home > archive > 2002 > this article
The Left: Conspiring to defeat themselves
By Paul M. Weyrich
Back when I became a part of the conservative movement, in the late 1950s, we were preoccupied with conspiracies. I attended several meetings where the program was an explanation of charts showing how this left-wing group was connected with that left-wing group, and who was on whose board of directors. It was all very scary.
In the early 1960s, I recall receiving a flyer about the "terrible 1414." The number referred to an address on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, which was the headquarters for virtually any and every left-wing group in the Midwest. I probably do not recall the address correctly, but you get the idea. The point is, I phoned all of my friends, asking them if they knew about that "terrible 1414" address. Most did not, so I proceeded to tell them about this headquarters for the left and all the horrible ideas that radiated from it. My friends were suitably impressed. Of course, they did nothing about it. I recall arranging for a briefing from the folks who put out the pamphlet for a group of conservatives who were suitably frightened at the conclusion of the briefing.
Years later, when I compared notes with my colleague Morton Blackwell, who grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he recalled spending lots of time with the same charts and graphs during the same period. I grew up in Racine, Wisconsin. Later, I had a discussion with another colleague who was raised in California and sure enough, he had attended briefings with the same kind of conspiracy charts.
And do you know what? We achieved absolutely nothing during that period. We didn't elect anyone. We didn't advance new ideas. We absolutely did not capture the minds of the American voter.
The reason I bring this up is because these days the liberals seem to be similarly preoccupied with conspiracy theories. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) suggests Rush Limbaugh, Limbaugh "wannabes" and the religious right are responsible for personal attacks on himself and possibly even violence in this country.
And now Al Gore, the former Vice President, has taken up where Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) left off (remember the vast right-wing conspiracy?), and accuses The Washington Times, Fox News, Limbaugh and talk radio in general, of taking their cues from the Republican National Committee. That is quite laughable since the Republican National Committee, whatever else its merits, is hardly the headquarters for interesting ideas. If anything, a case might be made that the RNC gets some of its ideas from Limbaugh and The Washington Times.
Regardless, when we as a movement got over our preoccupation with conspiracies, we began to elect people and our ideas began to be considered seriously. Not only did the ideas promoted by the left-wing 'conspiracy' backfire once the public saw their true nature and adverse impact, but we conservatives spent more time developing and refining and promoting our own ones. Now, we have ideas these days, and our ideas matter. The liberals don't seem to have many.
So I hope Tom and Al and Hillary and the rest of them spend all their time worrying about conspiracies. The Heritage Foundation leases space to many other conservative groups, so I imagine that liberals are sitting around with pictures of the Heritage building, and graphs and diagrams showing how all these groups are interconnected.
If they are going to sit around and whine about how this vast right-wing conspiracy is blocking them from getting their message out, I've got news for them. They will not be electing anyone and if they have any ideas they will not be taken seriously.
Imagine, the silliness of the charge. These people have had a monopoly for nearly forty years on the major radio and television networks, PBS, the reportorial pages of the important daily papers and most local radio and TV stations. They complain about ONE cable TV network, Fox News, which has fewer than two million viewers. And Fox puts on liberals at every turn, though they do put on the opposing view. And despite having CNN (the Clinton News Network), MSNBC and at times CNBC, they still whine just because one network gives them only 50 percent of the coverage.
As to The Washington Times, its circulation is just 50,000 on Sundays. Compare that with The Washington Post at 1.1 million on Sundays. Or The New York Times, a national newspaper available in all the important cities, with a circulation of 1.7 million on Sundays. In addition, the vast number of local newspapers are in liberal hands.
Now it is true that Rush Limbaugh has a following in excess of 20 million cumulative listeners on a weekly basis. Even so, that is only a small portion of the electorate. Even if Sean Hannity, Ollie North, G. Gordon Liddy, Bob Dornan, and all the other national talk show hosts are added in, plus the many, many local Limbaugh types, you still have to stretch to reach a third of the electorate.
I do hope Tom and Al and Hillary and the others in the echo chamber believe their own rhetoric. I well recall people on the conservative end of the spectrum who were so convinced that the American left-wing conspiracy was so powerful that there was nothing we could do to fight it. These were the same people who convinced themselves that the Soviet Union was going to win. Even Whittaker Chambers, whose defection from the Communists was a major blow to them in this country, said he feared he was leaving the winning side to join the losing side.
As long as they think the vast right-wing conspiracy is so terribly powerful, they will excuse themselves for their inability to act. Just as the many on our side threw up their hands and insisted "there is nothing we can do," it sounds as if Daschle, Gore and the rest have adopted that same notion. After all, if we are really that powerful then their failures can be excused.
The left believes that, since it is morally superior, it should win without having to fight for victory. Leftists are outraged that the American people don't recognize their moral superiority. It can't possibly be them, or their ideas, or their candidates who are at fault, so it must be the all-powerful right.
It took us more than a decade and a half to wake up and figure out that while we were wringing our hands and worrying about the all-powerful left, they indeed were acquiring more power by default. Once we got our act together, we became competitive. Since the left is not as smart as we are, it ought to take at least two decades for them to get it. Meanwhile, I hope we make good use of the time.
Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!
© 1996-2020, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.