Driving to the gym today, my radio was set to the talk station. Rush Limbaugh was going on with disdain for voters in "the squishy middle," who he called "moderates who don't know what they believe." He kept insisting that Republicans accept only the positions of their "base" and not "pander" to moderates just to expand chances to win elections.
Now, I'm pretty conservative in my views, but on several issues, I'm one of those for whom Rush would refuse to compromise. For example, while I'm strict about the economy--feeling the "bailout," and even more so the "stimulus package" thwarted our robust system's ability to self-correct--I'm rather "squishy" on environmental issues. And, given that I know and love some of them, I have sympathy for immigrants who left beloved children behind and endured arduous travels and risky starts to come to our land in order to work hard. Because of these and a few other views, I suspect Rush would disqualify me from the Republican "base" he extols.
Hearing a talk host I respect bash a whole amorphous category of voters got me riled. But even worse, it clarified why Democrats and Obama are riding high with the slogan "we're gonna help you," while the party that more closely reflects my positions seems to be contracting. And it's going to keep diminishing if touted Republican spokesmen continue spurning rather than welcoming people who mostly agree.
Frustration made me turn off the radio before I reached the gym, but an hour later, sticky and energized, I headed home and thought I'd give it another try. But it was as if no aerobics class had intervened--Rush was repeating exactly the same mantra: "We've got to stand on our core principles," he preached, "we can't move from our ideals just to include a wider group." Rush even said Jack Kemp, certainly a man of principle but also a man of magnanimity, emblemized not budging from his values.
I'm afraid we're in for some long-term Obama-izing of the system unless conservatives understand that inclusion is the name of the game. "The Base," whatever that means, will be there; it's us in "the squishy middle" who gravitate to the hospitable, the hopeful, the place flexible enough to offer both a "core" and some room for creativity and even indecision.
The other day I was talking to a friend who is a lifelong Democrat, but as she's gotten more comfortable with religion, has also moved in her values toward conservatism. She confided that while she now couldn't abide abortion personally, she didn't see why the government should prevent non-religious women in the early stages of pregnancy from having safe access. Government funding for them would be unacceptable to her; government neutrality in the first trimester seemed sensible. But the hard line against abortion by Republicans means she keeps voting contrary to her views on the economy, marriage and the war on terror--all much more urgent issues where conservatives could really use her support.
This friend agrees with Republicans on 80% of the issues, but can't jump parties because she feels shut out by hard lines. This does get depressing. Positions on social issues are shaped by all sorts of personal experiences and feelings, but the government, especially on a federal level, needs a "macro" role, and mostly, it needs to minimize any role at all. That should be what I hear on talk radio--characteristics to foster in government, not in members of a political party. We need to talk about positive ways to return government to its basics of protecting the country from harm and encouraging innovation and business prosperity.
This stuff about who's a "true conservative" versus who's intruding and polluting some kind of party purity turns me off. Sorry Rush, Ill turn my radio back on for the next host, the one who likes me just as I am.