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Rush Limbaugh, McCain, Huckabee and ‘the destruction of the Republican Party’ January 31, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in US Politics.
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Got to love elections. They’re a sort of searing blow torch – at their best – exposing contradiction, ineptitude and downright mistruth. And got to love the Republican primaries because in the latter area we see a strange phenomenon emerge, that is the outing of Rush Limbaugh as… well, you judge…

If proof were needed, not that it really is, that he is truly beyond parody let me direct your attention to his recent words concerning the Presidential Election. Limbaugh has always presented himself as an outsider, a conservative, but one at heart beyond the metropolitan Washington elites. Hence his appeal to those who glory in the term ‘dittoheads’.
So, one might expect that he would be strongly in favour of the two insurgent candidates in the Republican Party, Mike Huckabee and John McCain. One might expect wrong.

On a recent show there was the following exchange:

CALLER: Sorry to deviate from your monologue for just a minute, but you had a woman call yesterday that just frosted me to no end that if either Huckabee or McCain won the nomination she was going to sit the election out.

RUSH: Yeah.

CALLER: People like her, I coined a term, a call them TV Republicans, and it doesn’t stand for television, it stands for tunnel vision, because they need to take the blinders off and see the bigger picture. If they sit out the general election, the Democrat wins it by default, whichever one of the Three Stooges wins it. Guess what? In the next four years, there’s going to be probably one, maybe two Supreme Court vacancies come up. Do they really want one of the three bozos over there appointing the next two Supreme Court justices? Is Clinton gonna appoint another Ginsburg, or is she going to do another Scalia? Is Obama going to appoint another Justice Thomas or is he going to do somebody like Breyer or Stevens? Do they really want a liberal appointing the next two Supreme Court justices? They need to take the blinders off, Rush. They need to look at the bigger vision and quit being Tunnel Vision Republicans.

RUSH: I understand what you’re saying. I hate to tell you this, but she’s not alone. I’m here to tell you, if either of these two guys get the nomination, it’s going to destroy the Republican Party, it’s going to change it forever, be the end of it. A lot of people aren’t going to vote. You watch.

I feel his pain. I really do. Still, what is his choice? Why, one Mitt Romney, of course.

Surely this demonstrates the effective vacuity of Limbaugh’s approach that he supports the de facto candidate of the Republican establishment against the insurgencies from the conservative religious right and the populist centre right? What is interesting is just how this exposes all the rhetoric as just that. What is more interesting is how it exposes the hegemony of a very specific strand of Republican thinking over the past while, whatever the tactical shifts we have had to endure as regards foreign policy, etc. That this hegemony is ending in complete disarray is fascinating, that it is apparently impossible for some to credit is more fascinating still. What it also points to is an interesting ‘essentialism’ developing amongst some conservatives such as in this example… something the left has often tended to do itself at its own expense. I’ve always found the salami slicing argument an interesting one… the one that goes, “better we lose than we win and find our principles compromised”. Well, yeah. Sure, but hegemony is a funny thing, it’s sometimes a fragile flower that needs at least a fair bit of attention. Keeping the discourse conservative (or whatever) means keeping the political environment conservative. And of course the reverse is also true.

Anyhow, that free piece of advice given, I don’t expect the dittoheads to take up arms against Limbaugh… but some conservative blogs are pondering whether by dissing Huckabee Limbaugh is misreading his own base.

Let’s hope so – eh?

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Comments»

1. eamonnmcdonagh - January 31, 2008

McCain´s speech today when Arnie endorsed him didn’t sound very populist centre right. The Sierra Club and Greenpeace could have drafted most of it.

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2. Eagle - January 31, 2008

eamonnmcdonagh,

Didn’t see/hear the speech, but no doubt McCain comes from the left of the party on some issues. Last night he was bashing Romney for working for profit. There are times when I wonder if McCain is all there. I’ve always thought that, however. It gives me comfort to think that McCain is not totally all right in the head at times.

