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Ross Douthat writes:

It’s important, I think, to distinguish “talk radio conservatives” from “the base” writ large: The former is a subset of the latter, and…not a large enough subset to actually decide a primary campaign… The underlying theory behind the talk radio critique of Daniels is basically that you can’t trust a man who disarms liberals with his seeming reasonability, and what you need instead is somebody who takes the fight to the left at every opportunity. This is an excellent description of the qualities required … to be a good talk radio host. But when applied to the presidential scene, it amounts to a kind of politics of schadenfreude, in which actual conservative accomplishments count for nothing, the ability to woo undecided voters is downgraded or dismissed, and all that matters is how much a prospective candidate irritates liberals.

I think this interpretation, which casts blame upon specific conservative media figures, is both accurate and actionable.  There’s a clear path for thinking conservatives to take to restore power to their side: criticize the crazy people on their own side.  Or in other words, be Conor Friedersdorf.


  1. It’s weird to praise Friedersdorf for criticizing Limbaugh, since they’re competitors (both news commenters, to some extent). It doesn’t hurt Friedersdorf at all, professionally. It differentiates him from other conservative commentators, and differentiation is good for business.

    Steele, though obviously not a thinking conservative by any definition, has tried to call out Limbaugh in his own way and failed:

    Boehner managed to call Limbaugh “a distraction” by saying that Obama created the distraction by picking a fight with Limbaugh. As a sound bite, that’s good doublespeak. “Distraction” sounds to the Republican masses like Obama’s just a politician, not a president. It also distances Boehner from Limbaugh to the moderates, by saying, “I, Boehner, am a leader in the real fight to save America, not the media side show.” That’s about as courageous as a Republican is going to get with respect to going after Limbaugh.

  2. Joe,

    I’m in favor of conservatives with any degree of influence using it to criticize weaker elements of their own side. Ditto for liberals, but there isn’t as much utterly absurd nonsense coming out of the mainstream left. Friedersdorf is taking a risk by criticizing Limbaugh,
    Beck, Levin, etc. They’re powerful members of his side, who can damage his career. It may pay off if Friedersorf can establish a niche, but it’s a fairly courageous play.

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