Rush vs. ABT

By Ashley Bean Thornton

I ran down to Magnolia, Texas, for a quick visit with my mom and sister this last weekend.  As my sister and I were lamenting the rudeness of political conversation these days, she mentioned that she thought the rise in the popularity of Rush Limbaugh was the beginning of a huge downturn in civil discourse.

As luck would have it, this week was the McLennan County Friends of the Library Book Sale.  I spotted Rush's first book, The Way Things Ought to Be, on one of the tables.  Coincidence or Fate?  Ha!

It was only two dollars, and none of it was going to him, so out of curiosity I bought it.

In the first chapter, Rush serves up kind of a "manifesto" of what he believes (believed).  I thought it would be interesting to look at it piece by piece and think about how different it is from my own beliefs.

It's probably too long for me to expect that anyone else will read it, but I thought it was an interesting exercise and it did help me clarify some of my own thoughts.   So, what the heck!  Here it is!




From his book, The Way Things Ought to Be published in 1992



I believe in specific ideas, and I believe that those ideas have consequences.

Me too.

I believe in the individual, in less government so as to allow that individual maximum freedom to create and achieve;

I believe in the individual.  I believe individuals should have great freedom to create and achieve. I believe we individuals have learned that in order to create and achieve beyond the most basic tools of survival, we need the society of others. I believe one of our greatest achievements as a species has been to learn to work together so as to reap the benefit of individual talents, while also enjoying the benefits of living in society.  I believe representative government, although certainly not perfect, is an important tool for maintaining that mutual benefit.

That societies which are founded on restraining the government rather than the individual are optimum,

I believe that societies that have learned to work together to govern themselves are optimum.

That the individual is smart enough to solve his own problems and does not need to depend on big government for resolution of all his problems,

I believe that individuals are smart enough to solve a lot of their own problems, and that they should be responsible for doing that.

I also believe that we are smart enough to understand that some problems are system problems and need system solutions.

I believe in the “lake” analogy.  If ten fish in the lake die, you need to look at the fish.  If 100 fish in the lake die, you need to look at the lake.

I believe it’s dumb to insist on blaming the fish when we need to be looking at the lake.

That my belief in individuality and limited government does not preclude me from advocating the requisite amount of governmental authority to ensure law and order in our society;

I believe ensuring law, order and justice are some of the most important uses of our government.  They are also some of the most complicated and open to abuse.  We must be ever vigilant to maintain both the safety and the fundamental fairness of our laws and how they are enforced.

That our ability to enjoy peace vis-à-vis other nations is directly related to our military strength

I believe military strength is a necessary component of our overall strategy for peace.  But, I do not believe it is the only component.  Partnerships with other countries, economic relationships, communication, safe use and protection of technological systems, and understanding of and respect for cultures different from ours are other crucial components. I am sure there are many more important components that I cannot even imagine.

We cannot - and as far as I know we never could - afford the “military strength” that would be required to take on our enemies alone.  We should be working toward a world where nations understand that the value of peace with us far outweighs the benefits to be gained through war against us.

That the best that we can hope for in an imperfect world will most likely be achieved by maximizing individual economic and political freedoms and, conversely, that social utopia cannot be achieved through governmental largesse and socialistic redistributions of wealth;

I believe economic and political freedom have made this country great.  I believe that combination spurs innovation and growth and motivates hard work and accomplishment.  I also understand that our economic engine – though perhaps the best in the world – is not perfect.  It has pinch points, and friction.  Left unmanaged, it gets out of balance.  If we don’t maintain it, it will eventually fall apart.   Tools like financial regulations, taxes, entitlements, minimum wage rules, workplace safety rules and fair work standards help us maintain our system so that it can continue to work for the benefit of us all.

That compassion is defined not by how many people are on the government dole but by how many people no longer need governmental assistance;

I agree.

That political and economic freedom are inextricably intertwined;

I agree.

That society owes its citizens equality of opportunity but cannot guarantee them equality of outcome;

I agree, but I think we are wasting valuable human resources that we cannot afford to waste when we define “equality of opportunity” so narrowly as to ignore the fact that in the "race" of life, we are not all starting at the same line. Adjustments need to be made sometimes if we are serious about "equality of opportunity" actually being equal in any meaningful way.

