So much for objectivity. Daily Beast columnist John Avlon recently took yet another shot at Rush Limbaugh for his infamous wish for Barack Obama: “I hope he fails.” In his usual defiant style, El Rushbo took it as a compliment, spurring an outraged lecture on patriotism from Avlon:
When a news organization asked a group of notable Americans to pen a few hundred words on their hopes for the incoming Obama administration, Rush replied that he needed only four words—”I hope he fails.” Little did we know at that time, Rush’s call to outright obstructionism would inspire the GOP’s wilderness campaign. Legislative debates became cast as part of an all-or-nothing struggle between freedom and National Socialism, with filibusters threatened on a regular basis and paralyzing party-line votes the norm. When Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) said he hoped health care would be Obama’s “Waterloo,” he was echoing Rush.
Wingnuts confuse patriotism with partisanship. They see politics as ideological warfare, not problem-solving. And they believe they are carrying on a great American tradition in this regard. They’re wrong. Fifty years ago, John F. Kennedy beat Richard Nixon by an 118,574-vote margin in a bitterly contested election. Here’s what the committed conservative and American icon John Wayne had to say at the time: “I didn’t vote for him, but he’s my president, and I hope he does a good job.”
There’s also some blather about conservatives not believing in rational debate or something, but inasmuch as Avlon smugly asserts it as if it’s self-evident, without the slightest effort made to substantiate it, it’s hard to believe he takes the claim seriously himself (maybe he’s just miffed that Rush pinned him as merely trying to “portray” a centrist rather than actually being one). Avlon apparently didn’t read his colleague Tunku Varadarajan’s explanation as to why there’s nothing wrong with or un-American about obstructing legislation the minority party doesn’t believe in and the American people don’t want.
And as we’ve had to explain to the Left thousands of times over, Limbaugh was not wishing for Obama’s policies to hurt the country, or for the country itself to fail; he wished that Obama would fail to achieve his stated goals, because Limbaugh believed those would hurt the country (funny how liberals’ understanding of rhetorical “nuance” disappears when it’s most convenient, isn’t it?).
Agree or disagree, it should be clear to all but the most bitter liberal that the well-being of the country motivated Rush’s wish, not the ratings boost offered by “conflict, tension, and resentment.” Surely he hoped Obama would a good job every bit as much John Wayne did for Kennedy; but that hope need not translate to deluding ourselves into pretending he will.
Patriotism and partisanship might not be identical, but they’re not necessarily incompatible, either. If one side stands for values and ideas that will help the country and the other stands for those that will hurt it, then of course it’s patriotic to stand firmly for the former and vigorously oppose the latter. In other words, being a partisan for an idea is very different than being a partisan for a person or party, and sometimes “ideological warfare” is required to solve a problem.
Rush Limbaugh’s hope that Obama fail is only unpatriotic if we concede that Obama’s left-wing agenda is objectively right for the country; indeed, that supporting Obama and being a patriotic American are one and the same. And that’s the real objective here, of course—all the talk of civic virtue and “polarization” is little more than a smokescreen for the scandalization of conservative thought and the delegitimizing of strong opposition to The One.