Analysis continues over The Gunfight At The Big Mouth Corral between conservative talk show host Rush “I speak for the Republican party” Limbaugh and RNC Chairman Michael “I speak for the Republican party” Steele — which ended in Steele in effect apologizing and saying he did not mean to diss Limbaugh’s “leadership” role.
The consensus on all sides is that Limbaugh’s power within the Republican party, particularly among the Republicans’ talk radio political culture conservative base, is growing faster than than Limbaugh’s waist size (well, almost as fast). But the verbal circus that has provided such great material for the media and bloggers of all political persuasions has a serious side: in the post-2008-election Obama Presidency era, how will the GOP start to define itself as the White House reportedly works to define the Republican party as The Party Of Rush (which leaves out a lot of people who Limbaugh alienates and demonizes)?
Here are some more links for those interested in seeing how this battle for the soul and mouth of the Republican party plays out:
—So if Rush runs the GOP, does Michael Moore head the Dems? This legitimate question is asked by L.A. Times’ blogger, veteran journalist Andrew Malcomb, in this MUST READ HERE.
—Not all Republicans love Rush. And (as we’ve noted) it is particularly interesting that younger people aren’t as turned on by his style. For proof: another MUST READ comes from Travis Johnson of Progressive Republicans HERE in a long post with lots of videos that MUST be read and viewed in full. Here is just a small part of what he writes:
Why are our elected officials, the people we, the American People, have elected to represent us in Congress or have elected to lead one of our two Major political parties “bending over” (to use his words) for a talk show host? Here’s why:
It’s as simple as that. Rush has a big audience, and wields a considerable amount of influence of them. The Party leaders are terrified that he’ll turn on them and convince his listeners to vote against them, or, to stay at home, or, just to show how much of a joker he is convince them to vote for Hillary Clinton!
If you read his angry rant against Michael Steele, you’ll see something disturbing. Attacks on Limbaugh have somehow become attacks on all conservatives. He reminds me of a Renaissance Pope, treating any criticism of himself as an attack on Christendom as a whole. Is that what we want, my friends? Do we want RUSH LIMBAUGH to be the “de facto head of the Republican Party?” Do we want the men and women who choose to become public servants and represent us and lead us to be forced to kiss the ring of a man like Limbaugh?
And there’s more:
If we ever want to return to the majority, the answer to that must be an emphatic “NO!” Our Congressman must no longer try to make his divisive rhetoric more palatable. They must not apologize when they express an opinion about his role in the legislative process. Our Party leader can not apologize to him when all he’s doing is truthfully describing the man. This is Not the Way, my friends.
Rush is yesterday’s Republican Party. He’s so popular because he speaks to the anger in all of us. He speaks to our baser natures. If we’re going to return to lead this country, we must find leaders who appeal to our better natures. We need to embrace a BETTER WAY.
Be sure to go to the link and read Johnson’s post in full.
—See RealClearPolitics take on it in its daily briefing post.
Rush Limbaugh might not be the “voice and intellectual force” behind the Republican Party, as Rahm Emanuel asserted on Sunday. But this has become increasingly true: When Limbaugh says jump, Republican officials quickly respond, “How high?” First, Georgia Rep. Phil Gingrey (R) criticized Limbaugh back in January, but then immediately called into to apologize after receiving a slew of complaints from Rush listeners. “I regret and apologize for the fact that my comments have offended and upset my fellow conservatives,” Gingrey told Limbaugh. Now, after RNC chair Michael Steele told CNN over the weekend that Limbaugh is an entertainer who can be “ugly” and “incendiary” — and after Limbaugh gladly returned the fire — the chairman called Limbaugh to smooth things over. “My intent was not to go after Rush,” Steele told Politico. “I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh. I was maybe a little bit inarticulate… There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.” Of course, there is now an open invitation for some ambitious Republican to become the first to have the guts to stand up to Rush.
First Read says Steele is off to a shaky start due to this and other pronouncements that got him into trouble. From a talk show political culture conservative’s standpoint, Steele put his foot in his mouth and Rush then put his foot up Steele’s……
—The DNC is having fun with Steele’s climbdown, reports USA Today’s blog.
Minneapolis, Minn.: Hi Ed —
Thanks for taking questions today. By way of full disclosure, I’m an Obama supporter, but there’s something just too delicious about Steele apologizing to Limbaugh after initially having the backbone to stand up to him. This seems to play into the Dem’s strategy to make Limbaugh the voice of the Republican Party almost too perfectly to be believed. What’s your take?
Ed O’Keefe: It does play into their strategy, and as The Eye’s friend The Fix reports in his blog today, all of this becomes party of a national Democratic Party effort to further tie Republicans to Rush Limbaugh, who polling suggests has a loyal fan base, but remains unpopular with many (most?) Americans.
—Marc Ambinder gives us yet (another) one of his MUST READ IN FULL blog posts and here is part of it:
It wasn’t that long ago that Democrats were the ones seen as having a unity problem; now, disagreements between Limbaugh and more mainstream Republicans over the “fail” remark (Rep. Eric Cantor, one of the most prominent Republicans in Congress, distanced himself from Limbaugh over the weekend) have given Democrats an opportunity to spread some “disunity” messaging of their own.
By suggesting Limbaugh is the leader of the GOP, Democrats are seizing on a moment of rebuilding for the Republican Party. Since John McCain lost the 2008 election, Republicans don’t have a single, widely recognized leader the way Democrats do in Obama. And, in the midst of that rebuilding moment, Democrats are granting a national megaphone to (debatably) the most polarizing voice in the GOP’s ranks.
The notion of “Steele vs. Rush” became widespread after Steele’s original comment on CNN and Limbaugh’s subsequent tirade against the RNC chairman. But it is a “Democrats vs. Rush” dichotomy that Democrats are establishing by promoting Rush as the GOP’s de facto leader–a dichotomy that seeks to marginalize Steele and other mainstream Republicans and offer moderates an easier choice between Republicans and Democrats (after all, how many non-conservatives are likely to follow Rush?). That and, as the strategist told me, it offers Republicans a tough choice on where they stand.
Nowadays (meaning Tuesday morning), everyone’s a deconstructionist: Democrats are seeking to deconstruct the GOP, and Michael Steele must seek to deconstruct both the “Steele vs. Rush” media narrative and the “Democrats vs. Rush” choice being offered to voters by Democratic messengers.
PREDICTION: Republicans will have problems expanding their numbers while Limbaugh is perceived as being the primary, highest profile, most authoritative voice for its conservative base, and insisting that the base IS the whole party.
As Cagle Cartoon’s Mike Lane illustrates in the cartoon above, there are MANY swing voters (and some Republicans) who will have a hard time voting for a party that correctly or not has Rush Limbaugh as its brand name because they don’t want to get fleas. And why should they?
Limbaugh ridicules, demonizes and belittles all Democrats, the segment of the independent voter chunk that favors Democrats, moderates and anyRepublicans who don’t agree with him. He has gone from being a funny, witty conservative broadcaster in the 80s to being an acid-tongued powerhouse force in the GOP who takes himself very very VERY seriously.
The GOP will find that some voters will sit on their hands rather than vote for Republican or a Democrat, or some may vote for Democrats. No matter, it comes out the same: the GOP will lose some votes if it is The Party Of Rush. So why shouldn’t the White House and the Demmies do all they can to help Rush solidify his standing as the highest profile, most quotable, most You Tubed Republican?
Increasingly, in terms of what the Republican party apparatus has created in Limbaugh, Limbaugh seemingly resembles this:
Only, a tad heavier.
The cartoon at the top of this post is copyrighted and licensed to appear on TMV. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.