My friend Brittany Pounders has a scathing ‘task-taking-to’ for some of the ‘leaders’ of conservatism posted at Liberty Juice today. It’s a really solid narration of some of the debates, arguments, and abuse she (and others like her, including myself) have been engaged in or subject to in this election cycle over the candidacy of Donald Trump.
She holds nothing back, and steps to her targets with this:
‘They’ve used and peddled their influence for ill-gotten gains and mocked those of who have stood in the gaps, oftentimes at calling us “RINO’s and elitist” as we’ve stood in the middle of the road while the traffic bears down us, waving the flag of remembrance in honor of the constitutional principles laid shredded in the wake of their profits.’
Read the whole thing – it’s powerful and irate and well-articulated.
While I’ve been as angry (arguably more angry) with the situation, I want to step back a moment from my anger to tell you a story.
As I never tire of telling people, I’ve been active in Republican politics for nearly two decades; in fact Brittany and I have been in the same district working to influence Republican politics for years. For that, we’ll probably be called (again) part of the ‘establishment’ and whatnot. But my point is that both of us do more than write and speak about conservatism. We’re on the ground, where we live, working for it as well. I believe I can speak for her, too, when I say that we talk the talk precisely because we have also walked the walk. We’ve been engaged in practical politics for years, and we have therefore much to say about how event this cycle have affected the people we see on the ground.
So having set that up, let’s all flashback to the 2008 election cycle. Rush Limbaugh was on the air pitching his idea: Operation Chaos. He exhorted Republican voters in open primary states to cross over and vote in the Democratic primary for Hillary Clinton. Clinton was losing to Obama time and again, and the thinking went that helping her secure the nomination would enable Republicans to beat her handily in a general election.
Tens of thousands of people did this. In fact, many of them were first-time primary voters. Rush’s plan had convinced them to do something that was out of character for them – vote in a primary election. I thought that was a hugely positive aspect, because so few people take part in the political process, and the primary process is a good way to get started. And it proved to me that if you tell people how important their actions can be, how they can actually make a difference, they will be more inclined to try. It breeds hope. And it’s one of the reasons why I spent the next six years developing and presenting training sessions to teach people how to get involved – ‘if they know, they just might go.’
I saw Operation Chaos myself in my own precinct in 2008. I had sixteen or so people come back after the polls closed to participate in the convention process. Meanwhile the Democrats in my precinct had to deal with two or three hundred people for their convention process that night. Folks I knew were conservatives waited in those lines for hours, confident that they were doing something important. They did help Hillary win the primary in Texas, but those caucuses that night gave Obama the delegates he needed to prevail.
I noticed something in the years after Operation Chaos. Some of those people in my county who had crossed over to take part in Operation Chaos in the Democrat primary wanted to get more involved in the Republican party. They applied to fill leadership vacancies in their precincts, but when their names – and voting history – came up before Vacancy committees, that lone ‘D’ marker in their history stood out to party regulars (and non-Limbaugh listeners) as a huge red flag. Operation Chaos voters couldn’t be trusted, they said, because they had no R voting history, only D history. The local vacancy committee let chair positions remain vacant, rather than recommend these newcomers for approval.
(I find that both hilarious and frustrating, given that some of the fiercest advocates for conservatism have been liberals and Democrats at one time – such as Andrew Breitbart, Dana Loesch, and Brandon Darby.)
And you know, at my county party’s Executive Committee meeting last night, Operation Chaos was STILL causing chaos, as new chairs were being recommended by a new Vacancy committee. This time, the skepticism was from people in the body, rather than the committee, but those ‘D’ entries in chair candidates’ voting histories STILL have to be explained eight years after the fact.
Why does this matter?
Here’s why. The defense you’ll find to pieces like Brittany’s (and my own) is that Rush and his cohorts in conservative media are entertainers, not leaders. As I’ve said before, Rush has a job, and it’s to entertain people with the medium of politics. Hannity, Levin, Beck – all the usual suspects – have been excused at one time or another from responsibility, and from the effects of the things they say on air, as though the impact of what they say and do is divorced from the saying and doing of them. And we are here directly because of the outsized importance we’ve given to the cheerleaders and outrage-generators of the right. It’s also exactly what we’ve complained about for years with Jon Stewart: lots of punch, no responsibility.
But it’s very clear that people took Rush very seriously in 2008, and they FOLLOWED. Some of them are still feeling the repercussions of taking action based on his advice TO THIS DAY.
So, no, I’m sorry, conservative media ‘entertainers.’ You don’t get a pass on this. As I told Brittany, the backpedaling on the issue of Trump isn’t sufficient. Just as Heaven does, I rejoice in the restoration of the sinner. But though a sinner may indeed come to Jesus, there are still earthly repercussions from those sins that must be worked through.
‘Sorry’ isn’t enough.