THE BLOG
04/06/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

More Than a Rush Job

The public frenzy over Rush Limbaugh's most recent display in political grandstanding has been a delightful distraction from the deluge of bad economic news. Watching Michael Steele kowtow to Rush was hilarious. And the media's re-release of Rush's greatest hits (who can forget his wildly inappropriate and offensive imitation of Michael J. Fox?) has restored a certain spring in my step that's been lacking for the past month.

But before we get too giddy about Rush and the albatross he may be for Republicans, it is important to remember one axiom above all else: The buck can't stop at just one man. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad Democrats have been smart enough to hold Rush out as the new face of the Republican Party. And I'm even happier that Rush has been so obliging. But if it is just about Rush, then we miss the real and more important opportunity: to firmly tie the failed policies of the last eight years to the conservative ideology that foisted them upon us. If we can effectively link right-wing ideology to the policies that dug the hole we find ourselves in today, we will cement America's understanding of what conservatives represent for a generation.

By now we all know the history: conservatives spent years and millions invested in think tanks, message development and leadership training to make their brand of conservatism exciting and accessible to the American public. And they effectively branded the left. Liberal = tax and spend. Big government = bureaucratic and ineffective. Class action lawyer = ambulance chaser. Environmentalist = tree hugger. And so on.

But you can't spin eight years of abject failure. It turns out tax cuts are not the cure-all conservatives led us to believe. And guess what? Wall Street cannot be trusted to police itself. Turns out government does have a role to play, whether it is helping citizens during natural disasters or agency staff with the knowledge and spine necessary to protect our food, toys, and investments.

Soon enough, the Rush Limbaugh frenzy will die down. But the conservative effort to reshape their legacy will not. They are already feverishly working to rewrite the last eight years and distance themselves from George W. Bush. Conservatives are fast and furiously casting their one-time savior and movement leader as having lost his way, straying from the ideals of a true conservative.

But Bush didn't lose his way. He steered his party's course to its inevitable conclusion. The only thing that did get lost over the last eight years is the veneer covering up conservatives' un-American, every-man-woman-and-child-for-themselves version of patriotism. As progressives, we can't let their current attempt at an extreme makeover go unchallenged.

Today is our best opportunity not only to reclaim the American dream, but also to indelibly cast the dye on the real conservative agenda. So let's cast Rush, Michael Steele, Newt Gingrich, Eric Cantor and the rest of the right wingers out to the wilderness. And let's make sure it's not just a Rush job, but a casting out of their entire reckless ideology.