by Brien Jackson

I avoided writing anything about Rush Limbaugh’s CPAC speech, mostly because I was afraid it couldn’t really be seperated from Rush’s (and CPAC’s) own sense of delusion, and the blogosphere’s general tendency to magnify everything, and I’d wind up writing something that looked rather silly down the road. But a power outage this morning gave me a chance to step away from everything and get a clearer thought on the matter, so I’ll give it a chance.

First of all, it’s important to remember that the people at CPAC are not representative of the voting electorate, or even the larger Republican Party. Rather, they’re the fringiest of the fringe; the kind of people who like Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo and dream at night of a President Gingrich. It’s also important that they don’t really have much of an impact on the broader political scene. Mitt Romney has now won 3 Presidential preference straw polls at the conference, and he was blown away in the last Republican Primary by John McCain, who was booed at CPAC last year. And in this sense, Rush Limbaugh is really no different. Limbaugh took his guns to Mike Huckabee before Huck won a comfortably victory in the Iowa caucuses, then added McCain to the list just before McCain and Huckabee finished 1st and 2nd in South Carolina. After that, Limbaugh agitated nearly every day against McCain, only to see McCain win Florida and then effectively sew up the nomination on Super Tuesday. So the idea that Rush Limbuagh is representative of the broader GOP is a bit lacking in evidence, to say the least.

It’s also important to note that, for the most part, Republican politicians are actually trying to distance themselves from Limbaugh. Eric Cantor is publicly disavowing Limbaugh’s more infamous sentiments, Michael Steele is pushing back somewhat as well, and bona fide wingnut Mark Sanford round-aboutly called Rush an idiot. Much was made of the fact that Rep. Phil Gingrey had to apologize for saying some negative things about Limbaugh,  but John Boehner was somewhat dismissive of Limbaugh at the same time, and as far as I know, has yet to take it back. The difference between Gingrey and the rest of these people is that Gingrey head’s the Republican Study Committee, which might as well be renamed the House wingut caucus. In other words, talk radio is basically his constiuency. But he’s also relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, and much higher profile Republicans are at least implicitly repudiating Rush, which is more telling, in my opinion.  

Now none of that is to say that I think Democrats are wrong to continue to paint Limbaugh as the head of the GOP. If you can get that image to stick, then you run with it for everything it’s worth. And I’m also not saying that Republicans in general aren’t completely retarded for continuing to show up at CPAC and lend the fringe there the sort of credibility that gets you broadcast on CPAC and carried live, without interruption, on CNN. But, if the squeeky wheel gets the oil, it’s still no more important than the other wheels, and is still only  minor part of the equation. And that’s basically the way to view both Limbaugh and CPAC; they make a lot of noise, and thereby get a lot of attention, but ultimately they’re a very minor contingency, and not particularly reflective of the broader Republican electorate, let alone the country at large.

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