Monday, March 09, 2009

With 'Godfather' Limbaugh, GOP Turning Into Political Version of 'The Sopranos'

The Right-Wing Radio Talk-Show Host's Seeming Takeover as Boss of the Republican Party -- and the GOP's Apparent Fear of His 'Dittohead Mafia' -- Could Pose a Danger to its Viability in Future Elections, as Polls Find Limbaugh Is Less Popular Than Bush and the Party's Electoral Base Continues to Shrink to View Full-Size Image

Who's the real boss of the Republican Party? There's a growing belief among pundits and the general American public -- and even among some Republicans -- that Rush Limbaugh, the Tony Soprano of conservative talk radio, is the real power in the GOP, given the fact that so far, every prominent Republican who has publicly criticized Limbaugh -- including GOP National Chairman Michael Steele -- has ended up issuing a public apology to Limbaugh within 24 hours, often after Limbaugh "whacked" them on his radio show. This ongoing soap opera suggests that many Republicans are fearful of alienating Limbaugh and his Mob-like legion of "Dittohead" listeners. (Images: Rush Limbaugh courtesy; Tony Soprano courtesy

(Posted 5:00 a.m. EDT Monday, March 9, 2009)


"Who's the Boss?"

That might have been the title of the popular 1980s ABC television sitcom that starred Tony Danza, but it could just as well be applied now to the ongoing soap opera that's gripped the Republican Party.

Indeed, it's a soap opera that's rapidly becoming the political equivalent of HBO's highly successful, Emmy-winning Mob drama, "The Sopranos."

In recent weeks, Americans across the political spectrum have borne witness to the incredible display of the Republican Party acting more like the fictional New Jersey crime family -- minus the violence and gore, of course -- as member after member who dared to publicly "cross the boss" ended up apologetically bowing down to him within 24 hours after the boss got them "whacked" -- verbally, that is.

And just who is this Tony Soprano of the Republican Party? None other than America's most famous right-wing radio talk-show host, Rush Limbaugh.

With Republicans by the dozens appearing to cower to the talk-radio godfather and his right-wing "Dittohead Mafia" of angry, mostly white male listeners, the GOP's viability as a national political party could be placed in serious jeopardy in future elections.


There is good reason for Republicans to be afraid to cross swords with Limbaugh: The latest in a series of polls conducted by the Gallup Organization in February show that 60 percent of Republicans have a favorable view of Limbaugh, while only 17 percent view him unfavorably.

In sharp contrast, Democrats despise the right-wing radio talkmeister. Sixty-three percent of Democrats -- almost a two-thirds majority -- have a negative opinion of Limbaugh, while only six percent of Democrats view him favorably.

Among independents, a 45 percent plurality view Limbaugh unfavorably, while 25 percent have a positive view.

Taken together, Limbaugh enjoys only a 28 percent favorable rating overall -- a figure actually lower than former President George W. Bush's 31 percent positive rating when he left office in January. Forty-five percent overall view Limbaugh unfavorably.

A separate poll conducted last October by the Democratic research firm Greenberg-Quinlan-Rosner has Limbaugh enjoying a public-approval rating of only 21 percent among likely voters, while 58 percent have negative feelings toward the right-wing radio talkmeister.

Limbaugh’s negative rating in the Greenberg poll was higher than that of every other political figure, including the president's controversial former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright (51 percent negative) and former 1960s radical William Ayers 50 percent negative).


With voter-registration records across the country showing a dramatic increase in the number of registered Democrats and independents in 2008 and an equally dramatic decrease in the number of registered Republicans, the soldifying perception of the GOP as a party with Limbaugh and his "Dittohead Mafia" firmly in charge of it could pose a dire threat to the GOP's long-term viability in future elections.

