Responding to Ponnuru and Wehner’s constructive, sane essay, Chait welcomes their contributions, but insists they also be willing to “identify or confront the forces within the party that prevent these reforms from succeeding”:
[W]here are the Republicans speaking in opposition to [Paul] Ryan and his allies? I haven’t seen a single one. Instead, they ignore the existing configurations altogether. Wehner had a blog post yesterday railing against “the refusal by Democrats to reform entitlement programs in general.” But Obama has been offering to reduce spending on Social Security and Medicare for two years now, in return for Republican agreement to spread the burden of the fiscal adjustment. They won’t take the deal.
Let me note once more this sentence from the State of the Union:
On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission.
Why was this not seized upon by the right? Another missed opportunity. Still, we finally have Conor’s wet dream. Sane conservative S E Cupp (her sanity means she has to be on MSNBC, not Fox) finally said it in last week’s cover-story for the New York Times Magazine:
“And we can’t be afraid to call out Rush Limbaugh. If we can get three Republicans on three different networks saying, ‘What Rush Limbaugh said is crazy and stupid and dangerous,’ maybe that’ll give other Republicans cover’ to feel comfortable disagreeing with him as well from time to time.”
Better still, she’s not backing down:
Some demanded I apologize. Others implied I just committed career suicide. Others still politely suggested I commit actual suicide.
I’ll end the suspense for some: There will be no apology. I make a living disagreeing with people who are far more successful, famous, wealthy and important than I am. I have spent thousands of hours on television and thousands of column inches criticizing the President of the United States. If you think I’m going to apologize for suggesting that it might be okay to disagree with a radio host sometimes, you don’t know me at all.
But I guess I’m not surprised at the rancor. For one, part of the point I was trying to make was that the impulse to defend anything and everything that a party heavyweight says — to the death — has the deleterious effect of making conservatives seem irrational and herd-like. No one is right all the time, and no one is above reproach. Limbaugh, who has frequently criticized Republicans, knows this better than anyone.
This gets a little defensive, but it still shows necessary courage:
I care deeply about the conservative movement, which is why I regularly put myself in a position to defend it in hostile territory, on liberal media outlets where I am usually outnumbered. It’s why I am my party’s biggest cheerleader when our leaders do the right thing. And it’s why I travel the country telling as many people as possible why conservative policies are better for them than liberal ones.
But it’s also why I risk friends and fans by calling out Republican elected officials, operatives like Karl Rove, the Republican National Committee, and conservative pundits when necessary. It’s no profile in courage, but merely common sense. We’ll never win credibility with new voters if we insist everything that every conservative says or does should be defended and justified.
Nothing has been more harmful for conservatism these last few years than its ruthless pursuit of heresy, its relentless policing of dissent, and its surrender to the most insular, extremist nutballs on talk radio and Fox. Maybe even Roger Ailes is beginning to realize this. But let us honor and remember Cupp for saying what needs to be said. Until Limbaugh – and all the cynical, money-grubbing, racist demagoguery he represents – is disowned publicly by major Republicans, the party will have a trivial chance of recovery. He is their Sistah Soldja. And the GOP awaits its Bill Clinton.