Why Beck and Limbaugh are bad for the Republicans - Macleans.ca
 

Why Beck and Limbaugh are bad for the Republicans


 

The current debate over whether Barack Obama’s opponents are motivated by his policy or his race dominated the Sunday news shows, with a general consensus emerging that policy was the main factor. It was nonetheless conceded that racism was a disturbing presence in many of the protest events. Sadly, no Republican spokesperson on the shows said anything to condemn the organizers that allowed and may have encouraged the ugly manifestations of racism.

Many of the recent protests reminded me of rallies last fall at which Sarah Palin would talk about “taking back our America” and accuse Obama of “palling around with terrorists.” The fact that media types like Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh engage in overt race-baiting on a daily basis only adds to the perception that the GOP is out of sync with its basic principles and values. It seems no Republican luminary would dare question Beck or Limbaugh for fear of facing primary challenges down the road, which is somewhat ironic when you consider that neither of the two is an actual member of the GOP. After all, opposing a liberal administration is good for ratings.

Both Beck and Limbaugh represent a brand of populist extremism that has bubbled up at different times in American history. Recall Father Coughlin during the FDR years, Senator McCarthy during the post WWII hysteria over communist infiltration, and George Wallace in the 60s playing on the fears of the white working class. The difference now is that Beck and Limbaugh have a greater range thanks to the Internet. While a lot of their shtick is more entertainment than information, they have mesmerized the mainstream media, which seems to react to their eccentricities on a regular basis. CNN and MSNBC often ask their analysts to react to some of the more extreme interventions of Beck and Limbaugh. The result is a larger-than-life reality show of which the Republican party is merely a spectator.

It may be that the Republican leadership in Congress, prospective presidential candidates, and RNC Chair Michael Steele figure that the extremism, the populism and maybe even the racism will bring Obama down, leaving the voices of reason and moderation to pick up the pieces. If that is the case, it is a risky proposition. America has seen revolts against policies, perceived threats to freedom, big government, unpopular wars and so on, but at the end of the day, Americans choose to be governed by balance and moderation, both in their leaders and their institutions. The principle of checks and balances is enshrined in the Founding Fathers’ thinking and is embodied in the constitution. Politicians who exploit the rants of Beck and Limbaugh may make some short-term gains in the polls—as Sarah Palin has done—but in the long run, America will opt for candidates that appeal to their hopes and dreams as opposed to their fears and greed.

Fortunately , there are voices within the Republican party that have the potential to rise and challenge the extremism of the far-right—people like David Frum and Joe Scarborough, two Republicans who have dared to question the antics of Beck and Limbaugh. Reasonable conservative pundits and journalists like David Brooks, George Will, Peggy Noonan, and Kathleen Parker consistently make the case for smaller government, less taxation, rugged individualism, and greater inclusivity in ways that honour the vision of conservative thinkers like William F. Buckley. But they cannot match the theatrics and charisma of Beck and Limbaugh. Unless the elected leadership shows more courage, the Republican party will remain a hostage of the fringe. Obama`s approval may have dropped in recent months, but the Republicans are still far from making the gains that will make them a viable alternative in the 2012 presidential election.

This is not a plea for an eventual Republican takeover of the US government on my part. Rather, it is based on a belief that good government happens when opposing views confront each other in the political process. Obama and the Democrats won the election and have the legitimacy to fulfill their promises, and this blog hopes to see the changes promised by Obama come to pass, especially in foreign policy, health care reform, the environment, and financial regulations.

Still, changing America is not as cut and dry a process as winning an election. It is the product of debate within a system of government that is based on checks and balances and characterized by a propensity toward bipartisanship in making policy and legislation. Bipartisanship depends on individual political leaders reaching across party lines for the common interest and proposing policies that can be grounds for a potential compromise. It was a precursor to historical legislation like Medicare, civil rights, social security, the foreign policy of the Cold War. However , as long as Beck and Limbaugh call the shots, the Republican party will fail to meet its promise .


