Prescriptions for the Other Side
Those all-powerful radio hosts are to blame for the Republicans’ misfortunes, according to Steven Stark. If that’s the case, perhaps liberals’ difficulty succeeding in the medium was a function of strategy. More seriously, I’d point out that Stark has picked two moments in history and asserted a trend, even though Republicans’ fortunes have been more of an arc since the late ’80s than a downward slide.
But let’s allow that some percentage of the electorate has been driven away from the Republican Party out of aversion to heated, audio-only rhetoric. I’d argue that the perception is a generated one. Even the characterization of “the relentless stream of invective from the right side of the dial” is an arguable description, especially in comparison with the viciousness of the Left, in the multiple media that it controls. And it hardly explains why the affable President Bush is so unpopular.
To be sure, Bush’s big-government results are far from the conservative ideal. Some might go so far as to accuse the president of trying to be the populist that Stark is gratified to see in Mike Huckabee. At least in the realm of political theory, conservatives are justified in complaining that their philosophy is inaccurately tarred by association with Mr. Bush.
And there’s the edge of the paper covering Stark’s argument: President Bush was vilified as a conservative, and conservative media stars are portrayed as beyond-the-pale invective slingers, even when their rhetoric is no more heated or divisive than many a successful liberal. If Mike Huckabee had emerged victorious from the Republican primaries, we’d have spent the last six months hearing what a fire-breather he is.
The lesson for conservatives, in short, is not that it needs to present nice, conciliatory policies, or to take mollifying the skittish middle as a priority. To be sure, I’m a fan of calmness and good humor, but I’d suggest that the liberals who are currently deigning to review the faults of the right are not really complaining about style, but about content, and the only way to remedy that is to change our very nature and to turn a blind eye to reality.