Monday, March 2, 2009

Rush Limbaugh: Leader of the Republican Party?

I remember back in the mid-1990s, when I was a loyal Democrat working my way through graduate school, my father-in-law used to send me Rush Limbaugh books and newsletters. I'm pretty sure I had a copy of The Way Things Ought to Be or some other tome that I never read. I didn't listen to talk radio, and I wasn't that interested in grassroots partisan mobilization, on either side of the political spectrum.

That said, I've never underestimated Limbaugh's appeal to the average folks who populate the conservative base. Those who watched
Limbaugh's speech at CPAC on Saturday witnessed the man's brutal ability to inflame the raw emotions of right-wing partisans. As they say, Limbaugh's an entertainer and his first constituency is his own brand.

In any case, Thomas Schaller offers an analysis of Limbaugh as the now putative head of the GOP, in "
Rush Limbaugh is the Leader of the Republican Party." While it's true that Limbaugh's generating the most attention right now (by channeling the raw grievances of the conservative base), Schaller makes a point worth noting as we move forward:

Those in the GOP who worry about Limbaugh's outsize influence, and about the tightening grip the conservative elements he represents have on the Republican Party, fear that Limbaugh will become the face of a party that's now lacking in leaders of national stature. (AFSCME and Americans United for Change recently capitalized on this fear with a TV commercial depicting Limbaugh as the person congressional Republicans follow.) But the fear is a bit belated. Limbaugh is no newcomer to national politics. He was named an honorary member of the House Republican Caucus after the GOP's 1994 takeover of Congress. Last year, he signed a new $400 million contract to continue his radio show, which is heard by as many as 20 million listeners per week on 600-plus stations, through 2016. While talk radio has declined as political junkies move online, Limbaugh has managed to retain his audience. And those Republican pols who cross Limbaugh publicly may have to make abject and equally public apologies.
I remember last year Limbaugh generated tremendous attention in attacking GOP nominee John McCain. We're still hearing the notion that the Republicans didn't have a conservative in the race, or not at least until Sarah Palin was picked as running-mate, to the delight of the dittoheads. Such disgruntlement is not going away. Take a look at Wordsmith's post, "Purging the Party to Win Future Elections?," for a case in point.

On a more macro level, I doubt this week's events are going to have as big effect on the Republican Party than what happens with the economy and with the policy effectiveness of the Democratic agenda.

Rush Limbaugh's going to keep doing what he does best: throw slabs of juicy red meat to the hungry crowds. How well his message is received, or is modeled, by the larger conservative party infrastructure is what matters. Other top Republicans, especially the hopefuls for the party's nomination in 2012, will generate more interest as the actual prospect of winning elections concentrates minds and clarifies policy programs. As that happens, a genuine leader will emerge, and one hopes that whoever that is has as much charisma as an overweight, cigar-chomping radio personality with knack for stirring up publicity.

Hat Tip: Memeorandum.

Added: See Reihan Salam, "Sugar Rush":

Limbaugh is enraged by the likes of David Brooks and David Frum and Jim Manzi and Ramesh Ponnuru, conservatives who consort with the liberal enemy. Though all of these writers and thinkers disagree amongst themselves about a great deal, they share a basic belief that the party needs to do more than just promise tax cuts we can't afford. And they recognize that a healthy political movement is always open to new ideas, and to questioning old convictions."


cracker said...

If Steele is any type of leader....

his first test is to dominate Rush for perceived leadership of the party....

If he cant do that, no matter his significance......the base will ignore him....

I give Steele 90 days to step up to Rush and define the mission....or step off, and get outta the way

Rich Casebolt said...

There is another influence upon the political process that should be considered as well, when it comes to the current setback of the conservative cause.

The pervasive deference to seniority in the political process has created a "perfect storm" ... of RINOs in many of the GOP leadership positions, AND the rise of the ideological denizens of Woodstock Nation into Dem leadership ... the latter, especially in Congress, where they have power beyond their numbers to set and sell their agenda over the top of everyone else, including the RINOS and their own Blue Dogs.

