Posted by: coloradokiwi | March 4, 2009

Limbaugh’s Finland Station

Quite a lot of ink and pixels have been spent documenting the obvious political fact that Rush Limbaugh is now the de facto leader of the GOP, dovetailing nicely with his nominal control of activist conservatives.  Really, he occupies the same sort of position as a Soviet premier:  functionally the head of both the party and some quasi-military wing like the secret police, whether or not he actually holds either office.  Obviously, some prominent Republicans are mighty uncomfortable about this, whether it bruises their own egos, they see Rush as a political liability, or because they have legit disagreements with him over matters of policy and the future of the party (or all three).  

But I don’t think there’s really any way to significantly diminish Rush’s power—they’re gonna have to wait for him to do this himself.  There is no way to now dislodge him from this position, because he simply cannot lose, short of getting caught fellating choir boys or some other compromising position.  Let’s detail how: 

First of all, as others have already noted, he has three hours a day, five days a week, with a sizable, loyal audience, which he can use as a bully pulpit.  Any Republicans who wish to push back against Rush via the media will always be outgunned.  His army of dittoheads are not a big portion of the electorate, but they are a force within the GOP itself, at least in terms of people who vote in primaries.  Any Republican who wages open war with Rush will lose, and they know it. 

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, he has spent his entire career building up immunity to anything any Republicans can mount against him.  Although Rush is clearly a Republican and invokes “conservatism” in all that he says, fundamentally he is a populist, a rabble rouser.  He talks a lot of inside baseball stuff about politics, and he throws out the usual bromides about conservative political philosophy.  But he actually spends the bulk of his show throwing out populist red meat:  average people have more common sense than politicians, government is the problem not the solution (which includes Republicans in government, when it suits him to say so), and so on.  If anything goes wrong, it is always because of “elites” in Washington and elsewhere who are vain, stupid and condescending toward “regular Americans”—it can never be because Rush was wrong or conservative policies are bad or don’t work.  

Further, he has branded himself as an outsider—perpetually storming the gates of power, rather than being a figure of power himself.  Even when conservatives were at the height of power, he continued to play the part and cast the scene as if only he and his listeners were holding back the great tide of elitist-liberal-pinko-sodomites who wished to run everyone’s lives; I remember that during 2005, when the GOP held all the reins of power, a conservative family member of mine was convinced (via Rush) that the Democrats were in fact the ones blocking all the conservative legislation that was needed to really move the country forward.  Of course, this doesn’t actually, you know, make sense, but it fed into the mythology that Rush has spent the last two decades cultivating.  

Lastly, dittoheads are the sorts of people who think that Bush’s failure, and the failure of the GOP generally, was that they were not conservative enough.  It wasn’t that their policies were bad, but that they were never implemented properly.  It wasn’t that the country has rejected conservatism (they think most people are conservatives), it’s that the GOP is being punished for straying from it.  It isn’t the war, the economy, incompetence, cronyism and the fact that the GOP not only brought all this on the country, but also have not put forth any real ideas about how to solve it, it’s that Obamaniacs and the media have people fooled.  But don’t worry, they’ll soon see Obama for the shyster that he is….aaaaannny day now.  In the meantime, the Democrats are not trying to solve the nation’s problems, they are exploiting a troubled nation in order to enact a dictatorship, or worse, a Euro-style nanny state (on that last count I hope they’re right).

Rush has always been, in the ears of his listeners, a bulwark against “those idiots”—whoever the idiots happen to be—that he is an agitator extraordinaire.  Right now the fact that he is getting attacked by members of his own party signals to his listeners and allies that he’s on the right path, and the party leaders who want to muzzle him (who live in what you and I might know as the real world where Rush is an unlikable, wingnut firebrand who could actually make the GOP look worse, as if we ever thought that were possible) are part of the establishment, part of the problem.

Rush has always fancied himself an insurgent, even when he was so far up Bush’s ass he’d come out the other end to lick his boot.  His insurgency has finally become more than a useful means of spreading GOP propaganda—it has in fact come to power, and nothing other than Rush himself will change this for the foreseeable future.  Rush has finally arrived at his Finland Station.  

But here’s the thing about insurgents and revolutionaries coming to power:  they don’t know how not to be outsiders, how to wind the thing down.  There are always other, more powerful enemies.  There is always intrigue.  Ultimately, there are always purges.  How ironic that in ranting about Obama’s “communist” policies, it is the GOP who have started to resemble the CPSU.

 

****UPDATE****

I should point out that Obama can’t lose, either.  If Rush Limbaugh is the de facto head of the GOP, Obama’s team can point to anything he says, no matter how crazy (especially if it’s crazy), as what conservatives/Republicans believe or want (like that Obama’s policies fail).  But since Limbaugh is also not officially the head of the GOP, he can be dismissed as a mere pundit, entertainer, figure of the media—so overtures to “debate” him directly can be dismissed out of hand.  Limbaugh’s rants require no response unless they are politically useful for Obama.  So, now the Democratic leadership can let the GOP commit seppuku while Dems use their own media against them.  Wow, now that’s change I can believe in.

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