Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Rush Problem

Not totally about policy, but last week Rush Limbaugh was dropped from a prospective investment team to buy the St. Louis Rams. This came after the outcry from many (especially the left) who said that he should not be able to own a team because he's a big fat idiot or something.  This of course, is crazy talk.  Limbaugh, even if you think he's an idiot, should be allowed to own a football team if he has the money.  I'm bringing this up mainly because Limbaugh defended himself in the Wall Street Journal the other day.  It's an interesting defense saying that:
a) He didn't say racist things like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have.
b) He didn't say anything that was pro-slavery.

Now, if he was misquoted, then by all means, set the record straight Rush.  But the fact that I'm sitting here thinking, 'it wouldn't surprise me if Rush Limbaugh said he was in favor of slavery' well... you have a PR problem.  And while Rush apparently didn't say that he's a fan of slavery, he has said a lot of horrible things about blacks, Obama and America.

That said, I've been thinking about Rush for a while now.  He represents the problem the Republican party has with America right now.  Because of the lack of leadership within the Republican party, Rush has almost become the unofficial mouth piece of the party (with assists from Sarah Palin (even though she's been non-existent the last few months) and Glenn "I'm going insane in front of the entire nation" Beck. To most of America, what Rush has to say—"Obama is an "angry black guy"" or "Obama's entire economic program is reparations" or that he wants Obama to fail—does not play well to most of the nation.

And that's the problem for the Republican party right now.  The party cannot separate itself from Rush.  While Rush is very good and getting the Republican base involved and excited, when his message starts to become the only thing that the country hears, it's problematic.  Rush is an entertainer.  His goal is to get high radio ratings which then lead to higher advertisement spots which then means more pills money for Rush's bank account (and the radio stations).  Rush will say things to get people to tune into his show (just as Howard Stern or your network TV drama will).  And because of the lack of leadership in the party, what Rush says suddenly becomes what the Republican party says.

The GOP can easily fix this, they just need someone from somewhere within the party to step up.  They need to have someone who will deliver a kinder, gentler, and more tactful message to America.  That person is some where (it's not Palin and it's probably not Huckabee), but the longer it takes for that person (or people) to step to the plate, the more damage Rush is going to do to the party itself.  Clearly some in the party get this: “We need more voices,” said House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia, one of the party’s up-and-coming leaders. “Our party’s challenge has been that we need to be more inclusive — we need to attract the middle again..."

America is changing, it's becoming more diverse and continues to become more urban.  A party that is seen as narrow minded and for white males only represented and lead by guys like Rush and Beck won't fly.  It won't work.  The GOP has to reinvent itself, even if it means pissing off the base.  The right in Europe has done this successfully by adopting "left" policy positions like being less anti-gay (or pro gay in some cases) and concerned about the environment. Those would be two easy places and positions that the Republicans could adopt today.  Immigration would be another smart move for the party to turn more to the left on.  Sure it would piss off the Rush Limbaugh's of the right, but the base isn't going to leave over issues like the environment and the party will probably pick up some votes for changing positions.    

But I don't see that leadership in the GOP right now. It's a rudderless party that's being lead by the entertainment wing.  And when it comes to winning elections, that's a bad thing, even if the first 10 months of Obama continue to be fairly unimpressive.  So the sooner Rush Limbaugh goes back to being a guy who preaches to his conservative choir, the better off the Republican party, and America, will be.

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