IMO, this is a double whammy ... leaders of the Right who are more interested in getting along than getting it right, and (worse) a distortion of representative government that empowers a relative few to intimidate more reasonable souls in their own party to "get along" themselves.

Still worse yet, their seniority makes their constituents even less likely to vote EITHER set of leaders out, regardless of how they serve/abuse the national interest ... because voting them out and replacing them with a "freshman" puts these constituents down at the low end of the Congressional pecking order.

As I often say, it's all about the feedback ... the kinds of societal feedback that corrects -- or exacerbates -- problems, depending on its direction.

The power of seniority is something else that we are going to have to deal with, if we are ever going to CTRL-ALT-DEL our governance and restore the balance of the original design.


As for Rush ... always keep in mind that his success is based upon his ability to validate and reinforce what his listeners have already figured out, by applying their own hard-learned wisdom, on their own ... wisdom that the elites erroneously pooh-pooh as lacking "intellect", even as they ignore the historical failures of the applications of their own intellect.

Ignore him at your peril, critics.

King Politics said...

Never would have imagined you a Democrat. What led to the conversion?

While Limbaugh is loud and noisy, he is relevant. The path he leads the GOP can have devastating consequences. Moderates in his party, and even conservatives who don't care for his bombastic nature, need to stand up to him. He has the potential to make the GOP even less appealing to young voters, which is especially important when you look at this graph:

Unknown said...

Naming Rush as the party's leader is the Democrat's answer to the right's calling their leaders socialists. If the idea that he represents the GOP catches on, both he and the right wing of the party will become irrelevant.

While the Republicans are getting it on with Twitter and Hip-Hop, the Democrats are using a Lentz/Rove tactic that was so successful in marginalizing liberals in both parties until recently. As cracker says, Steele had better get his act together or CPAC will be the GOP.

shoprat said...

I agree with 95% of what Limbaugh says but his ego puts me off, badly. A lot of my friends who are ditto-heads say it's just his shtick but I find it very distracting.

Stogie said...

I have to disagree with the gist of this post, which is that Rush is merely an entertainer throwing "red meat" to inflame the "ditto-heads," who are mental retards incapable of thinking for themselves and therefore merely robots to be programmed by Rush.

Rush Limbaugh understands the political landscape in depth, the issues and the personalities, the agendas both stated and hidden.

He is not merely an entertainer, but someone who sincerely believes in the conservative cause.

He was right about John McCain, an apologetic Republican whose core beliefs were a bit amorphous and easily changeable.

Is he the leader of the Republican Party? Maybe. We could do a lot worse.

JBW said...

You're right in pointing out that Limbaugh has been around for quite a while, Don. He has, but much like some of the crazies on the Left he has been kept marginalized as a mere entertainer by the more serious folks on the right. Until now.

Now you're finding yourselves without a strong leader with a clear message and the rather large yet lovably ignorant wing of your party that creamed shorts for Sarah Palin is now hungry for another red meat demagogue to tell them who to hate. And Limbaugh knows how to bring the hate.

So good luck with that. Jindal is indeed a smart fellow but if you think he can out-common man Obama to the extent that the Palin-ites will cheer for him when he accuses a Democrat of treason you're just deluding yourselves. I told you the wilderness is vast, and with Limbaugh playing your Moses it's just betting vaster.

cracker said...

Limbaugh/Palin 2012 ?

Palin/Limbaugh 2012 ? might be on to something!

At that point though, we all just start walking backwards, quacking like ducks and shooting our guns at anything that caint speak Uhmerickin.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Wow, this is the first post I've read at this blog that I agree with. The only quibble I have is the idea that there will be a leader bigger than Rush. Maybe, maybe not. Limbaugh certainly buckled under when it came to finally accepting McCain, but even still, Limbaugh was more powerful among Republicans than McCain was. And there's no one on the national stage right now who can do it. Looks like you guys spent so long taking orders from Bush that you forgot to nurture a successor.

