Who would have expected Rush Limbaugh to become a national figure and the “official opposition” to the Obama administration? Did anyone expect the radio talk show host to garner more attention than the Republican party’s actual leadership? The weekend conference hosted by the Conservative Political Action Committee(CPAC) provided the colorful talk show host with a forum where he once again stole the show. RNC president Michael Steele criticized the controversial Limbaugh but apologized later. Not a good beginning for Steele in the national media. Chalk one up for Rush.
Let’s face it: Rush Limbaugh is filling a vacuum. The GOP is stuck in “no” mode and no spokesperson with any credibility has emerged. Governor Jindal flamed out; Sarah Palin is not serious in the policy department; John McCain is no longer a factor; and Mitt Romney has great hair days, but no one seriously believes he can challenge Obama. Voters also blame the GOP for enacting policies that led to the ongoing economic crisis. Add to this the not-too-distant memory of the unpopular George W. Bush, and Rush starts to look pretty good. But look again.
Conservative columnist and former Bush aide David Frum strongly criticized the love-in with Rush, pointing to Limbaugh’s history with prescription drugs, his infatuation with cigars, and his marital baggage as problems. No doubt Rush is fun to watch and amusing to listen to. And, to be fair, he does express a strong point of view that is conservative and rooted in history. The problem is that his message is one of the past and his persona, while entertaining, is not reassuring to the voter. He speaks to the Republican base, but that base is dwindling. Nowhere in his discourse is he directing the Republican party to reach out and attract new voters.
A close analysis of the last election shows that the Democrats have an increasingly favorable electoral map. Obama did not change America; America has changed and the Republicans are out of touch. The fact that Obama and his officials are humoring Limbaugh makes me suspect they see this as a blessing in disguise. They seem to have given ol’ Rush the bait and he has taken it. Democratic operatives have to be happy to have Limbaugh as the voice and the face of the GOP, especially given that they do not have Dubya to kick around anymore. Limbaugh is bombastic, at times arrogant, and, ultimately, not serious in serious times. I recall some pundits questioning Obama’s run-in with Rush as an example of inexperience. But when I heard Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff to Obama, point to Rush Limbaugh as the guiding spirit of the Republican party, it was clear to me that this suits the new president just fine.