Running Local

This Train of Thought Makes All Stops

Rushing to the Forefront

Posted by Bob Kohm on March 2, 2009

Speaker of the GOP Rush Limbaugh

Speaker of the GOP Rush Limbaugh

All hail Rush Limbaugh, the intellectual leader of the New Right.

Did you just feel that vibration coming up from the earth, through the seat of your pants? It was Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and the rest of the 2012 GOP hopefuls quaking.

Yesterday morning Rahm Emmanuel provided a glimpse into the political strategy of the White House on Face the Nation when he acknowledged Limbaugh as being the face of and controlling influence behind the national conservative community. Limbaugh himself must be delighted with the Presidential imprimatur that comes with that acknowledgment as are many in the rank and file of Limbaugh’s listeners– the way to Limbaugh’s heart is clearly through his ego, as even a casual observer must note. Not so happy are the thinking members of the Republican Party and certainly the leadership of the Party; being labelled the intellectual acolyte of Limbaugh is not only gauling to them, it is also politically dangerous.

As the self proclaimed high priest of the “I Pray Obama Fails” clique, Limbaugh has set himself at a goal that is counter to what should always be the first cause of all Americans no matter their philosophy or political bent– the prosperity and well being of our nation and our people. That is the glue that holds our nation together as a cohesive unit, that desire for what is best for our country; it is, literally, the unifying concept that defines us as a nation. To come out and say in so public a manner as Limbaugh has that you hope our President fails and thus our nation’s situation and peril grow worse– that’s an unfortunate tack to be sailing. Today our nation faces its greatest financial challenge since the Depression, as we’ve all had ingrained into ourselves by the constant drumbeat of financial failure and fraud; Americans are losing their jobs at a horrifying pace, they’re losing their homes, they’re losing their children’s educational future. Our economy contracted almost seven percent in a quarter and our personal debt loads ever increase as lenders jack our credit card rates to stratospheric levels even while we are denied credit for cars, homes and emergency repairs– imagine for a second what it would be like for you, personally, if you suddenly needed to buy a new heating and cooling system tomorrow, or if you needed to do a major sewer repair costing thousands of dollars.

For political gain, Rush Limbaugh effectively is hoping that the situation grows even worse, that your pain increases, that the money now being spent is wasted to no effect.  What better time for President Obama to acknowledge his intellectual leadership of the Republican Party?

The GOP has fed the talk radio beast since the early 1990s and has enjoyed some extraordinary benefits from its advent and growth; it fueled the “Contract With America” programs of the Gingrich Congress, it promoted the culture wars ethos of the Religious Right, it weighed in, some might say decisively, on the 2000 vote recounts and battles that saw its favored son, George W. Bush, installed in the Presidency against the will of the majority of voters and then re-elected to a second term largely on the wings of a smear campaign against his opponent’s Vietnam War record. As a tactical weapon, Republican Talk Radio has been extraordinarily useful, and no organ of Republican Talk Radio has played louder or more consistently that Limbaugh, who now professes a desire for our President to fail in ending a crisis and for our national and personal peril to deepen.

It has often been said that an untrained person with a handgun is a greater danger to himself than he is to his assailant as the most likely outcome of a confrontation is that his gun will be taken and used against him. Rush Limbaugh is now that gun, and Rahm Emmanuel has grabbed it and pointed it very steadily at the GOP.

By making Limbaugh the public’s perception of the thinking of the GOP  Emmanuel has taken a group and philosophy that represents a large if shrinking portion of America’s voters and turned it into the preserve of fringe lunatics, praying for the failure of our nation and the increased power of our enemies and rivals. My brother, an Assistant District Attorney and trial lawyer, once taught me an important lesson about public perception– the one thing that nobody wants to be thought of as is “silly”. When in front of a jury, the one thing you want to impart is that in order to find for the defendant you must accept something that is “silly” and thus become silly yourself. That lesson is tailored to this situation; Emmanuel has pointed out how silly Limbaugh’s stance is while at the same time making it representative of the GOP; in order to support the GOP you too must be silly. It’s a deceptively powerful tactic.

