Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Power of El Rushbo

In my life as a Richmonder I've had occasion to know many a Rush Limbaugh fan. There are lots of reasons to like listening to Rush - I'll admit I used to find him mildly entertaining myself back in the day. But there is a certain type of person who really LOVES Rush, who is fanatically devoted to him and cannot allow himself to understand that the vast, vast majority of the "commentary" that Rush offers is just made-up inflammatory nonsense.

I knew a guy back when I was first starting out in the computer biz who was one of these Limbaugh dittoheads. His name was Nick and he was a little angry guy who was reasonably intelligent but not particularly curious and who had a massive Napoleon complex that required him to tell everyone what to do and how to do it at all times.

I remember once he gave me a ride somewhere in his little dirty white sedan and he had Rush's radio show on in the car. I, being young and arrogant myself, sort of thought that everyone must listen to Rush the same way I did - appreciating his cracked perspective, but understanding that his views didn't represent any coherent, serious political philosophy.

I made an offhand comment that somehow revealed my point of view, and Nick blew up. It was instant and impressive - his face got red, spit flew from his mouth, and he began an impromptu tirade about how I had been brainwashed by the liberal media to believe that Rush was a fool when in fact he was the only sane man in the entire media landscape.

It's important to reiterate - Nick was screaming at someone who, at that point in his life liked Rush Limbaugh. To him, nothing less than fanatical, unquestioning devotion was sufficient to separate me from the massing communist hordes poised to tear the country apart with their fascist campus speech codes and capricious environmental regulations.

Over time, as the old Republican base of old-style racist white male voters has aged and begun to die out, the GOP has become increasingly dependent on guys like Nick whose worldview is ENTIRELY shaped by talk radio, and Rush in particular.

The dilemma for the GOP is that there just aren't enough guys like Nick. As the years roll on, the Republicans are going to lose more and more elections as long as they cling to a narrative that most of the population finds moronic. The trouble is, Dittoheads now represent a decent chunk of the Republican coalition. They vote at a high rate, so it's possible that Rush Limbaugh fans represent a large plurality of the Republican electorate in many elections. If those people were to desert the party suddenly, the Republicans would be doomed.

Unfortunately, unless they can leave Rush behind somehow, or at least marginalize him to the point where he is no longer the de facto leader of the party, they're doomed anyway. I hope they keep him around - an extended run as a permanent minority party seems like the proper fate for the modern GOP.

1 comment:

Uncle Kevin said...

Rush is filling the vacuum. As many have pointed out, Rush hated McCain and he got the nomination anyway. There's just no one else right now and he finds himself on the stage alone. It is unclear how many folks are actually like your former workmate. His audience size is unknown (Arbitron has never bothered to figure it out) and some studies suggest half of it are people that disagree with him. Of the rest, I'm dubious a majority of them are true ditto heads. As such you may be talking about 1.5 million folks that vaguely are influenced by him. Let's be honest, predominately they are just people for whom Rush gives them voice for things they already believe, or at least want to hear. In the end, the GOP will rise again, it is merely about what form it will take. And no, I suspect Rush will have little to say about what form that will be.