John McCain cannot disregard the views expressed by America’s conservative talk radio hosts and expect to win the support of conservatives in November’s election.
That’s the view of L. Brent Bozell, founder and president of the influential Media Research Center, who notes that in the past, Republicans who have not energized conservatives within their party have gone down to defeat.
“The conservative talk-show community? Don’t mind them — they’re irrelevant. This message from John McCain surrogates and other members of the political class is filling the airwaves and op-ed pages,” Bozell writes in an opinion piece for the Washington Post.
Bozell points to political pundits who chide Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others for speaking out against McCain and possibly sabotaging their own party.
“I earnestly hope that McCain isn’t listening to the advice he’s getting from these folks. Their thinking betrays a fundamental misreading of the conservative pulse in American today,” Bozell opines.
“Conservative leaders, particularly in talk radio, cannot and will not be silent. They will not betray their principles and their audiences. Tens of millions of activists turn to them for guidance. These activists could be, and need to be, McCain’s ground troops, but unless and until conservatives believe him — and believe in him — they will not work for his election.”
Bozell offers a history lesson. In 1992, establishment Republicans took conservative support for granted, figuring they had “nowhere else to go,” Bozell writes. Instead, some turned to Pat Buchanan in the primaries, others went for H. Ross Perot in the general election, and others stayed home. The result: Bill Clinton unseated George H.W. Bush.
Again in 1996, the GOP dismissed several conservative candidates and backed Bob Dole. The result: Clinton was re-elected.
But in 2000, conservatives supported George Bush and helped him win the White House. He won again in 2004 “because conservatives stayed with him,” Bozell writes.
But Bush failed to deliver on a conservative agenda, and “with the GOP facing the loss of Congress in 2006, we shrugged in indifference. The movement that had ‘nowhere else to go’ had gone.
“And it has not returned.”
Conservatives will not return to the Republican fold in force, Bozell concludes, unless McCain is able to bring “passion to the table with his conservative base. It is time for McCain to be Reagan.”
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