Help Me Reach 12 on the Manly Scale of Absolute Gender

If you like the patriotic work we're doing, please consider donating a few dollars. We could use it. (if asked for my email, use "")

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Boss Limbaugh: It's Good to be the King!

Boss Limbaugh: It's Good to be the King!
Image © Austin Cline
Click for full-sized Image

Liberals are happy that Rush Limbaugh has become the leader of the Republican Party, but it's not clear to me whether conservatives are happy — or even if they should be. Granted, Rush Limbaugh is a bit of a clown and from the liberal perspective it seems obvious that his prominence can only help the Democratic Party, but that's a rather limited perspective held primarily by political junkies and/or people who are already unlikely to vote Republican anyway.

For one thing, it's important to make a distinction between the Republican Party and the conservative "movement." They overlap to significant degrees, but they aren't quite identical. The conservative movement, for example, doesn't have to worry about elections and so doesn't ever have to make compromises in order to effectively exercise power. It's often the failure of Republican themselves to recognize this difference that can make them so bad once in government positions.

Once we have this distinction firmly in mind, we need to consider the degree to which Rush Limbaugh may be leading the Republican Party on one hand and the conservative movement on the other — he might be much more of a leader in one than the other. Even if conservatives allow themselves to become unclear on the importance of this distinction, we shouldn't because the implications of each are different and potentially significant.

Rush Limbaugh leading the Republican Party becomes immediately connected to electoral politics. The party itself can be more easily associated with Limbaugh, both for promoting and for criticizing it. He also becomes wrapped up in the political fortunes of the party — he make take credit for the successes, but failures for the Republicans can be laid at his feet just as easily.

None of this is quite as true if Rush Limbaugh leads the conservative movement. Leading the conservative movement would allow Limbaugh to remain independent of Republican Party in a way that would make it harder to criticize them through him or to attribute any Republican failures to his presence. At the same time, though, he could exercise considerable influence on the theories and practices which, over time, would help define the conservatism which the Republican Party relies upon. So he'd get to have his cake and eat it too.

This is the path which has been taken by many conservative leaders over the years: they've stayed away from the direct political side of things in favor of exercising significant influence behind the scenes. People may have known their names, but they didn't see these powerful conservatives on TV every night, so it wasn't possible to connect them too closely to the Republican Party. That's never been as easy an option for Rush Limbaugh because he's always out in front of cameras or behind microphones. His business is entertainment, not influencing political movements, so he can't stay behind the scenes.

Nevertheless, Limbaugh has in the past managed to remain separate enough from the Republican Party that no one has been able to connect the two too closely. So what's changed? The most immediate cause may be the development of a power vacuum at the top of the Republican Party — there isn't anyone able (or willing?) to become a focal point for Republican ideals, so this role has devolved to the loudest, most prominent voice around. The fact that this voice doesn't belong to anyone technically within the party apparently doesn't matter.

Many conservatives and Republicans appear to be content with this. There is some argument for allowing Limbaugh to take the lead because he appeals so strongly to the Republican base; in the wake of so many electoral defeats, there's a lot to be said in favor of rallying the base before making broader appeals. Allowing Limbaugh to be point man on this is problematic, though, because of what I pointed out above: Limbaugh is an entertainer, not a politician, an academic, a theorist, an activist, or any of the other things which would make for a potentially good leader.

As an entertainer, Rush Limbaugh's personal interests are not entirely in sync with the interests and needs of the Republican Party, never mind the nation as a whole. Limbaugh earns money and influence from having a large audience. This, in turn, is largely driven from the effective promotion, maintenance, and management of controversies. This agenda can be diametrically opposed to the interests of the Republican party and the government because effective government requires solving problems, ending controversies, and helping people.

Even if he gave up his radio show in favor of a direct political career, there would be significant reason for skepticism because his entire career has been driven by particular attitudes and ways of doing things. It's just not credible to think that he'd be able to easily abandon all of that in favor of completely new methods. So what the Republicans have invested at least their near-term future in is a man whose interests may be contrary to their Republicans' interests in winning elections and promoting a conservative ideal of American society.