 

Why Beck and Limbaugh are bad for the Republicans

  1. "Here are the names of some popular conservative Republicans that I hate, and here are some other very liberal but relatively unpopular ones that I and other journalists like: part twenty-three in an ongoing series."

    I know I've said this before, but seriously, these posts always come off as the mirror image of conservatives who lament that the entire Democratic Party isn't composed of Zell Millers.

  2. One thing I haven't seen noted (and please correct me if I've missed it) is the idea that characters like Limbaugh and Beck profit from their positions. Heck, they probably make more money when the Republican party is at its looniest, and outside the arena of engaged debate or power.

    Does this ever concern party insiders?

  3. Again, I have to ask the same question: What makes right now different than say, 1978, when everyone was freaking out about extremist conservative politics coming out of Orange County, such as Prop 13? Despite all the talk that the only people left in the Republican party post-Watergate were a bunch of extremist nuts, the Republicans seemed to do alright for themselves in the 1980s.

    I know history never exactly repeats itself, but IMO there are lessons to be learned.

    • Or to put it another way – has a mainstream political party lost power for a long time because it went simply 'nuts'?

      Seems to me every time a party on the right fell out of power for a long time it was due to perceived bad governance or highly unpopular decisions while in power. e.g.
      – Canadian Conservative Party during the recession
      – Republicans after 1932
      – (Federal) Conservatives in Quebec after World War I
      – Progressive Conservatives post Mulroney

      Say what you will about Alf Landon, Kim Campbell and John Bracken, but they didn't fail to win power because they had a bunch of extremists as supporters.

      And while Goldwater was seen as by many as an extremist in '64, the Republicans didn't exactly have to wait too long before recapturing the White House.

  4. As if a superannuated old bolshie like parisella's analysis of what is good and bad for the GOP is worth a pinch of sheep dung. Get serious.

    • Wow. Great analysis. Spoken much like Limbaugh. Get serious? Why don't you get lost.

  5. What is not discussed is how many actual moderate Republicans, Independents, and young persons are the right-wing zombie armies alienating?

    Moderate Republicans used to actually run successfully across the Midwest and Northwest. Where are they now? In fact, Republicans, it has been suggested, have become nothing less than the Bloc Quebecois/ Parti-Quebecois; a provincial and ethnocultural manifestation that proposes to undermine the federal government and throw a tantrum every time their insipid demands are not addressed.

    Secondly, what has not been articulated is the loss of entire generation of young-people to the political process. With growing unemployment, reduced mobility, increasing individual debt, and even less social amenities being offered by the Republicans, why would any young adults want or even trust, given the incompetence of the Bush years, the right-wing?

    Republicans should start supporting the Endangered Species Act, because at the rate they are going, they'll join the Dodo in a few years.

  6. I think Parisella is right. I'm no fan of Obama, but I'm embarrassed by Beck and Limbaugh. So much so that I almost miss the good ole Bush years…..

  7. same here. Bush is starting to look good next to Beck!

  8. So, an honest question for my more right-leaning friends for some context. Who would you consider the Limbaugh/Beck of the Democrats? I'm trying to come up with an analogy that would help describe for people on the right what the equivalent of this would be from the other side. Michael Moore seemed a somewhat obvious choice, but I don't know if that fits (to my mind, Moore is demonstrably less insane than Limbaugh or Beck, but I can also see a small-c conservative saying that Moore is too far to the left, and that that's an unfair analogy 'cause Moore is too crazy to be compared to Limbaugh).

    Who, if seen by the media and many Americans as being representative of the voice of the Democratic Party would have Republicans shaking their heads (and occasionally fists) the way that Limbaugh and Beck do for Dems?

    • Franken? Olbermann?

    • Franken? Olbermann?

    • This is a false dichotomy.