Already widely perceived after last November's election as a party whose support base has shrunk to the conservative South and Rocky Mountain West, the Republicans can ill afford to continue be controlled by the conservative, middle-aged-and-older, overwhelmingly white male constituency that makes up the bulk of the party's core voter base -- and Limbaugh's radio audience -- when the overall U.S. population and electorate is becoming more and more racially, ethnically, religiously and culturally diverse.

Republicans lost the support of African-American voters decades ago with the advent in 1968 of Richard Nixon's infamous "Southern Strategy" of appealing to conservative Southern white voters alienated by the Democrats' embrace of the civil rights movement.

In the last decade, Republicans lost the support of Latino voters angered by the frequent use by conservative Republicans of anti-Latino language in voicing their opposition to comprehensive immigration reform.

The GOP suffered an erosion of support even from conservative Cuban-Americans in South Florida, long a reliable GOP constituency, in the 2008 election. Concerns about the souring U.S. economy overtook long-held concerns among Cuban-Americans about their communist-ruled island homeland.

"The politics driven by the embargo and Fidel Castro are . . . long gone," Obama's Florida campaign manager, Steve Schale, told The Miami Herald, citing exit polls that showed younger Cuban-Americans shifting significantly toward the Democrats.

"The U.S. relationship with Castro, at the end of the day," Schale told the Herald, "is a minor concern when you can't get a job or find health insurance for your children."

Based on these numbers, if Limbaugh were to run for president in 2012 as the GOP nominee, he would likely get buried in a landslide -- especially if President Obama, who currently enjoys a 62 percent job-approval rating in the Gallup poll, were to run for a second term with his current ratings intact.


Limbaugh has made headlines with his on-the-air pronouncements that he wants to see the Obama presidency fail. That Limbaugh wants to see a Democratic president "fail" just days after Obama took office was shocking in that he had never said that about any previous Democratic president nor so quickly after the Democrat took office.

The swiftness and vehemence of Limbaugh's anti-Obama rants, combined with his playing of a racially offensive song about the president -- "Barack, the Magic Negro" -- during the campaign, strongly suggests that Limbaugh's problem with Obama may be racially motivated more than politically motivated.

The same motivation could also have been behind Limbaugh's rude put-down of Michael Steele -- the GOP's first-ever African-American national committee chairman -- after Steele criticized Limbaugh while appearing on CNN's "D.L. Hughley Breaks the News" on February 28. "I am the leader of the Republican Party," Steele told Hughley. "Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. His whole thing is entertainment. Yes, it's incendiary. Yes, it's ugly."

Limbaugh roared back on March 2 with a blistering smackdown of Steele. "It's time, Mr. Steele, for you to go behind the scenes and start doing the work that you were elected to do, instead of trying to be some talking-head media star," Limbaugh thundered. "If it's your position as the head of the Republican National Committee that you want a left-wing Democrat president and a left-wing Democrat Congress to succeed in advancing their agenda . . . I think you have some explaining to do. Why are you running the Republican Party?"

The vitriol behind Limbaugh's attack on the new RNC chairman is without precedent. One wonders if Limbaugh would have been so heavy-handed in his smackdown of Steele -- effectively putting Steele "in his place" -- if the GOP party chairman was white, given Limbaugh's long history of controversial, racially-charged remarks.

And Steele's response to Limbaugh's verbal whacking of him? Appearing Wednesday night on Sean Hannity's Fox News Channel show, Steele said he had a private conversation with Limbaugh and denied that his comments on CNN were intended as an attack on talk radio's undisputed godfather.

"It's all good. . .We're past this," Steele told Hannity. "It was clearly a misunderstanding. My intent was never to go after my friend. I like Rush. He's an important conservative voice for our party and for 20-plus years, he's been holding that line."

Steele insisted that the point he was trying to make, "if you listen to the exchange [between Steele and Hughley], there was no attack on Rush," he told Hannity. "The point I wanted to make was there there are people out there who actually want to demonize and use him [Limbaugh] as a bogeyman, but also saying that what he's saying is ugly and divisive."