This is why Limbaugh's leadership in the Republican Party is such a joy to liberals: not only does it allow them to highlight flaws in the party in such an effective, even visceral manner, but it also holds the promise of Republicans undermining their own long-term interests. Rush Limbaugh may excite the base, but he's more likely to be a gift-wrapped present for liberals than for conservatives. Some seem to recognize what's going on, but they lack the charisma or vision to do something about it — in the end, they all end up making a trip to Canossa to kiss the King's Precious.


  1. Should there be a comma after two?

  2. Cline, have you ever been in a tiny room when a fat, sweaty, angry man starts yelling? When he goes red in the face, to the point where you don't know whether he's going to hit you or pounce on you with his doughy bulk to smother the life out of you, or just keel over from apoplexy and die? I have, and it would have been frightening even if he wasn't my dad. But let's not go there, shall we?

    The point is, angry, out-of-control fat men are scary! We conservatives have to make liberals like you feel that, Cline. We want you to think of angryscaryRush all the time. Imagine being stuck in a lift with him, when the mechanical fail is making him late for an important meeting with a housekeeper or something. You don't want to make the fat man mad, do ya son? Just do what he says and your eardrums won't get hurt.

    The only problem is, we need about 100 million Rushes to persuade that unAmerican 56% of the U.S. population to do what's best for the Limbaugh -- I mean, Republican -- Party. That's where I have hopes for genetic engineering...

  3. Bukko, I had a Dad just like that, only he wasn't fat and he would hit you.

  4. This agenda can be diametrically opposed to the interests of the Republican party and the government because effective government requires solving problems, ending controversies, and helping people.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!! Like the Republican Party gives a single flying fuck about "effective government"!

  5. A porcine multi-millionaire does the bidding of billionaires, and woe unto those conservatives who do not bend a knee to him!

    Listen, I remember this kid from school: he was the guy we never picked to be on our team, not because he was a slow fatty but because all he did was talk. When we needed someone to field third base he talked about how weak our former third baseman was. In the fall when we needed someone to play right guard he grunted something about a sore toe. In class, he would only raise his hand when he needed to go into the hall and stuff a Mars bar into his mouth. And when we grew up and he bellowed on and on about patriotism and duty, we saw him get out of serving his country by pointing to the cyst on his ass (he should have at the least joined up with a Lancers brigade). He always had a couple of younger kids who followed him around, who looked up to him. I think it was because he was loud.

    This sweaty, pathological talker continues his act to this day, and has amassed a good deal of wealth in the bargain, but to me he is still that kid we never picked for our team. And when we played, we had fun, not by mocking the other team but because it was fun to hit or throw or shoot a ball--it was fun sans commentary. As youngsters, we somehow knew that commentary was for those who did not live in that field of play. It is the same for Rush today.

    With the rise of the Internets millions and millions of us (billions?) now have the opportunity to comment, to pass judgment, to have our say. I miss throwing and catching the ball. Guess I am getting old.


  6. Fats reminds me of the cliche alien in movies that learns it's English from a commercial TV channel; Smooth, glib button pushing phrases that have no dimension or substance. He is addicted to the buttons cuz he's so good at pushing them.
    Of course the chosen path is so miserable that his emotional release is purchased in prescription bottles and brown skinned whores.
    I'm only curious to what his "Rosebud" will be when his miserable existence ends.

  7. Knowdoubt, my dad wasn't actually fat and red-faced. I make up shit here for comic effect. I think it's part of the rules. Dad was a muscular Army officer who preferred chokeholds to hitting because that left less physical evidence. That all stopped the first time I beat him in a fight at age 15. Those last bits are true.

    Rush Limbaugh == Eric Cartman, all growed up.

  8. Bukko, I think you just blew my mind and then you had to throw rules on top of it?


We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.