There’s been a lot written and said about how the Republicans should remake their party after the November elections.
I have one suggestion: fire Rush Limbaugh.
Actually, the GOP can’t fire Rush, but they should attempt to distance the party from the most popular radio talk show in the country. Many liberal commentators and pundits use Rush as an example of how “extreme” or “far right” the Republican party has become. That’s not necessarily true, but it happens. Conservative commentators do the same thing: portraying some ultraliberal columnist or commentator as if they speak for all liberals and the Democratic party. But the fact is there is no liberal commentator or columnist with the name recognition and emotional reaction that Limbaugh evokes.
Some folks are only too happy to tie the Republican Party and Limbaugh into one package.
But the GOP is also somewhat to blame. Many party members have aligned themselves with Limbaugh and his huge audience. There have been more than a few Republicans who have backed off of positions, primarily because Limbaugh was opposed. The conservative movement, and the Republican Party, has played up Limbaugh’s stardom. In some ways, they’ve allowed Limbaugh to become a spokesman for all things conservative and most things Republican.
That sort of strategy doesn’t work, mainly because the Republican party and Limbaugh have different agendas.
The party wants to get candidates elected. The party wants its candidates in the White House and to own majorities in both houses of Congress.
Limbaugh and the GOP share many of the same philosophies, but Limbaugh’s main focus is to attract, and keep, a huge radio audience. His goal every day is to air a show that’s interesting and will prevent listeners from turning the dial or tuning into satellite radio or switching to music on their iPod. That means Limbaugh has to be controversial, has to be interesting and sometimes has to be “out there.” You don’t attract the kind of audience Limbaugh does by discussing the finer details of national policy. Limbaugh doesn’t particularly care if he ticks off certain groups — as long as his core listeners continue to grow.
Limbaugh’s strategy is perfect for the radio talk show genre that he practically invented. Whether you agree with his views or not, Limbaugh is a master at what he does. But he also speaks to a relatively small segment of the United States. His audience, while larger than any other radio audience, does not have the breadth or depth that a major political party would need to win a presidential election. Limbaugh dominates a slice of the market and has turned it into a lucrative slice.
But that slice of the market won’t win an election by itself. There are many voters, Democrats and Republicans, who are turned off by the mention of Limbaugh’s name. There’s an even larger group that thinks he’s merely irrelevant in any serious discussion of national issues.
That’s why the Republican party, in addition to appealing to a wider spectrum of voters, needs to distance itself from Limbaugh. He’s a talented radio talk show host, and an entertaining guy. But he doesn’t help win elections.