WBS,

I think many on the left are reading way, way too much into what’s going on in the Republican party/conservative movement. There was no good conservative candidate this time, which is why the conservatives have been all over the place with their votes. A lot of conservatives have a soft spot for McCain even though he can’t stand the conservative leaders – think tank folks – and their popular mouthpieces (Rush, Hewitt, Ingraham, etc.)

One other thing to remember – Rush is an entertainer. He makes money based on the size of his audience. He over dramatizes things at times because that sells.

Having said that, there’s no doubt that Rush & McCain don’t like one another.

I still suspect that Rush is posturing because he (and other conservatives) know that McCain can’t win the general election without the foot-soldiers of the Republican party, most of whom are more conservative than McCain. They want to force McCain to come to them. They may well get their wish. McCain will address the CPAC next week. We’ll see what sort of commitment he gives them. Also, his VP choice will be important.

I don’t know why Rush & the others can’t see that Romney is just not appealing to people. He’s not a natural conservative, more a British Tory than a conservative Republican.

I guess we’ll see what happens. I didn’t have access to the same amount of information from America before the 96 election, but people I know tell me that there was a lot of this about Bob Dole too. These things happen.

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3. CL - January 31, 2008

The ‘fundamentalist conservatives’ (if thats the correct term) hate McCain because of his stand on immigration and because he’s publicly against torture. He’s cooperated with his fellow Senators Kennedy and Feingold-two of the most left/liberal. He’s also been scathing in his criticism of Rumsfeld who Cheney described as the greatest Defense secretary in U.S. history. They can’t stand Huckabee because he’s using ‘class warfare’ language…And he’s helping McCain and damaging Romney by staying in the race, (and maybe running for the V.P. spot. In any case the ‘Reagan coalition’ continues to fracture.
Meanwhile Obama raised $31 million in January. And he’s been rated the most liberal senator in 2007 based on his senate voting record… and appears to be rising in the polls. Interesting times.

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4. PamDirac - February 1, 2008

**Didn’t see/hear the speech, but no doubt McCain comes from the left of the party on some issues. Last night he was bashing Romney for working for profit..***

And in his South Carolina victory speech, McCain spoke in terms couched in extreme economic conservatism. Next week he will probably say something directly opposite. It’s not just that he says things like he doesn’t understand economics, but he also sounds like he…really doesn’t understand economics. On foreign policy there have been times recently when he sounded not like your crazy uncle, but your crazy uncle on steroids.

***It gives me comfort to think that McCain is not totally all right in the head at times.***

Sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be any other explanation.

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5. Wednesday - February 1, 2008

he’s been rated the most liberal senator in 2007 based on his senate voting record

If you’re talking about the National Journal ranking, it’s important to note that he missed a third of the votes that were used to compile that ranking. John Kerry was exactly the same four years ago – ranked “most liberal” with a significant proportion of missed votes. You’d have to be a bit cynical about which votes he would avoid getting on the record for during an election campaign.

Obama’s rankings for the previous two years – when he didn’t miss nearly so many votes – were 10th and 16th respectively, fairly significant differences given that there are only about 50 Democrats in the Senate.

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6. WorldbyStorm - February 1, 2008

I’d generally agree with Wednesday on this. Obama isn’t as liberal as many of his footsoldiers believe. On the other hand, he is in the first 20%, so I guess he’s more liberal than most… :) Still, dial pushed to the right in US politics so who knows.

Eagle, that’s a good point that Limbaugh is posturing, there seems to be a lot of movement prior to McCain possibly becoming nominee to pressurise him back to the right. On the other hand the guy just isn’t a social liberal… I don’t think that’s as a difficult a journey to the right as some think it is for him.

McCain in California is going to be a more liberal McCain, that’s the way of it…

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7. Eagle - February 1, 2008

WBS,

The problem for Rush et al is that McCain is essentially conservative and the average voter senses this. However, McCain has been willing to work with the Democrats at times to help get certain changes made. That he helped form the Gang of 14 really rankles with some of the more staunch conservatives.

I wonder if Rush worries that McCain might also be willing to sign a revised/renewed Fairness Doctrine if the Democrat-controlled Congress passed such a bill.