The GOP has even further imperiled itself in this by its actions of a few weeks ago, when Georgia Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey was forced to apologize to Rush Limbaugh for daring to opine that it was easier for Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to talk about opposing the president than it was for a Congressman to actually do it. The pageant of shame that Gingrey was forced to play his very public role in was astounding– an elected Congressman being forced to publicly kiss the ring of a popular entertainer was horrifying to John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, but they also saw the necessity of doing it for Gingrey. In that vision, they saw their control of the GOP slip away and Rush Limbaugh’s role pass from cheerleader to Quarterback. That Obama and Emmanuel saw it as well and would eventually emphasize it was fait accompli.

As Rush Limbaugh, the Speaker of the GOP, calls for lockstep, unwavering opposition to a very popular President and what has rapidly become a surprisingly popular Congress and then takes it a step beyond in publicly calling for the failure of our nation’s policies and the deepening of our national pain there is no force in the RNC or GOP at large who can seemingly oppose him. The dog has taken control of the master as talk radio, with all its fuming opprobrium, displaces the hand on the dial that created and for so long controlled it.

The tactical move by Obama & Emmanuel is underlain by a strategic understanding of the situation in general that the GOP never did achieve; does anyone else recall the claims by many in the Conservative Media during 2007 and 2008 that the Kossacks and NetRoots would undermine the Democrats and the “weak” Obama in particular and draw them so far to the left that they would become unpalatable to mainstream America? Clearly the blogosphere and the New Media as embodied by HuffPo and TPM are the belated but extremely modern response to Republican Talk Radio, and surely the Daily Kos crowd has tried to stake a claim to running the ship it is supposed to be crewing. A funny thing happened on the way to that mutiny, however; Obama was elected on a moderate platform and appointed a bipartisan Cabinet that emphasized effectiveness and intellect over philosophical purity, much to the chagrin of the NetRoots. That disappointment should terrify the RNC as a repeat of their mistakes is not evidently coming for their rivals.

At this point no matter whom the GOP nominates in 2012 Mr. Obama will be running against Rush Limbaugh, not Mike Huckabee, Mark Sanford, Mitt Romney or Sarah Palin.  Of course, that might not make much of a difference as the eventual nominee will need the pre-approval of the GOP’s new maximum leader, Rush Limbaugh. All hail.

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3 Responses to “Rushing to the Forefront”

  1. Chancellor said

    Wow…this had more swings and misses than a game where Johan Santana has his best stuff. 😉

    Political strategy? Bad, bad, bad. File this under “those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it” – the Clinton administration foolishly gave Limbaugh a platform early in their admin and later regretted it. The GOP was beat and divided, and now the Obama admin is giving them a figure to rally around and a free megaphone to reach a core audience that is thrilled to have someone to lead the rally. I mean, why? Do you really think Steele could have been that figure? John Boehner? Bobby Jindal? Sarah Palin? Uhhhh….no.

    Limbaugh won’t be the face of the 2010 or 2012 party – nor was he in ’92-’94 when the Clinton admin went after him. But he can provide the rallying megaphone for a leader who potentially can come up with the method to unify the party. In ’94, it was Gingrich and the “Contract With America”. Do you really think Gingrich has anywhere near the success he had without Limbaugh’s megaphone? Why, why, why make that megaphone larger when the GOP is already wandering around clueless?

    On a bigger picture, you have to wonder why Obama is even bothering with Limbaugh. Given his present press secretary’s method’s, it seems they’ve adopted the Olberman methodology – find a “person to hate this week” and hammer them. From Santelli to Limbaugh and now to Jim Cramer – Jim the blithering idiot Cramer!! – the Obama administration seems compelled to spend political capital on dingbats not worth their time.

    The Obama administration needs to be spending capital on issues that matter – like finding a replacement for Geithner, who, sadly, appears as overmatched as Bernanke was. Or adressing the AIG zombie insurance company and figuring out how to soft land that fiasco.

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