      Just consider what libertarian and congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) recently had to say on this issue, "whether it is the Republicans or Democrats, they are going to support the corporations. Even with medical care reform, who do you think is going to come out ahead in this? Corporations, drug companies, insurance companies, they're going to come out well on this. They are being protected. Some Conservatives claim Obama wants socialized medicine. I don't think so. I think he wants to perpetuate corporatism."

      Ouch.

      The reality is that the repubs. and the dems aren't so different in that they are bought and sold by those with moneyed interests. Why are troops still in Afghanistan & Iraq? Why isn't single payer health care being sold more effectively? Why didn't homeowners versus banks get bailed out? Why did Sen. Durbin (D-IN) claim that the banks still own the place when he tried to get a mortgage reform bill passed and failed? Why is the media concentrated in the hands of a few corporations?

    • Well, that is a good question. But I'd say what drives me crazy is more the "Hollywood" aspect- all those actors and entertainers thinking that their opinion means anything of significance. The list of "famous" culprits is long- but I'd put Sean Penn on top.

    • The left doesn;t ahve anyone even close, they don;t have anyone as ingtelligent, inciteful, or analytical. Liberal fascist thought is limited to "Rich bad, poor good" levels.

  9. "Here are the names of some popular conservative Republicans that I hate, and here are some other relatively liberal, relatively unpopular ones that I and other journalists like: part twenty-three in an ongoing series."

    I know I've said this before, but seriously, these posts always come off as the mirror image of Republicans who lament that the entire Democratic Party isn't composed of Zell Millers, or Tories that wouldn't mind voting Liberal if every candidate was a clone of John Manley. It's a line of thought that's fatuous and naïve at best, and insulting at worst.

    • avr seems to like the lunatics running the asylum . mark my word -the Republicans will gradually implode as America changes . Moderates – WAKE up!!Take yor party back.

    • I'm sure I'm well to the left of you, but I have to agree with this.

      Plus how many articles came out in, say, 1978 making the exact same argument, which at the time was that the Republicans wee doomed now the Reagan/Goldwater types are gaining control of the party away from the Ford/Rockefeller wing?

      • Exactly, thank you. Except in oddball contexts like Alberta's serial-one-party-rule streaks, two-party systems are bound to alternate on some timeline; there's no such thing as permanent victory. Whether or not it's under the GOP name, the particular conservativism Parisella loathes will eventually return to power, when events overtake the perceived competence of Democrats. That's going to happen no matter how much affinity partisan critics feel for the other side's minority wing, and no matter how good blind triumphalism feels.

      • Exactly, thank you. Except in oddball contexts like Alberta's serial-one-party-rule streaks, two-party systems are bound to alternate on some timeline; there's no such thing as permanent victory. Whether or not it's under the GOP name, the particular conservativism Parisella loathes will eventually return to power, when events overtake the perceived competence of Democrats. That's going to happen no matter how much affinity partisan critics feel for the other side's minority wing, and no matter how good blind triumphalism about the obvious, permanent failure of your enemies might feel.

  10. I'm struck by just how shallow the Republican bench is. The 2008 Presidential primaries were downright shocking in the contrast between the two parties. The Democrats had Clinton, Obama and John Edwards (before he spun in).

    The Republicans had a freak show of Giuliani, Huckabee, Romney, Ron Paul and John McCain. Not only could none of these candidates have beaten any of the Democratic candidates, not a single one was fit to be President. God, remember when Fred Thompson was the party's great next hope? Remember the "Who here believes in evolution?" question at the debates?

    I'm watching for a worthwhile candidate to come together on the Republican side and I just don't see it, no matter how excitedly the media jumps on anybody who looks remotely qualified. Bobby Jindal? Jeb Bush? Romney or Huckabee again? Sarah Palin? Mark Sanford?

