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On Feb. 28, the Conservative Political Action Conference hired radio entertainer Rush Limbaugh to deliver a speech that was, according to The Washington Times, received like none other in the conference’s 36-year history. Limbaugh spoke to an overflowing room of more than 2,000 attendees, and the speech was broadcast on C-SPAN and the cable news networks, making it, as Limbaugh put it, his “first-ever address to the nation.”

The address was received with remarkable enthusiasm by those in the crowd, who rewarded their speaker with numerous standing ovations and, at one point, even chanting his first name.

This was no morning zoo-crew radio show, however. The main purpose for the speech, laid out early on by Limbaugh, was to define what it is to be a conservative. Far too often, conservatism is misunderstood because, he said, it is “incorrectly portrayed in pop culture, in the drive-by media, [and] by the Democrat [sic] party.”

This, coming from a man who, in the very first moments after taking the stage, equated 21st century American liberals with Russian Stalinists. He also had the gall to insult Sen. John Kerry’s appearance, when he himself looks like the offspring of a broken refrigerator and that albino beluga whale those scientists found last week.

And what is conservatism to Rush Limbaugh; what is it that conservatives think and do? His answer was as insubstantial as it was vague: “We love people.”

In his defense, he does elaborate on this rather abstract statement. Conservatives, when they “look out over this country” do not see people who should be treated any differently from one another. After all, we’re all “created equal,” so it would be unfair to, say, tax some of us higher than others.

The point of this, he says, is to not place people into categories. Conservatives “see Americans. We see human beings. We don’t see groups. We don’t see victims.”

Did you see how he did that? Apparently, treating people as your equal means forgetting about their state of being, and whether they’ve been treated fairly in the recent or distant past. Like a blindfolded giant making his way through a bottling plant, Rush Limbaugh’s brand of conservatism is deliberately ignorant of the damage it causes.

And, of course, conservatives believe in the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, which Rush quoted as guaranteeing “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” As an educated person, you no doubt know that those words are not found in the Constitution, but rather in the Declaration of Independence.

Nevertheless, and despite being unfamiliar with the important works of this nation’s history, Limbaugh does put forth a blueprint for the ideology of what would be his ideal Republican Party.

It would be an angry party, one that dislikes facts and the people who use them. It would defend property rights far beyond the bounds of legality, and would arrogantly expect to win elections without appealing to groups like “the Hispanic voter” or “recalcitrant, independent women.”

Republicans who aren’t embarrassed by this should be ashamed of themselves. There is an honest tradition of conservatism in this country, and it is not associated with hucksters like Rush Limbaugh. If the Republican Party has any wish to be taken seriously, it has got to stop appealing to a base that is uncaring, sexist and ignorant of history.

Kevin has a prescription slip for his Oxycontin, thank you very much. Reach him at

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