March 26, 2004

Comment that ate Tokyo..

I've been swapping some comments with my friend Dave Trowbridege, but my comments have grown like The Blob and absorbed all my blogging energy, (blobbing energy?) so I'll just make this one a post...

There's a lot of things I'd like to answer, but they really need long blogposts—maybe soon

But I've got to hit one point. Rush Limbaugh is NOT a demagogue.

1. Rush usually backs up his attacks with facts and logic. I've listened to them, sometimes at tedious length. I predict, without having heard him recently, that Rush is even now attacking Richard Clarke not with invective or cries of treason, but with facts and with honest argument. I predict that he's comparing Clarke's testimony in August 2002 with what he is saying now, and demonstrating that Clarke has serious credibility problems. (And I furthermore predict that Leftists like Neiwert will say that Clarke is being brutally attacked by the Republican smear machine. And then use those "smear tactics' as "evidence" of the fascistic trend of the Conservative Right.)

2. Neiwert says somewhere something like "Rush is trying to drive a wedge between the workers and the middle class." But I've several times heard Rush talking with callers who are poor or unemployed. And he shows concern and listens, and then passionately urges them to keep faith and keep trying, to believe in education and hard work and American values. He tells about his own hard times, and urges them to avoid dependence on government handouts as much as possible. Rush keenly wants the poor to move to the middle class. Of course a leftist might hate that, but it's not demagoguery—he never suggests that people are being "kept down" by sinister forces. And it's the opposite of "vile;" His warmth and sincerity are palpable.

3. Rush often listens to arguments of people who disagree with him. I suspect they go to the head of the queue. He's respectful, draws them out, listens, makes counter-arguments, suggests they might want to give his ideas some thought, gives them a free subscription to his newsletter....He doesn't call them crazy, or impugn their honesty. Most importantly, he is setting an EXAMPLE for his millions of listeners of engagement with differing ideas. That's not what a demagogue would want to do.

4. Rush constantly urges people to think about what he's discussing. One of his jokes is to say "Don't think about this. Just listen to me and I'll tell you exactly what to believe." Which of course is a reminder that people should think for themselves. (Sorry for explaining a joke. Somebody would be sure to miss the point if I didn't.)

5. Rush's ideas are mainstream American Conservative, and he sticks to them. A demagogue would abandon his principles for political expedience. But Rush has strongly criticized the Bush Administration for overspending, for increasing the size of Government, for Medicare. Also he doesn't traffic in conspiracy theories. No black helicopters, no hidden foes that can't be named.

6. It's not demagogic, or fascistic (or vile) for a Conservative to attack Liberalism! Or Big Government, the UN, "multilateralism" or "multiculturalism." That's what American Conservatives BELIEVE, and have all along. (I was introduced to conservative notions back in the 1950's! But that's another tale) One of the many logical flaws in Neiwert's essay is to critique conservatives as if they should hold leftist principles. He cites attacking the UN and multilateralism as de facto evidence of the ugly drift of the Right. But we've attacked the UN consistently from the moment it was mooted. (And with the same arguments all along, which have nothing to do with dislike of foreigners. Read den Beste on Tranzis, and you'll get the drift)

There are legitimate criticisms that can be made about Rush, and I don't always agree with him myself. And he is hard-hitting and brutally combative, and not always fair. But that fits a lot of people on the Left too. You probably disagree with many of his positions, but they can all be argued with, because they are based on facts and ideas, not the slippery insinuations of a demagogue. (And by the way, I never listen to Michael Savage. I think he's a loon. And I've never listened to Rush except when driving. I'd much rather read a book or a blog.)

And speaking of arguing, what exactly is "the (true) conservative position?" You are very coy about your own ideas, which is a bit unfair if you are going to attack others. I loved Exordium, but your ideas aren't in a pin-downable form there.

Posted by John Weidner at March 26, 2004 10:20 AM
Weblog by John Weidner