    Similarly, if you read the "reasonable" pundits referenced here on a regular basis, you'll come to see just how weak they really are. Brooks' columns are a bowl of data-free mush, Noonan seems to write from gauzy emotion and Joe Scarborough only enters the "reasonable" column by daring to occasionally sneer at the right-wing talking points of the day. Did you see Zbigniew Brzezinski calmly disembowel ol' "Morning Joe"? Have you ever read the output of Ross Douthat?

    Not one of these people can hold a candle to the work of a Paul Krugman or a Rick Perlstein. Honestly, aside from doubling down on the crazy, or repackaging the Laffer Curve for the vulnerable, I don't see what the right has to offer – not in leadership, not in ideas, not in credibility.

    What they do have to offer is hordes of ginned-up, scared, gullible people, deployed like a zombie army. They rightly have no power within the system, so they're going to exercise power from outside the system, no matter the consequences for the country.

    • What they do have to offer is hordes of ginned-up, scared, gullible people, deployed like a zombie army.

      Yup, community organizing sure feels threatening from the other side, doesn't it?

    • What they do have to offer is hordes of ginned-up, scared, gullible people, deployed like a zombie army.

      Yup, community organizing sure feels threatening from the other side, doesn't it?

      You came awfully close to a point, there – it's true that the token "conservative" pundits approvingly cited by their liberal colleagues are pretty lame as opinionators. The smug sense of superiority permeating the rest is a shame, though.

    • What they do have to offer is hordes of ginned-up, scared, gullible people, deployed like a zombie army.

      Yup, community organizing sure feels threatening from the other side, doesn't it?

      You came awfully close to a point, there – it's true that the token conservative pundits approvingly cited by their liberal colleagues are pretty lame as opinionators. The smug sense of superiority permeating the rest is a shame, though.

      • "Yup, community organizing sure feels threatening from the other side, doesn't it? "

        That line sounded more clever from Sarah Palin.

        So aside from the lame conservative bloviators cited here, who are the non-token pundits representing the vanguard of conservative thought these days? You know, the fresh, provocative ideas based on data, a broad-based education, well-rounded thought? No cheesy buzz phrases, just solid, defensible conservative arguments. Who do you recommend?

        Also: I love that you, of all people, are coming out *against* a smug sense of superiority. Well played sir, you're like performance art.

      • Sometimes, a smug sense of superiority comes from being superior.

        lol

  11. As long as Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck are held up as the popular face of "true" conservatism, and people like David Brooks, George Will, Peggy Noonan, and Kathleen Parker are seen as relatively unpopular and far too liberal, the Republicans have a potential problem on their hands.

    What problem is that, exactly? You may not agree with their beliefs (such as they are, and with the caveat that said beliefs might not be articulated in detailed policy initiatives), but the fact of their popularity is the whole point. For right-leaning voters, a candidate holding views closer to Limbaugh than Brooks is a positive – not because Limbaugh is the Platonic ideal of a conservative, but because broadly, he's closer to that for those voters. Tack too closely to the centre, causing the ideological base to view the party itself as controlled by flip-flopping sellout elites not terribly different from the other side, and you get the 1993 PC Wipeout scenario.

    My problem with this ongoing line of thought from Parisella is that it's purely wishful thinking; "If only," he's saying, "everyone agreed that the only legitimate political positions to take were those within a spectrum of the centre to centre-left. Why, to prevent anyone too distasteful from gaining power, the party I would never vote for should regulate themselves to nonetheless offer candidates and policies that I would theoretically vote for, if there weren't a further-left alternative."

  12. As long as Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck are held up as the popular face of "true" conservatism, and people like David Brooks, George Will, Peggy Noonan, and Kathleen Parker are seen as relatively unpopular and far too liberal, the Republicans have a potential problem on their hands.

    What problem is that, exactly? You may not agree with their beliefs (such as they are, and with the caveat that said beliefs might not be articulated in detailed policy initiatives), but the fact of their popularity is the whole point. For right-leaning voters, a candidate holding views closer to Limbaugh than Brooks is a positive – not because Limbaugh is the Platonic ideal of a conservative, but because broadly, he's closer to that for those voters. Tack too closely to the centre, causing the ideological base to view the party itself as controlled by sellout elites not terribly different from the other side, and you get the 1993 PC Wipeout scenario.

