On a daily basis Rush Limbaugh talks about the decline of America and how conservatives are losing the country. On both counts he happens to be right. As a conservative commentator, Rush provides some good insight into political issues. But he, like many conservative media commentators and political operatives, suffers from a certain disadvantage due to blind spots. Because of this disadvantage, I would argue that conservatives cannot save America. There are three reasons why:
The first reason why conservatives can’t save America is this: Patrons of secular-liberalism, whether they are in the media or the political world, are a united front. In fact, not only do they use the same talking points but they often use the same words to communicate those talking points. They have no problem with belonging to a group or appearing on the same stage together or consorting with one another in order to advance one agenda.
On the other hand, when is the last time you saw Rush Limbaugh on the same stage with, let’s say, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin or Glenn Beck? These high profile conservatives rarely, if at all, come together to promote conservative causes. Sure, they attend, as featured speakers, conservative conventions like C-PAC and the Heritage Foundation conferences. But by and large, the most influential conservatives are like islands; they do their own thing without any sense of collaboration or community. They lack unity!
Even Rush admitted on his November 19th (in 2012) radio program that there is no single conservative leader or movement. From all appearances, it seems to be fragmented without any real principle of unity. And to make matters worse, the Republican Party- courtesy of the Republican establishment -seems to be moving away from conservative principles.
For instance, the Republican presidential nominee for the last two presidential elections in 2008 and 2012 were not to the liking of many conservatives. If it was up to Rush Limbaugh, McCain (2008) and Romney (2012) would not have been the candidates representing the Republican Party. As Rush himself admits, he is an outsider as it pertains to the Republican Party. But so is the Tea Party as is conservatism at large. If conservatism really does exist as a single movement, it is like a bird in flight without a nest. It doesn’t have a home because there is no principle of authority and unity to give it structure and form.
The second reason why conservatives can’t save America is this: Conservative think-tanks, as good as they are, cannot compete with a secular media and a State-run education system. Secular-liberalism currently enjoys a monopoly on public education. Its effectiveness lies not only with its universal reach; its propaganda also has been adapted to children in elementary school, middle school and high school.
Quite often, conservatives do not get to the average American citizen until after he or she has undergone a lifelong training in secular and liberal ways of thinking. Think-tanks and conservative talk radio do not have near the reach with younger generations as do public schools, the media or the entertainment industry. More often than not, if sound principles are not absorbed during the childhood years, it is too late. Catholic historian, Hilaire Belloc, points out the obvious disadvantage of late arrivals. He said, "For the most part what is not emphasized is not believed to exist. Often, from its unfamiliarity, that which is a stranger to education in childhood, is thought to lack credibility by the grown man."
Secular-liberalism is not only taught in schools, but it is expressed in songs, in movies, and in news reporting. It has become a cultural phenomenon precisely because it is not only an idea but a way of life. This ideology does not confine itself to fiscal and national security policies like conservatism does. Rather, it seeks to appeal to our sexuality, relationships, entertainment, the environment, to our diet and how we parent. It is, in every sense of the word, totalitarian; that is, secular-liberalism is comprehensive in its scope much like religion is. On the other hand, conservatism has a hard time translating itself into the realm of sexuality, relationships etc. And because it is not a way of life, it has a hard time sticking.
This leads us to the third reason why conservatives can’t save America: One of the reasons why conservatism is not a way of life is because it is becoming more and more disengaged from its roots; that is, from its social and religious values! Rush Limbaugh used to talk about the virtue of chastity, the sanctity of marriage and other Christian values on his radio program. With regard to abstinence, he used to say. “It works every time you try it.” But in recent years he has been using this phrase when speaking of cutting taxes. If truth be told, conservatism has become materialistic in nature. Indeed, conservatism has been reduced to a philosophy about jobs and the economy. These are good things but there is more to life than this.
It just so happens that the stern discipline of liberty and the sacrifices that a free market requires are becoming less palatable to the American public because they were never meant to exist in isolation. They need to be planted in an environment with other principles supporting it, aided by outside sources of strength and other incentives which transcend conservatism itself. For instance, the family is the institution where self-governance is best taught. But with the breakdown of the family, self-governance is less viable in other institutions. To put it another way: to the degree that discipline, virtue and self-governance are not fostered in the home, the State picks up the slack with its multiple regulations, bureaucracy and overall control.
Yet, more and more conservatives are supporting values and lifestyles that undermine the nuclear family such as same-sex marriage, extramarital sex and abortion rights. They are distancing themselves from Christian social values and even Christianity itself...you know, "the religious right." Ever so slowly they are wandering from the path that made America great. Worse yet, they are gradually becoming what they profess to oppose. That's right. Many of them are becoming liberal where it matters most.
Therefore, the answer to America's decline is not to be found within the narrow confines of conservatism. The answer is much bigger; it runs much deeper; its reach is much broader; and it is much older than today's conservatism. In fact, it gave birth to Western Civilization. Lord Acton alluded to it when he wrote the following:
"When Christ said, 'Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,' whose words, spoken on His last visit to the Temple, three days before His Death, gave to the civil power, under the protection of conscience, a sacredness it had never enjoyed, and bounds it had never acknowledged; and they were the repudiation of absolutism and the inauguration of freedom. For our Lord not only delivered the precept, but created the force to execute it."
This force was not conservatism. Conservatism, at least those principles that are praiseworthy and consistent with the Gospel, was but the outgrowth of that force. But as to the force itself, it is none other than the Catholic Church. She is the Mother of those institutions that made Western Civilization great.
Currently, the force that Christ delivered does not seem all that impressive. In fact, it even seems to be on the retreat in the face of aggressive secularism. But these words from Dr. Phil Jenkins are worth recalling: “Mark Twain remarked on how often the world had turned out for the burial of Roman Catholicism, only to find it postponed yet again..."
Secularism-liberalism is not an option but conservatism is not enough. For that reason, Catholicism will have to be summoned out into the public square to save what has been lost. And to be sure, there are many things that have been lost in American politics.