That strong wholesome family values are at the very core of a productive, prosperous and peaceful society;

I agree that strong families are at the core of a productive, prosperous, peaceful society.  To that end, I think we need to support the rights and needs of the many configurations of modern-day families.

That those values cannot be instilled by government but can indeed be sucked dry and eliminated by well-intentioned but destructive governmental programs;

I believe “wholesome values” are more likely to be “sucked dry” by the stress and despair that comes with poverty than by the well-meaning missteps that have been made in building a system of support.  I believe our system of income supports is a work in progress.  Certainly, some of the original framework did not work as intended. Some de-motivating features have been repaired through the years.  There are probably some that still need to be improved.  There are also some elements (better public transportation and better health care for example) that could be added that would make our people, our society and our country stronger.

That human life is sacred,

Since I don't believe Rush was a pacifist, I believe he is using the phrase "human life is sacred" as code for "abortion should be illegal."  I believe human life is sacred and complicated.  When a decision is being made about whether or not to continue a pregnancy, it is rarely, if ever, a decision made lightly or under the best of circumstances. I believe the person whose body and life will be most affected, the pregnant person, has the ultimate right to make the decision.  It is not for me to impose my will on a complicated situation where I cannot possibly know all the implications. And it is certainly not the right use of the blunt instrument of government to do so.

I believe outrage over the "rights of the unborn child,” as opposed to empathy for the situation of the pregnant woman, is the result of political manipulation.  I believe this manipulation has been used to turn the kind instincts of wonderful people into an unjustified belief that they have the right and the responsibility to intervene into complicated, private and very often painful decisions best left to the pregnant person, her family and her doctor.

and that God placed man in a position of having dominion over nature; that environmental awareness is healthy, but that apocalyptic environmentalism based on disinformation and hysteria is destructive to society and man’s best interests

I believe when we talk about “saving the environment” what we are really talking about is saving ourselves by making sure the environment remains suitable for human life.  I believe that while there is probably some amount of "Chicken Little Syndrome," I also believe that there is plenty of scientific evidence that we are doing things that are making our environment less live-able for us.  I think some call this evidence “disinformation” because they are worried that acknowledging the problem will damage our economy, but I think we are creative enough to build a strong economy within the bounds of protecting ourselves by protecting the environment where we live.  To believe that God gave us dominion over nature does not mean that God said, "Go ahead and trash everything and do whatever you want, I'll fix it for you so nothing bad happens."

That racial relations will not be enhanced or prejudice eliminated by governmental edict

I don’t believe government can change people’s hearts, but government can enforce justice.  If I were a person who faced racial prejudice, I believe I would be glad to have the justice now, and hope for the hearts to come along when they do.

That there is one God and that this country was established with that foundational belief

I believe we are all finding our way to God and the Truth the best we can. I think that while we may believe we know “the one true path” we won’t really know for sure until our time comes, and then we won’t be coming back to share the truth with others.   I do not believe that anyone has the right, the authority or the ability to dictate my religious beliefs.  I believe that is the "foundational belief" upon which this country was established.

That our morality emanates from our Divine Creator, whose laws are not subject to amendment, modification, or rescission by man;

I believe that for many of us our morality is shaped by our religious beliefs and the religious literature we have studied.  I also believe that people who do not ascribe to any particular religion can have wise things to teach us about moral thought and action.  I believe part of living in society is to try to use our wisdom and humility, religious or not, to establish moral laws that will allow us to live together as freely, peacefully and productively as possible.    I believe it is a terrible mistake for any of us to believe we know the will of God perfectly.  I believe it is a terrible mistake to insist that we have the right to speak for God, and to insist that our understanding of God’s law is somehow the only correct understanding. It is a terrible and dangerous mistake to believe that we have the duty to judge others in the name of God.  It is right for us to humbly do the best we can to live morally together, but it is wrong for us to assume that we are always doing it right and that we cannot learn how to do it better.

That certain fundamental differences between men and women exist in nature; that men and women are not at war and that their relationship should not be redefined by those who believe we are.

