Talk show host Rush Limbaugh today was criticizing elected Republicans in Washington, D.C. for their defeatist mindset and for their fear of the media.
I don’t disagree with the criticism, but I understand why elected Republicans fear the media: very few conservatives in or out of office know how to fight the information war, and fewer still even understand that there is an information war.
Our nation’ founding fathers and many other leaders since have understood that everything depends upon public opinion. Most of our elected Republicans and conservative “leaders” really don’t have much of a clue about how to reach as many people as leftists do — and leftists do it on a daily basis.
Worse, too often after conservatives get elected, they’re content to just get reelected. Too often when a conservative works for an organization or think tank or writes for a conservative publication, they’re content to just make a living (and some make a pretty darn good living).
To answer Rush Limbaugh’s criticism, if conservatives knew how to fight the information war, many more of the Republicans we elect would not feel outgunned and thus feel defeated before they even opened their mouth.
Rush probably reaches more people than anyone except President Donald Trump. In my opinion, Rush is politically brilliant. But he doesn’t seem to understand that he and his talk radio colleagues aren’t enough. After Rush was on the radio for 20 years (1998 to 2008), Barack Obama got elected president. After Rush was on the radio for 30 years with a lot more conservative radio talkers also on the air, Democrats took back the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018.
Neither of those conservative defeats are Rush’s fault, of course. He’s doing his part. What else can he do? Rush can get anyone on the phone — and he needs to start making a few key calls. The people that need to receive a call from him and be told how this information war can be won — are the ones who can finance an information tsunami that will turn public opinion in the direction of supporting conservative policies. (The how-to’s will be addressed in future articles.)
Instead, those big conservative donors continue to write checks based upon who gives them a thrill up their leg (much like Obama gave Chris Matthews). No amount of failure on the part of those political consultants, political action committees, and members of the Conservative Political Industrial Complex seems to deter those wealthy men and women from continuing to support all those failing people and enterprises.
Unfortunately for me, Rush isn’t exactly an easy guy to get on the phone. Neither, in fact, are so many of those big conservative donors.
As a veteran of the political consulting arena (campaigns, politics and policy advising), I can report that there isn’t an arena that fails bigger than this one. You would think that with so many working in that field some wisdom would dawn, and the advice and tactics and strategies would get better. But alas, they don’t.
What is the information war? How can we win the information war?
Today starts a series of articles that will ask and answer some of those and other questions such as:
Why are conservative think tanks and radio talk show hosts content with their relatively small audiences?
Why do conservative organizations focus on raising money to do work that primarily pleases their donors but doesn’t get much accomplished beyond that?
Why do conservative donors allow themselves to be moved by feeling a thrill up their leg rather than results?
Why do conservative columnists and op ed writers keep writing as if their next article will change the world despite all evidence to the contrary? (This article from The Onion could’ve been written about them: Soup Kitchen Thinks It Can Solve The World’s Problems With Soup.)
Why do Republican Party officials at the state and local level continue to believe that volunteers on our side can defeat paid professionals on the Democratic Party’s side when it comes to legitimate and necessary campaign work?
There are many more questions to address as well.
It’s a sad reality that day in, day out, month by month, year after year, decade following upon decade — conservative members of the Conservative Political Industrial Complex press on, pretty much complaining today about the same things they were during the Reagan years.
Up next: Conservatives are right about policy but wrong about how to win.
From the Dispatches archive six years ago today: If conservatives want to save the country they must learn how to reach the uninformed with the facts.