McCain in California is going to be a more liberal McCain, that’s the way of it…

Funny thing is, McCain has done a lot less of this pandering than has Romney. He turns me off pandering to autoworkers in Michigan and old people in Florida. Both times he accused McCain of basically not spending enough taxpayer’s money. Uggh.

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8. CL - February 1, 2008

Right-wing economic philosophy pervades all the candidates. Like it or not Obama is rated as the number one liberal for 2007. And yet his chief economic adviser sings the praises of Milton Friedman.This just shows how much everything has shifted to the right. Limbaugh et al are the lunatic fringe. Perhaps their day is done and they’re enraged.
Obama has received the endorsement of New York city’s Transport Workers Union founded by IRA man Mike Quill on the principles of Connolly’s industrial unionism…Hillary was simply magnificent in the debate last night-she would make a great running mate for Obama.

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9. Ed Hayes - February 1, 2008

Is that the TWU itself or Local 100 which is semi-independent and usually at war with the wider union leadership? Is it Toussaint’s crowd or Sonny Hall’s?

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10. Eagle - February 1, 2008

Limbaugh et al are the lunatic fringe. Perhaps their day is done and they’re enraged.

CL,

It’s possible that people are tiring of Limbaugh, but he is not “the lunatic fringe”. That attitude that is a big part of what’s been ailing the Democrats the past 15 years or more. Limbaugh may be cantankerous, annoying, pompous and egotistical, but there are a lot – A LOT – of people who agree with the gist of his message, even if they may not always like his manner, etc.

If Limbaugh were in Ireland – or probably anywhere in Europe – he’d be the lunatic fringe, but in America he may be to the right, but he’s not that far to the right.

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11. Eagle - February 1, 2008

CL,

Limbaugh’s radio audience is somewhere between 13 and 20 million (nothing’s ever agreed, is it?) each week. That’s on AM, during the work day. That’s not a lunatic fringe.

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12. Eagle - February 1, 2008

Hillary was simply magnificent in the debate last night-she would make a great running mate for Obama.

Maybe you’re right. Now that it looks like McCain, the lack of executive experience might not be an issue. Still, you have to go back to 1960 to find a ticket with two Senators at the top.

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13. Eagle - February 1, 2008

Oh, and I don’t think there’s any chance of Hillary being a Number 2. She may ask Obama and he may accept, but I don’t think the opposite is a possibility.

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14. CL - February 1, 2008

The meaning of the Reagan/Thatcherite ideological revolutions is that what was previously rightly confined to the lunatic fringe was put in the mainstream. Limbaugh is the prime example. The Republican coalition is in disarray. There is a decided left-wing shift in public opinion. Obama and Clinton are catching up to this shift. And lets hope this return to sanity continues and the Hannitys and Limbaughs are returned to the obscurity where they belong with their crack-pot ideas.

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15. Eagle - February 1, 2008

The meaning of the Reagan/Thatcherite ideological revolutions is that what was previously rightly confined to the lunatic fringe was put in the mainstream.

Well, maybe. Or maybe it was a reaction to a swing to the left during the 60s & 70s. We may well be swinging back to the left now. However, I don’t agree that the Republican coalition is in disarray. There was no obvious candidate to rally around, which has led to the current situation. I think McCain will assuage sufficient members of the Party to be able to count on them come November – especially if Hillary is the nominee.

Lots of people say that the coalition is coming apart, etc., but they don’t seem to realize that Bush I & Dole were not overly loved by the conservatives. Just wasn’t a good conservative candidate to promote.

If the Clintons have to work more racial magic to win the nomination it may well be the Democrats’ coalition will be under more stress than the Republicans’.