But that just goes to the basic problems Republicans have: The only people the base will accept will be poison to the money guys running the party, and vice versa. Had McCain not been a war hero, the base would NEVER have accepted him, and even as it was, they didn't get excited until a loon like Palin joined him. Beyond that, Rush is REALLY screwing all this up. He's supposed to be the voice of America, not the voice of Republicans. But by forcing politicians to obey his dictates and kowtow to him, he put himself as the head of the party. Now, instead of being a purist voice of conservativism, he's turned himself into an outright party hack. Big mistake. This might help him personally, but he's totally screwing over the party.

And in regards to who the current "de facto" leader of the Republicans is, it looks like Steele's already folded. What an embarrassment! All hail Limbaugh!!!

And I didn't know you were a Dem, Donald. Funny, I converted from Republican at about the same time. Not only was I a dittohead in the early 90's, I even used to watch his TV show. But sometime in there, I realized that the things they were saying didn't match the things I was believing and I flipped. Conservativism sounds so good until you start applying reality. I still like Reagan, however.

JBW said...

I don't think we'll be lucky enough to see a Palin/Limbaugh ticket in 2012, cracker. The Republicans are definitely desperate but as DB says, the higher ups won't go along with the choice of the rabid fan base.

cracker said...

Well slap mama with the tire iron!

Not even 90 days, but maybe 90 minutes

The GOP leader has!? can one say this?

Steele just knelt down in front of Rush.....

Dude....its Limbaugh's Party, its Limbaugh's people....

its done, man,

Dave said...

So, Reihan Salam thinks David Brooks is a conservative? Maybe in an alternate universe, but not this one.

Sorry, I reside in east Cobb County, Georgia, which is probably among the most conservative areas of this country. I can sniff out a RINO at 50 miles.

Around here, we send people to congress like Larry McDonald, John Linder and Tom Price, not milquetoast types who risk giving themselves hernias reaching across the aisle trying to make friends with a party that hates the very idea of America as it was founded.

We sent Newt up a few times too, but due to his multiple transgressions, some of which involved his reaching across the aisle to make friends with the enemy, he couldn't draw flies to a barbecue around here these days.

Ever since Ronald Reagan left office, the RINOs have been sending up increasingly left-leaning candidates in a misguided effort to "expand the republican tent." It has gotten them nowhere.

In the 2000 and 2004 elections, the very moderate (some would say liberal) George W. Bush was barely able to eek out a victory against two dem candidates that Ronald Reagan would have buried without breaking a sweat.

Had it not been for the presence of Sarah Palin on the ticket last November, I would not have voted for the democrat John McCain.

Now, I realize that, aside from running the piss-poorest campaign since Bob Dole's, the economy was probably what hurt McCain the most, but I cannot help but think that had there been a real "conservative" at the top of the republican ticket, Barack Hussein Obama would not now be herding this country into the economic and financial abyss.

As I see it, the only chance for the republican party to become viable once again is to run off the impostors and clean house from top to bottom. There are a lot of people milling about the republican tent who have no business being there.

They can start with John McCain.

The other thing they have to do is make whatever adjustments to the primary system necessary to ensure that the Marxist Supporting Media can never, EVER be allowed to select the republican presidential candidate again, as they did with John McCain.

Until the party takes these, in my judgment, minimal actions, I will continue to toss their fund raising requests into the circular file, unopened.

If Michael Steele cannot bring himself to take the actions necessary to restore the party, then he needs to make room for someone who will.

And he needs to do it yesterday, as we are fast running out of chances to save this republic.

Playing nice with the democrats will not rebuild the Republican Party, I don't care what David Gergen says.


JBW said...

So let's see here:

-No bipartisan cooperation? Check.
-Move the party platform even further to the right? Check.
-Masturbate to thoughts of Reagan? Check.
-Blame the "liberal" media? Check.
-Masturbate to thoughts of Palin? Check.
-Mention Obama's middle name? Check.

Looks like you've covered all the bases, Dave. A winning strategy thus far. You let me know how that works out for you guys.

Anonymous said...

Rush Limbaugh articulates my beliefs of conservatism with clarity and more effectively than any other person currently in a public position. He has the ability and courage to communicate the views of the conservative republican majority and that is badly needed. We need more leaders like Rush Limbaugh as the party now in power tries to transition this country into another failed socialist state. I truly feel the Obama administration fears Rush and his ability to communicate the truth. Any rational person can see that Michael Steele is a weak choice for leader of the national republican party. He was only put in that position because he would be “politically correct” and non-threatening to any potential front runner that might evolve.

