March 4, 2009 at 2:29PM
by Jim DiPeso
A letter to RNC Chairman Michael Steele:
I was cheered when you were elected chairman of the Republican Party. You offered a fresh, promising alternative to the same-old, same-old that has alienated much of the electorate and made "Republican" a byword for incompetence and extremism.
Having been elected to statewide office in a state as blue as Maryland, I figured you'd know a lot about broadening the party's tent, which today is about as roomy as a kid-size sleeping bag.
I enjoyed listening to you at a Republican Leadership Council conference in California two years ago. You're an engaging, persuasive speaker. And we even have a friend in common in the Baltimore area.
So, I'm disappointed that after giving Rush Limbaugh a well deserved rhetorical slap upside the head, that you backtracked the next day and apologized.
If anyone ought to apologize, it's Limbaugh. After two disastrous elections in which Republicans lost support from the political center, Limbaugh is prescribing a stronger dose of stridency that will further alienate the very constituencies the party needs to become a competitive force for sensible conservatism.
Many young people, for instance, care a great deal about the environment. Unless we want to lose a generation of voters, so should our party. Limbaugh's inflammatory anti-environmental rhetoric is not only inconsistent with true conservatism, it is a turn-off for the many millions of people who think that we ought to be better stewards of God's creation.
In other words, Michael, Limbaugh is making your job harder than it already is. Either he doesn't get or doesn't care that ultra-pure ideological parties don't succeed for long in our political system. As Republican pollster Whit Ayres said in a recent radio interview, you don't get elected in this country unless you get 50 percent plus 1.
So, here's my advice, Michael. Do yourself a favor, call Rush back, and tell him to apologize. In the highly likely event that an apology is not forthcoming, tell him to get off your back and out of your way. The party needs you more than many of its members may realize.