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16. WorldbyStorm - February 1, 2008

One thing that always strikes me in these debates is the necessity to recognise that while there are shifts and swings left and right any who hope to annihilate either pole is unlikely to be successful. That’s not to say that the broader terrain doesn’t shift across longer time scales (after all, there have clearly been massive improvements since, say the 17th century and the very meaning of conservatism, or indeed radicalism has had to change in the face of technological or social change), but it is to advise against premature declarations of victory (or defeat) from either side… I think Eagle is right, the broad conservative ‘movement’ isn’t going to stop being conservative even if we can define different strands to it… And it will still be conservative in 2012 and 2016 etc, etc… Having said that I do feel that part of the Republican agenda this last 8 years was to entirely lock out as best as was possible the progressive programme and I frankly think that was a political mistake (not just because of my own stance on issues) but also one which has directly led to teh popularity of people like McCain who make a virtue of reaching out in a bipartisan way…

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17. sonofstan - February 1, 2008

There is a decided left-wing shift in public opinion. Obama and Clinton are catching up to this shift.

I wonder….
I was thinking, reading Edwards withdrawal speech, how leftist he sounded compared to anyone in almost any mainstream European Labour/ Social Democrat party; the specific and unapologetic appeal to unions, the explicit commitment to big government.

I’m also struck by how a comprehensive and universal health care system has moved close to being a core commitment for both remaining democrats – if they can really take on the insurance racket and win, it’ll be the single biggest piece of socially progressive government intervention in the ‘west’ since the war, in terms of the sheer size of any programme and the number of people whose quality of care will, I hope, be significantly improved.

Still though…. for anyone who was politically aware before Thatcher/ Reagan, a lot of things seem gone forever….. the hegemony of the market seems destined never to be seriously questioned politically again. Maybe its always the case that the new left remains unrecognisable as such by the old?

On another note, I think Eagle might be right about the Clinton’s ability to threaten the Democrat coalition (and I speak as one who thinks Hillary may be marginally preferable to Obama)

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18. WorldbyStorm - February 1, 2008

sonofstan, I’d agree with you. Edwards certainly represented a ‘left’ strand that any of us could identify with. It was his image that in part scuppered him. Re health care, it’s got to be Clinton over Obama.

However, I’m genuinely concerned that we’re looking at the sort of transitional shift to a new state where left thinking is marginalised, in part because its been assimilated into certain areas in a ‘tamed’ fashion, i.e. healthcare, welfare, etc, in part because of the hegemony of rightwing thought in the broader culture at large.

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19. Bartholomew - February 2, 2008

On a possible left-wing shift in public opinion in the US – there’s an interesting piece on Naomi Klein’s site arguing that the collapse of the sub-prime market will produce that shift by reducing the number of homeowners:

http://www.naomiklein.org/articles/2008/01/disowned-ownership-society

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20. sonofstan - February 2, 2008

It would be odd though, wouldn’t it, if there was a world in which the US swung first- and further – left than Europe? and re: the Klein article, it would be interesting to know how many Irish/ English/ EU in general people think of themselves as ‘haves’

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21. PamDirac - February 2, 2008

****However, I don’t agree that the Republican coalition is in disarray. There was no obvious candidate to rally around, which has led to the current situation.***

Unless the fissures within the party contributed to the lack of an obvious candidate to rally around. Romney might have been a decent candidate, for example, if he hadn’t had to abjure pretty much every position he’d ever held in order to assuage the doubts a GOP base that didn’t buy the act anyway.

***Oh, and I don’t think there’s any chance of Hillary being a Number 2. She may ask Obama and he may accept, but I don’t think the opposite is a possibility.***

Quite right. That will never happen.

***I’m also struck by how a comprehensive and universal health care system has moved close to being a core commitment for both remaining democrats – if they can really take on the insurance racket and win, it’ll be the single biggest piece of socially progressive government intervention in the ‘west’ since the war, in terms of the sheer size of any programme and the number of people whose quality of care will, I hope, be significantly improved.***

Yes, thanks in part to Edwards, who kept hammering at the issue early on. My fear is that neither one can or will take on the insurance racket in any meaningful way – and we’ll wind up with a ‘health care solution’ that is still expensive and cumbersome and doesn’t really address the long term problems with the current system.

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22. Craig - February 7, 2008

Decent normal conservatives should ignore the rantings of Limbaugh and his ilk, and make their own judgment of who is best to lead their party.

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