Nonetheless, Steele became the latest of a number of prominent Republicans who have criticized Limbaugh in public, only to apologize to him within 24 hours -- which had left a number of political observers scratching their heads.

Richard Wolfe, a political analyst for MSNBC, compared the Limbaugh soap opera in the GOP to the Bush doctrine behind the war on terror. "You're either with Limbaugh or you're with the terrorists, I guess," Wolfe told MSNBC's Kieth Olbermann last Monday.

"And it's clear who's doing the terrorizing here," Wolfe added, referring to Limbaugh. "Here you have a party [the GOP] that ran no less than four elections on being tougher and stronger than anyone else, and they can't say 'boo' to a radio talk-show guy? It's surprising that [Republican] elected officials are in this quandary and they put themselves in it."

Wolfe expressed astonishment that the Republicans "don't have the freedom to say what they really feel, which is that he's [Limbaugh] hijacking their party and their message.

"This is a sorry state of affairs, even for the Republicans," he concluded.


Even some Republicans have become alarmed at Limbaugh's perceived takeover as the leading voice of the GOP.

"He motivates a core Republican, who is a very important part of the Republican coalition, and we need those guys to be interested and active," Jan van Lohuizen, a GOP strategist in Washington, told the Los Angeles Times. "But it's not enough. The Republican Party has shrunk and it needs to be expanding."

But one prominent Republican isn't impressed with Limbaugh. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger -- who's been at odds with the GOP's right wing for years -- bluntly declared two years ago, "I'm not his [Limbaugh's] servant," in an interview on NBC's "Today" show. "I'm the people's servant of California."

Schwarzewnegger was firing back at Limbaugh for branding him a "closet liberal."

"Limbaugh is irrelevant," the "Governator" said.


That was two years ago. It can't be said that Limbaugh is "irrelevant" to the Republicans now -- especially after he openly challenged President Obama to a debate on his radio show.

"If you can win at this, then come here and beat me at my own game, and get rid of me once and for all, and show all the people of America that I am wrong," Limbaugh said Wesdnesday. "If you take me out, if you can wipe me out in a debate and prove to the rest of America that what I say is senseless and wrong, do you realize you will own the United States of America?"

In a display of reverse psychology, Limbaugh accused the White House of orchestrating an attack on him, telling his listeners that the Obama team is demonizing the radio host since Bush left office.

Yet it was Limbaugh who started this fracas in the first place by declaring that he hoped that the president's policies would fail.

It was Limbaugh who insisted that Obama was not an African-
American, but an Arab who had ties to extremist Muslim terrorists.

And it was Limbaugh who poured even more racially-charged gasoline when he attempted to belittle Obama by playing "Barack, the Magic Negro" on his show.

So who's demonizing whom?

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Volume IV, Number 19
Copyright 2009, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.



Anonymous said...

Limbaugh is a gift to the Democratic party. He cares only about the size of his audience (and hence the size of his income). He isn't interested in the well-being of the GOP.

In fact, he probably wants the GOP to do badly. The worse the position the GOP is in, the more frenetically will the wingnuts flock to him. That will polarize the GOP, ensuring that neither the moderate nor the wingnut factions have a chance of gaining enough votes to gain power. Which will attract the wingnuts to Limbaugh even more strongly.

Oh the irony of it all. Limbaugh will ensure the GOP do not gain power for as long as he is alive, and the wingnuts will laud him as he does it. After eight years of Bush, it appears that the karmic wheel has turned.

Bill said...

I just love the video they have been playing of OxyRush on Countdown where he is bouncing up and down at the CPAC thing. How disgusting can he get? His hatred and intolerance are finally coming home to roost. Everyone I know has been complaining that the Republican Party has devolved into nothing more than a hate mongering mouthpiece, devoid of any ideas that haven't been put to their own 8 year test, and shown to be garbage. Where is nthe gentlemaness of Dwight Eisenhower, the humility and dignity of Gerald Ford? Nothing left in the tank but bile.