I believe that differences between all of us exist in nature.  I believe that the differences between sexes exist on a spectrum, much like the spectrum of light.  Just like there are places along the color spectrum where red is clearly red and blue is clearly blue, I think there are places along the human spectrum where men are clearly men and women are clearly women.  Just like there are places along the light spectrum where colors meet and mix, I think there are people along the human spectrum where sex meets and mixes.  I think this is obvious if we just look around and believe the evidence of our eyes.  There are obviously “manly men” and “womanly women” and “manly women” and “womanly men” and all points in between.  We don’t need to be at war with each other – but we do need to treat each other fairly and with respect, and to mind our own business when it comes to someone else's sex.

That the meaning of the establishment clause of the First Amendment should not be stretched beyond its intended dimensions by precluding voluntary prayer in our public schools;

I don’t have any problem with voluntary prayer in school.  Everyone is certainly free to pray whenever they want.  I do have a problem with the school (and by extension the state) endorsing one form of prayer above others, and I do think it is disingenuous to say that prayer is “voluntary” when the teacher or coach is leading it.  I would love for all of us to learn more about the wide varieties of religions and prayers of the world.  I hope everyone feels free to pray without ceasing!  I hope we respect the freedom of everyone to decide when, where and if they will pray. And I hope we respect that right for others as much as we would like to have it respected for ourselves.

That the United States of America was founded on the beliefs I have just enunciated and that is the greatest nation in the history of the world.

Me too!  I believe the United States of America was founded on the beliefs I just enunciated, and that we are one of the greatest nations in the world.  I also believe we can get better if we work at it.

And that the USA is the greatest nation, not because Americans are inherently superior but because its government was founded on principles which seek to allow maximum individual achievement.

I certainly agree that Americans are not inherently superior! Not inherently worse though, either! Ha!  I do think our system of economics and our system of government serve as well, as long as we use them wisely and responsibly. I think they are founded on principles that allow us to live together productively and peacefully. They should and do allow for an incredible amount of human ambition and achievement, but that is not the only measure of our greatness.

I also think we are foolish if we are so dazzled by our own greatness that we don't look around and get ideas from other countries that could help us be even better!

I also believe that the dominant media culture is composed of liberals who seek to push their view on society without admitting they are doing it.

The media world has changed dramatically since Limbaugh wrote this book in 1992. Fox News first aired in 1996, and “The Facebook” was not launched until 2004.  Certainly, no media source is absolutely objective, but I do believe some sources try to lean toward fact and objectivity more than others.  I believe it is far more difficult to find these “objective” news sources than it used to be.  I believe both liberals and conservatives push their views, and they don’t seem to mind admitting it anymore.  I believe that while certainly both sides are guilty of bending the truth to fit their favorite narrative, it is currently the far-right conservative media that is more guilty of cynically circulating dis-information and peddling stories they know are not true.

I believe conservatives are indeed the silent majority in this country and that they prove that every four years at the polls.

Conservatives are certainly not silent anymore.  We’ll see at election time whether or not they are the majority.

Finally, I believe that certain liberals have become painfully aware that they do represent the minority position in society.  That they are losing, so to speak.  They have read the writing on the wall and have made subtle adjustments in order to reposition themselves for another run at reestablishing control.

I believe that certain far-right conservatives have become painfully aware that they do represent the minority position in society.  That they are losing, so to speak.  They have read the writing on the wall and have made not-so-subtle adjustments in order to reposition themselves for a run at establishing permanent control.

These subtle adjustments have taken the disguised form of popular, sentimental political causes which are difficult for people to oppose, such as environmentalism, animal rights activism, and feminism.

These adjustments have taken the disguised form of popular, sentimental political causes which are difficult for people to oppose, such as family, law and order, and Christianity.

Although each of these groups superficially advocates the specific programs within their specific causes, a common broadsweeping theme underlies all of these “movements.” Unmistakably, that theme is anticapitalism, secular humanism and socialism.

I believe some on the far-right end of the political spectrum are using words like “anticapitalism,” “secular humanism,” and “socialism” to paint people with ideas different from their own as “radicals.” I believe that in their zeal, these adherents of the far-right have been beguiled by the mistaken idea that getting their way is more important than respecting the rights and freedoms of those that disagree with them.  I believe if there is a threat to democracy at this time, this is it.