John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Rush Response

Posted on February 10, 2009
Rush Response

Yesterday, I had the temerity to suggest to his eminence, Rush Limbaugh, that if he wanted to be a true leader of the Republican Party, he ought to give us his plans to win more votes. I specifically targeted several groups where we suffered serious erosion in the last two elections: Independent voters, Hispanic voters, African-American voters, women voters, voters in on the West Coast, the Northeast, the Midwest, etc. You would have thought that I went to Mecca and questioned Muhammad’s manhood. Here are some of the more printable responses:

“You sir a disgrace to the party and need to shut up and listen more, to El Rushbo. Besides your candidate John McCain just got hiss ass beat down since I wouldn’t vote for him and neither did most conservatives.”

“Rush is the best person we have. And, given the fact that our politicians have failed us so miserably of late, I would much rather have Rush as my political leader than any one of them. He speaks for millions of Americans…and the left should fear him.”

“The very reason the GOP is in the condition it is currently in, is due in large part to those who think and vote like you. It’s a loser, and that has been aptly demonstrated by the last election. If the GOP thinks they can be more successful by looking and acting more like the Progressive Democrats, then they are destined to the trash bin of political history, and good riddance.”

“If you moderate pinheads would listen to Rush, Hannity, Beck and a few others maybe we wouldn’t be in this boat. I support President Obama but can not support his policies. Your letter was a great example of why the Repubican party is in the minority.”

You should have seen some of the other responses!

Now, I am a big boy and I can take it. But the biggest problem with the GOP is not in its leaders. John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor, Jon Kyl, and the rest of the Republican leaders are all very smart, very competent and very good at their jobs.

The problem is in some of the followers who think that merely courting those who voted against us in the last election is akin to treason. One woman suggested that because I simply asked His Eminence for some thoughts on how to expand the party, I should leave the party now. Hmmm….

Well, I volunteered on President Reagan’s campaign in 1984. I volunteered for President Bush’s campaign in 1988. I worked for the House Republican Leadership from 1989 to 2005. I helped craft messages that brought the GOP its first majority in 40 years in 1994. I think I have paid my dues for the Republican Party.

So, just because I think the Republican Party can be a majority again by actually coming up with a plan to get more votes in areas where we got few votes in the last two elections, I don’t think that makes me a traitor to the party. I don’t think we should be more moderate. Nor do I think we should be more conservative. I do think we should be more relevant, more competent, and more practical.

We should look at what in government is not working, and we should come up with plans to fix it. We should come up with a plan to fix our education system. We should come up with a plan to deal with the high cost of health insurance. We should make damn certain that our emergency response system works effectively. We should modernize how we deliver government services. We should fix our criminal justice system so that we don’t have a prison system that trains the next generation of criminals. We should have a rational immigration system that attracts international talent but kicks gang-bangers out of country. We should target political corruption, and make certain that all government contracts (at the local, state and federal level) are done above-board and on the level. Ideology is fine in think-tanks and in class-rooms. But what we need are practical solutions to everyday problems. We can’t afford to keep our heads in the clouds.

Ronald Reagan was a great President. He is why I am a Republican. But Ronald Reagan was a pragmatist. Yes, he brought down the Soviet Union and he stared down PATCO, but he also signed legislation that raised taxes and increased government spending. He didn’t want to, but he had to in order to make our democracy work.

We don’t need to bring back Ronald Reagan. We need to look to the future and come up with a plan that will help the Republicans attract voters in all regions, with every ethnic group, and that will appeal to both hard-core conservatives and centrists. This is a center-right country. It is not a right-right country.

Rush Limbaugh, with all due respect, is not the answer to the question: how will we get back the Republican Majority? He is an entertaining rogue who loves to stir things up and give his “ditto-heads” the red meat that they love to chew on. But he is not, nor does he want to be, a political leader who works carefully to craft a winning political coalition. And that is what the GOP really needs right now, if it wants to be a majority party again.

Let us hope that Michael Steele can be that leader.

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