Anonymous said...

JBW forgot to add:

-repetitive usage of the term "Socialist, Marxist....", without knowing the essence of its meaning - CHECK

Dave said...


"No bipartisan cooperation?"

Given that the definition of "bipartisanship" as practiced by the socialists, which appears to mean "when everybody agrees with us," I think I will pass.

"Move the party platform even further to the right?"

Given that the republicans have been gradually shifting to center field, which is where the democrats trod thirty years ago, there is plenty of open space in right field they can now reoccupy.

After all, the dems are now filling up the nose bleed seats in left field. Should they move any further left, they are going to tumble down into the parking lot outside the stadium. :-O

"Masturbate to thoughts of Reagan?"

You wish.

"Blame the "liberal" media?"

Actually, I blame the parents who, for the last 50+ years, have been mindlessly packing off the most precious things in their lives, their children, to government schools run by postal service rejects.

BTW-I consider sending a child to a government school to be a flagrant act of child abuse.

Not to say that the MSM hasn't contributed to the problem:

"Masturbate to thoughts of Palin?"

LOL-Are you perhaps related to a person who frequents NewsBusters and HotAir with the screen name of PopTech?

"Mention Obama's middle name?"

Ah, so you are a little sensitive about that, are you?

Can't say I blame you there. After all, his most curious pick for SoS is about to throw Israel right under the bus.

Yeah, that should go over really well with Jewish voters in this country, doncha think?


Joubert said...

I do sometimes wonder how much Rush's opposition to McCain caused us to lose.

JBW said...


You can pass on anything you like my friend, and your attempts to categorize Obama's continued efforts to reach across the aisle as only "when everybody agrees with us" will only fall upon deaf ears as far as the rest of the country outside of your conservative little bubble goes (and CS, you nailed it with the "Socialist, Marxist" shit).

Your labored baseball metaphors aside, do you really think that there is a secret, hidden cache of American voters hiding on the far right of the political spectrum, just waiting for a sufficiently nutball candidate to come along to energize that base? Keep dreaming, kitten.

Your own masturbatory thoughts also aside (and I'm being serious: I really don't want to know), if Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or any other major Republican party leader can go one week without invoking the Gipper in their arguments then I'll buy you a coke. You people treat him as if he were just as magical and fun as you do the idea of Jesus. My own wishes are a lot more Jennifer Love Hewitt-centrific.

Attacking public school teachers now: this is how I can tell that you have a good, Christian soul: by attacking the most selfless and caring amongst our society. I'm sure the millions who have received similar educations from these teachers and succeeded admirably in life would agree with you.

And invoking a well respected journalistic enterprise such as Newsbusters only exemplifies your educational chops. I can only assume that you are taken very seriously when you expound upon your political views in everyday society.

I don't know who this PopTech fellow is but if he thinks that Sarah Palin is a sexy yet incurious dolt who would look great impaled upon my impressive phallus, I think I like him.

And I couldn't give a shit as to Obama's middle name, which obviously belies the fact that I am hardly sensitive about it. It's the third most popular name in the world after "Muhammad" and "Ali". I only called attention to your usage because it denotes anti-intellectual douchebags like yourself who think that it is a derogatory term to throw out in political conversations. We're at war with Muslim terrorists, not every goddamn Muslim in the world. The sooner brain donors like yourself grasp that fact the safer the rest of America will be.

I am not Jewish and neither do I care if Jews agree with me or my opinions about politics (and frankly, any Jew who would decide their political strategy based on the etymology of someone else's name is as ignorant and loathsome as someone like yourself).

You appear to be new around her so I'll give you some free advice: quit while you're ahead, and go back to whatever semblance of a life you had before you commented here, because your intellect and self-esteem will only suffer as a result of trying to argue with the big kids.

And as I said: keep it up. The American people are obviously responding positively to your right-wing tripe as evidenced by how well you've done in the last two elections. Moving ever rightward will only help you further, I'm sure.