Talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh, himself considered a conservative icon, blasted this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference for drowning out tea partiers and those concerned with social issues, lamenting, “That’s not the CPAC that I’ve always thought of or known.”
Saying he was concerned that “I might just drum myself out of a movement,” Limbaugh blamed the “ruling class” at CPAC for missing the message of the 2010 election, namely that there is “an unmistakable conservative ascendancy happening in this country,” evidenced most prominently in the tea-party movement.
“But at CPAC, you didn’t get the impression here that there was a conservative ascendancy going on. You had a lot of people saying, ‘We gotta do something about that faction,’” Limbaugh said on his program today. “The tea party was under assault in its own way at CPAC. And you in the tea party understand full well the ruling class is not happy with you. And it was clearly obvious.”
Instead, Limbaugh said, CPAC seemed smitten with the idea of dumping traditionally conservative values in order to broaden the Republican Party’s tent.
“So you had a weird list of priorities and focus. I mean we had it all,” Limbaugh said. “We had GOProud, the gay conservatives. We had demands to legalize drugs, marijuana at CPAC. Most conservatives strongly oppose gay marriage and legalized pot.”
He continued, “The position of some people who spoke at CPAC: ‘Look, if you’re worried about immigration, stop it. We don’t want to be seen as racist. Stop talking about abortion, stop talking about the social issues, stop talking about all this. That’s only gonna hurt; we don’t need to deal with that in our party.’ This is what the ruling class guys were saying at CPAC.”
But one event in particular signaled to Limbaugh that something was different at this year’s conference:
“I mean, [Dick] Cheney got heckled, called a war criminal and a draft dodger at CPAC,” Limbaugh recalled. “Sorry, that’s not the CPAC that I’ve always thought of or known, [not when] a guy like Dick Cheney gets heckled and called a war criminal.”
The casualties of CPAC’s libertarian infatuation, Limbaugh said, were social conservatives.
“Social conservatives were dissed again at CPAC. And the ruling class cheering every speech made, every comment made that dissed the social conservatives,” Limbaugh said. “I shared with you I don’t know how many times the story of when I first became personally aware of this in the early 90s at a fashionable dinner part in the Hamptons with moneyed Republicans. They came up, ‘What are you gonna do about the Christians?’ meaning the pro-lifers. Nothing’s changed. Somehow we need to put aside the social issues. ‘We can’t let those people have a prominent position in our party or our movement. We just can’t have those people be a face of what we’re doing. It’s just gonna be a problem.’ And they use CPAC as the means of that.”
But sacrificing social issues for a big-tent agenda, the talk show host argued, would only divide the GOP’s political base, rather than expand it.
“There was this constant drumbeat that came from a lot of people, from Jeb Bush, from Mitch Daniels, a lot of people: ‘We gotta do something about these social conservatives. We gotta dump this,’ and I just have a question,” Limbaugh said. “Does the left ever dump any of its factions? Does the left ever hold a convention and say, ‘You know what, we gotta get rid of the Huffington Post people,’ or ‘We gotta deemphasize the Daily Kos?’ Does the left ever do anything it does to appeal to its enemies?”
Audio of Limbaugh’s comments can be heard below:
Instead of putting tea partiers and social conservatives at an arm’s length to strive for the political center, Limbaugh insisted, the GOP should embrace a Reagan-like commitment to political principle.
“Conservatism wins every time it’s tried, particularly when we have such obvious opportunities for contrasting what we believe,” the host said. “We don’t need to be reaching out to other people by giving them ‘conservatism light.’”
Not all of the host’s comments were critical, however. Limbaugh did stop to praise those who preached a purer brand of conservatism.
“Allen West was a humdinger of a closing act. I mean he was great,” Limbaugh pointed out. “I know Allen West. I’ve talked to him a number of times, real deal. He was superb.
“I’m just of the impression here that we don’t need to water down who we are, especially now,” Limbaugh said. “This notion that there are things about conservatism that are offputting, we’ve gotta change those things, we’ve gotta silence those things, gotta reach out and broaden our base, it’s not the case at all.”