Finding the Republican voice

It may go down as a landmark speech in the history of conservatism and, perhaps, Republicanism.

Mainstream media outlets want to ignore it or, at best, spin it as flame-throwing extremism. So you may not have seen much of Rush Limbaugh's address to the Conservative Political Action Conference last weekend in Washington.

CNN.com even went out of its way, and misled readers in the process, in its effort to jump over what Limbaugh actually said in order to discredit his speech, with a headline Monday that crowed "Limbaugh comments called ugly." The problem: The person making that alleged assessment, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, was actually quoted before Limbaugh made his speech.)

CNN did play up the Limbaugh speech later Monday night, but only to celebrate the alleged rift between Limbaugh and Steele -- which Steele quickly closed with an apology -- and to smirk at the fact that the Republicans are letting a talk show host lead the way.

Still, Limbaugh's speech had all the earmarks of a watershed event in the conservative movement.

That, combined with a spreading "Boston Tea Party" reaction to the Obama administration's financial machinations, could light a fire under the recently moribund conservative base in the country.

Conservatives are alarmingly concerned about the far-left lurch the nation has taken since Obama's inauguration. The federal government has added to both our children's debt and its own power exponentially in just the first month of Obama's rule.

Both those things necessarily lead to less freedom.

Limbaugh's remarks were essentially a manifesto of conservatism, including support of limited government, low taxation and individual freedom.

Radical? OK, if the liberal media want to call it that.

The problem for Republicans is, Rush Limbaugh is a talk radio host. He's an entertainer, not a politician. He may be the spiritual leader for Republicans and conservatives, but he's not a political figure capable of running with that banner.

The GOP has failed in recent years to find such a political figure, too.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin stormed onto the scene last year as John McCain's running mate -- and while she continues to excite conservatives with her values and common sense, she appeared unprepared for the role of national running mate, and the liberal media tried their best to pick her bones clean.

Likewise, the party may have errantly rushed Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal onto the national scene when it asked him to deliver the Republican response to Obama's speech to the joint session of Congress. Jindal said all the right things, but his delivery was stilted, and distracted from the message.

One of the great conservative standard-bearers in Congress, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, told us recently he is more concerned with promoting principles than media stars. We understand the sentiment, but will respectfully disagree with the good senator: In this day and age, a party cannot get ahead with even the best principles unless they have someone telegenic and articulate and sympathetic to carry those principles to the public.

That's the GOP's challenge.

An even bigger challenge will be convincing black and Hispanic voters that conservative principles will benefit them. The media and academia have pummeled conservatives and tried to marginalize them. Meanwhile, Republicans have done an abysmal job of upholding conservative principles (see "Bush, George W.") and reaching out to minority voters. The former seems to be improving; the latter has to be Job No. 1 for chairman Steele.

The country is on the wrong track. Conservatives need to speak up. And Republicans need to find their voice.

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