Last Friday I wrote a farewell to Neal Boortz. Monday’s column suggested that perhaps some Republicans in leadership should occasionally object to things said by talk show host Rush Limbaugh when he crosses the line into the outlandish, and reassert that he isn’t an actual leader in the Republican party. In keeping with a bit of a theme of talk radio and its relationship with Republicans, today I’m going to say a few words about my friend Erick Erickson.
Erick co-founded the blog I now edit, Peach Pundit.com. He’s a bit better known in Republican circles as the editor of RedState.com, and has recently added positions as CNN Contributor and talk radio show host for WSB in Atlanta to his resume. RedState is a website that can be called a community of “the right of the right.” They are social and fiscally conservative. They find many Republicans who serve in good standing to be liberal. Their readership and conservatives provide a good crossover into talk radio.
There are those who believe that to be marketable in today’s media, especially in political media, you must pretend to educate while actually reaffirming your audience. Thus, it is getting more and more rare to find a Neal Boortz who would regularly chide the social conservatives that were much of his listening audience. Instead, the model seems to be more based in those like Limbaugh, who seem to strive to keep a listening base agitated and angry, always teasing the next “outrage” to keep listeners through the commercial break.
Thus, it’s refreshing to see words from Erickson who wrote the following at RedState this week. Words that he was immediately attacked for writing by some of his own readers and listeners:
“What I am finding is that among conservatives there is too much outrage… It makes our ideas less effective. We have become humorless, angry opponents of the President instead of happy warriors selling better ideas. We are not even selling ideas.
“Conservatives, frankly, have become purveyors of outrage instead of preachers for a cause. Instead of showing how increasing government harms people, how free markets help people, and how conservative policies benefit all Americans, we scream “Benghazi” and “Fast & Furious.”
“We’re off key and off message. We’ve become professional victims dialed up to 10 on the outrage meter….. Be happy. The anger is unbecoming of the party of Lincoln and Reagan.”
If Republicans are going to hold majorities in the House and seek majorities in the Senate and take the White House they will need to heed. The Republican wave that began with Reagan was based upon new ideas, sold with kindness. Reagan was the epitome of a happy warrior selling better ideas. He didn’t agitate “the base” to fire them up. Instead, he reached out and attracted “Reagan Democrats”. Heck, even the Teamsters voted Republican in 1980.
Too many Republicans look at the era of Regan and can only think “lower taxes”. There was so much more to what Republicans offered. It was personal responsibility in exchange for keeping more of your efforts. It was about being able to choose your destiny without government interference and new opportunities from which to choose. It was the original “hope and change” campaign. Above all, Reagan was positive.
It’s good to see Erickson state bluntly and clearly something that will be uncomfortable for a lot of his followers and probably a lot of those in his industry. He’ll likely have his critics refer him back to this piece every time he says something they perceive as angry or outraged. I’m sure he’s OK with that.
Above all, if Republicans are going to expand their footprint, they will need to heed his words. They will need new ideas to articulate how limited government helps individuals in our current environment. Even more importantly, they will need strategies to pass and implement them – rather than just being a defacto party of a different form of big government.
But most importantly to winning the hearts and minds of the American people, Republicans must again become a party of happy people. We are not a party that will win votes because of fear. Rather, we need to again become the party of hope and change – and have an actual plan to back it up.