Is Obama Playing “Rope-a-Dope” with Rush?

The president signs a bill making Rush Limbaugh illegal.

The president signs a bill making Rush Limbaugh illegal.

Hey Ann Coulter, Karl Rove, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and all you other right-wingnuts lining up to take whacks at President Obama, move over and make room—no, more room that that—Rush Limbaugh, America’s favorite Viagra gulping, Oxycontin addled gasbag is about to speak.

What some of  America’s  most hardcore conservatives fail to see is in the absence of a strong, well-respected and unchallenged voice for the Republican Party, the Obama Administration, the Democratic Party and liberal activists have chosen one for them—Rush Limbaugh.

Even Obama’s detractors reluctantly agree he ran an impressive presidential campaign with few missteps and mistakes made along the way. With the unpopularity of George Bush even among other Republicans, the defeat of John McCain, and with the exception of Sarah Palin, the lack of a charismatic and popular figure among the Congressional Republicans (Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Eric Cantor and John Cornyn don’t emit enough light for a 40-watt bulb), it has fallen upon the ideological partisans of the conservative movement (Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter to name a few) to fill the leadership void.

Limbaugh may be amusing and witty to his fans, but comes off as strident and intolerant to those who aren’t. The millions that listen to his pontificating are dwarfed by the millions more that do not. As much as he entertains and galvanizes those on the Right, he is dismissed and polarizes those on the Left.

As time goes by, it seems less and less that the president accidentially singled out Limbaugh and more and more that elevating him to the titular head of the conservative movement and the de facto leader of the Republican Party was a deliberate and calculated strategy.

I thought this might be the case before. After White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel’s appearance on Face the Nation, now I’m certain it is.

SCHIEFFER: We talked about Newt Gingrich a lot this morning and now you bring up Rush Limbaugh. Who do you think now speaks for the Republican Party?

EMANUEL: You just named him: it is Rush Limbaugh. He has laid out his vision, in my view. And he said it clearly. I compliment him for that. He’s been very up front and I compliment him for that. He’s not hiding. He’s asked for President Obama and called for President Obama to fail. That’s his view. And that’s what he has enunciated. And whenever a Republican criticizes him, they have to run back and apologize to him and say they were misunderstood. He is the voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party. He has been up front about what he views and hasn’t stepped back from that, which is he hopes for failure. He said it and I compliment him for his honesty. But that’s their philosophy that is enunciated by Rush Limbaugh and I think that’s the wrong philosophy for America… link

If Rahm Emanuel is complimenting Rush Limbaugh, that is a strong indicator that the louder and longer Limbaugh screams for President Obama to flop, the better the White House likes it.

Rush sucks it.

Rush sucks it.

Nature and politics abhor a void and Limbaugh’s ample frame more than fills the void of leadership in the Republican Party. His ego is large enough that he can sit there for three hours a day clapping his hands saying, “Yay! People are paying attention to me!”

Yet while Limbaugh is giving it to the White House good and hard, which is just the way the Dittoheads like it, he also gives Obama something he doesn’t have from the Republican leadership in Washington: a villian. The more conservatives love Limbaugh the more liberals hate his guts. He gives the president something big and heavy to push back against. McConnell, Boehner, Cantor and Cornyn are far more skilled politically, but they are devoid of wit, charm or humor, all quantities that Rush has in abundance. But none of them have the need to be the alpha male the way he does.

Bill Clinton had Newt Gingrich as his opposite number. Barack Obama has Rush Limbaugh. Clinton inherited Gingrich as an adversary. Obama elevated Limbaugh into that spot.

For the true believers, they may not buy into my analysis or shrug and say, “So what?” The thought process may be somebody needs to stand up to “The Messiah” and if nobody in Washington has the stones for it, let Rush do it and more power to him.”

Which may be true because as I said nature and politics abhor a void. The thing is though, the long-term prosects for a Republican comeback go beyond what any talking head can affect, even one as powerful and as confident of his power as Rush Limbaugh. Because while Emanuel was on Face the Nation damning with faith praise Limbaugh’s grip on the GOP, over at Meet the Press, Republican pollster Mike Murphy was playing the part of the canary in the coalmine.

The country is changing. Ronald Reagan won in 1980 with 51% of the vote. We all worship Ronald Reagan. But if that election had been held with the current demographics in America today, Ronald Reagan would have gotten 47 percent of the vote. The math is changing. Anglo vote is 74 percent now not 89. And if we don’t modernize conservatism, we are going to have a party of 25 percent of the vote going to Limbaugh rallies, joining every applause line, ripping the furniture up, we’re going to be in permanent minority status.

If Murphy is right, what that means for all this blah-blah-blah about the Republicans need to get back to their conservative roots or move to the center or stand up for the core social issues that mobilize the base, the fact is they can do ALL of those things and STILL keep slipping further into political irrelevance. Simply crying that the party needs more Reagan wannabees is not a winning strategy and especially if the Republicans only keep getting the same voters they’ve been getting.

Whatever the Republicans do or don’t do, unless they develop a successful strategy to broaden the base, they’re screwed.

The challenge for Michael Steele, Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, Mitt Romney and all the other officials and strategists is to broaden the appeal of the party, keep the base mobilized and energized while keeping its collective eye on reversing the Democratic momentum of the last four years and replenishing the diminished numbers of Republicans.

That isn’t going to happen as long as they appear to be part of the Excellence in Broadcasting staff.