    My problem with this ongoing line of thought from Parisella is that it's purely self-absorbed wishful thinking; "If only," he's saying, "everyone agreed that the only legitimate political positions to take were those within a spectrum of the centre to centre-left. Why, to prevent anyone too distasteful from gaining power, the party I would never support should regulate themselves to nonetheless offer candidates and policies that I would theoretically find tolerable."

    There are voters more conservative than that, making up a very sizable portion of the American population (unpleasant a thought as that may be for some); as long as that's the case, then it makes no sense to ignore their wishes and fight only for centrist votes.

    • Very dangerous to venerate those entertainers. They appeal to people 's worst instincts . They distort and call it conservatism . Beck calls Obama a racist . C'mon ,get serious . Limbaugh describes Obama's America as a black kid beating up on a white kid . When reagan said he was for states' rights in SC and Bush supported the Confederate ,did Rush refer to their America as racist and lynchers . As for Goldwater , he was beaten badly and never taken seriously until he asked Nixon to resign because of Watergate . Reagan ? Changed a lot and became a centrist who built the largest deficit in history at that point . Got along with Tip O'Neill and Kennedy . Nutcases do not become Prersidents . That eliminates Palin . I guess.

      • How fortunate for your worldview that none of them are running for the office of "Prersident," then.

      • How fortunate that none of them are running for the office of "Prersident," then.

      • How fortunate for your worldview that none of them are running for the office of "Prersident," then.

        (Also, I'm venerating nobody. I'm pointing out that hyperbole and triumphalism – such as your excellent example just now, wherein every single one of your political opponents aren't merely wrong, but evil and insane; Bravo! – are at best imprudent.)

        • avr:
          you are venerating loonie extremists . Hating Obama is just not enough in a democracy . You have to have opposing ideas that make sense . Not just threats and creating fear . Glen and Rush do that . Just calm down .

        • Interesting that you would call someone to task for a spelling mistake the day after 'Hushing' me for doing the same to someone who shares your worldview. I was under the impression that you thought such behaviour was boring.
          But then, I'm sure that you have some sort of rationalization that excuses you for doing it. How did that one go again? "Do as I say…"?

        • avr, it's interesting that you would call someone to task for a spelling mistake the day after 'Hushing' me for doing the same to someone who shares your worldview. I was under the impression that you thought such behaviour was boring.
          But then, I'm sure that you have some sort of rationalization that excuses you for doing it. How did that one go again? "Do as I say…"?

          • Oh, I remember. The difference is, my response to Dakota was in context. Yours to me, not so much. But as long as we're playing this way, I'll borrow from Dennis F's playbook by lol-ing at you, challenging all con/rights to raise their game a little, advise you to get a little better about losing arguments, and of course, the cherry on top: Next!

        • To be fair, I don't think GSB went quite so far as to suggest that every single one of his political opponents were evil and insane, just that Beck and Limbaugh (and Palin) are evil and insane (also, I think he really just called them insane… evil may be implied, but I don't think he went quite that far…).

          I wouldn't throw "evil" around too lightly myself, but I'll give GSB that the characters Limbaugh and Beck play in their respective mediums are, at least, not pictures of good mental health. As I don't believe either believes half of what he says (frankly, sometimes with Beck it's somewhat obvious that some of the things he says are more performance than reality) but I don't know if I would begin to address either's actual level of sanity. However, the characters they play for their audiences definitely often demonstrate a lack of a complete, well-grounded, sanity.

    • Would we be any closer to each other if I said that I think the subtly the headline is missing is that it's not that Beck and Limbaugh are bad for the Republicans, it's that Beck and Limbaugh being perceived as the driving force of the Republican Party is bad for Republicans?

