Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Is Rush Limbaugh irrelevant?

For all of President Bush’s first term and during the euphoria accompanying his reelection and the start of his second term in office, Republicans have presented a united front. They’ve rallied around their party leader and funded the “war on terrah,” billionaire tax cuts and supported just about everything else that this century’s Warren Harding has wanted to do.

As support for the war has turned sour and the majority of Americans now in opposition and wanting our troops back home, more and more Republicans, eager to distance themselves from the wake of the Bush presidency, have begun speaking out against policies of this administration.

For more than a decade, every day at noon, Republicans, particularly Republicans of the conservative stripe, could turn on their radios at noon and receive their right-wing marching orders. For all intents and purposes, Rush Limbaugh was the voice of the conservative movement. Love him, or hate him, Limbaugh symbolized the brazen, in-your-face arrogance that has characterized American conservatism since the Republican “revolution” touted by Newt Gingrich back in the early 90s.

While Republicans aren’t exactly beating a hasty retreat from their exalted perch, happily spending their political capital, they’ve fallen upon a difficult patch and conservatives no longer speak in a monolithic voice, with talking points emanating from Limbaugh’s golden microphone.

On Tuesday, California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in an interview on NBC’s "Today Show," when asked about how he felt about certain Republicans, like Limbaugh, called America’s conservative voice, “irrelevant.” Schwarzenegger, while demonized by some as a shallow former actor, is actually quite politically shrewd and has actually been a much better governor than I ever expected him to be. Not content to merely “paint by the numbers” politically and carry water for the conservative agenda pushed down most Republican’s throats by the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage and O’Reilly, Schwarzenegger has actually tried to represent his constituents in California and forge his own political identity. An example of Schwarzenegger’s independence from the right-wing establishment came earlier in the year, when the governor proposed a $12 billion health care plan, which requires doctors, hospitals and some small employers to pay into a state fund for the uninsured. This angered many conservatives, for whom anything smacking of universal coverage is an anathema.

Characteristically, Limbaugh spent much of his show referring to Schwarzenegger as a “Total Sellout,” which was a reference to his former Hollywood days and the movie, Total Recall. After being the darling of conservatives for so long, it must hurt when someone like Schwarzenegger calls you irrelevant, particularly when you’ve occupied the epicenter of attention.

Despite Schwarzenegger’s slam and the disaster we know as the Bush presidency, Limbaugh and other conservative hosts still command the attention of a large segment of "Kool-Aid drinkers." These followers still march in lock step, following their own pied piper, ready to plunge off a cliff, if necessary, rather than face the facts and examine the realities of how far down the road to nowhere the conservative agenda has taken us as a nation.

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