin’s response to her that she read Liberty and Tyranny), conservatives found it, gravitated toward it, and read it en-masse even as the New York Times and The Washington Post refused to review the book while it was glaringly on their best-seller lists.
In 1994, the GOP made Rush Limbaugh an honorary member of their incoming class.
If any honorary memberships are awarded when the GOP takes control of the House in January, they should go to Limbaugh and Levin.