      Perhaps not.

      I think this is one of those instances where one side just can't talk to the other (I tried with my Moore, O'Donnell and Garafallo examples, though even then, to my mind, none of those figures are as crazy as Limbaugh and Beck… well, as crazy as the characters Limbaugh and Beck play on radio and T.V. that is, so even then I felt like my analogy failed). People like me look at Limbaugh and Beck and just can't fathom why any party would feel comfortable having two people so obviously insane (rather, more accurately, so obviously playing insane people for their audiences) associated so closely with their party. Others look at Limbaugh and Beck and see the voice of the people.

      What it will come down to politically, in the end, is where are the independents? Do independents laud Beck and Limbaugh as the voice of the downtrodden, hard-done-by, can't get a break Christian white man finally standing up to be counted, and to wrest their nation back from the Godless socialists who tricked everyone into voting for a black guy, or will they see them as nutjobs?

      In the end, where independents come down on two important questions will rule the day. One, "what side do you support in the war on Christmas", and two, "how soon do you think Jesus is coming back?".

      LOL, j/k.

      It's one of those times where one side just can't see the other's point I'm guessing. One man's raving lunatic is another man's prophet.

  13. Clearly , Republicans are embarassed by the silence of their leaders . I agree with TJ the liberals are way smarter than the right wing pundits . In fact , Beck and limbaugh laugh at Will and Morning Joe . They are mush .
    The real dingbat in all of this is Palin who really is not too smart but spews the crap fed to her . Republicans are becoming a joke and Obama`s best allies in the long run .

    • Funny how the right wing pundits have all the popularity. So your measure of smartness is the lack of ability to attract an audience, in an occupation in which attracting an audience is the ultimate goal. Very astute.

  14. i live in a part of the USA where rush and beck are very popular. i listen to them almost every day, and i have to admit that they can be dolts, no doubt. but they do serve a purpose: they help people who disagree with what is going on in washington d.c. have an outlet for their frustrations. as for the republicans, not everyone who listens to rush and beck are republicans, not anymore. both political parties in the usa are corrupted.

    • lace wigs:
      i understand that they are an outlet and they can be entertaining in the process. But if it channels into a Palin for President , then it becomes dangerous . She cannot by temperament be a unifier . She is a divider .

  15. Clearly John Parisella article is right out of the same insanity as Jimmy Carter's comments, that somehow opposition to huge government spending and changing to socialized health care is somehow racist.Truly a very lazy argument. As for labeling David Brooks a conservative is sorrily misinformed.This is the same man that gushed over the crease in Obama's pants.
    Beck and Limbaugh are entertainers ,maybe not good ones but they certainly don't run the republican party.

  16. I'll never understand the strange argument that Limbaugh is "bad" because he is popular. What garbage. Limbaugh is a radio host that is popular, he is a Republican by choice, not because the party every appointed him to a position of any kind. I don't think there is anything that Parisella says that makes sense. He seems to advocate censorship for those that are popular.

    to condemn the organizers that allowed and may have encouraged the ugly manifestations of racism<i/>
    Secondly, these strange cries of "racism" are really getting old. Parisella is really becoming unhinged. When all you can do is insult your opponents, you've really lost it.

    • I believe Parisella is showing that the republicans have to change if they hope to win . Now they are in under 30% support.

  17. Beck is a libertarian, not a Republican. Limbaugh is not a Republican official. Unlike the mainstream propaganda machine, they speak as individuals and they don't mimic the party line. The constant smears from the left against conservative talk show hosts are laughable. The people who complain about Beck, Rush, Savage, Hannity are not people who listen to them, otherwise they would know that their smears are pure BS. This guy sounds like David Frum , the one-trick pony who parrots over and over "We'd better throw ____ under the bus or the Dems won't like us very much. " Personally I'd like to see the GOP go away and be replaced by a real conservative party. If the talkers help that happen, hooray!