Almost exactly three years ago, David Frum -- for decades a proud Reaganaut who, among his other efforts for the conservative cause, wrote speeches for George W. Bush -- broke from right-wing orthodoxy and denounced Rush Limbaugh as a danger to the party.
Every day, Rush Limbaugh reassures millions of core Republican voters that no change is needed: if people don't appreciate what we are saying, then say it louder. Isn't that what happened in 1994? Certainly this is a good approach for Rush himself. He claims 20 million listeners per week, and that suffices to make him a very wealthy man. And if another 100 million people cannot stand him, what does he care? What can they do to him other than … not listen? It's not as if they can vote against him.
But they can vote against Republican candidates for Congress. They can vote against Republican nominees for president. And if we allow ourselves to be overidentified with somebody who earns his fortune by giving offense, they will vote against us.
In 2009, these words were a warning. Today the GOP is fleeing from Limbaugh's "abuse," though (as George Will pointed out this morning) candidates still sound afraid of him.
In Frum's memorable outburst, he also insisted that the GOP needed to face climactic reality.
We need an environmental message. You don't have to accept Al Gore's predictions of imminent gloom to accept that it cannot be healthy to pump gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We are rightly mistrustful of liberal environmentalist disrespect for property rights. But property owners also care about property values, about conservation, and as a party of property owners we should be taking those values more seriously.
The GOP now knows what Frum means, and is taking steps to innoculate candidates and the party from Limbaugh's bullying sleze, but to date has expressed no interest in the health of the planet.