CNN recently ran an analysis on the Limbaugh affair as to whether he was a distraction or the de facto leader of the Republican Party. It is interesting to note that Politico.com ran an excellent story the same day detailing how political operatives- notably James Carville and Paul Begala- along with White House political hacks Rahm Emmanuel and David Axelrod seized upon this controversy. It stems from a poll Carville's company did in December revealing that among certain segments of the population, Limbaugh was less popular than George Bush and other Republicans. Then, Limbaugh uttered that now infamous statement that "I hope he (Obama) fails." The statement was not necessarily aimed at Obama the man, but at his big government socialist policies. Naturally, if his policies fail, then there would be voter backlash in 2012, if not sooner in 2010.
Part of the problem is discerning whether Limbaugh is merely echoing the sentiments of his core listeners, or whether he is trying to define a Republican philosophy and strategy. Liberal claims to the contrary, ALL Republicans do not listen to Limbaugh or conservative talk radio in general. Most Republicans I know are for smaller, less intrusive government on all levels and perhaps Limbaugh is merely reminding Republicans of what they once stood for.
Then along comes Michael Steele, the new head of the RNC, who "lambasts" Limbaugh on television, followed by an apology. And the Democrats seize on this as proof positive that Republicans need to genuflect before Limbaugh thus validating their position that he is the de facto leader of the Party. In fact, you can sort of see that this was a well-coordinated event on the part of the Democrats. Their pairing Limbaugh to the Republican Party in general was a strategy they embarked upon based upon Carville's polling data. If Limbaugh is unpopular, according to the poll, then by proxy, the Republican Party will be unpopular if they link him as the de facto leader. The perception becomes the reality. And it needs mentioning that CNN was played as the dupe in providing Carville and Begala a microphone to further their strategy in the name of "senior political analyst" position. This is an effort by the Democrats to further disorient an already fractured, disoriented Republican Party, and the media has been played like a fiddle.
It did not help that Steele failed to see the trap and went on the attack against Limbaugh. In reality, Steele has more important issues to face here and he should have risen above the "controversy." First, there needs to be a single voice for the Party and whether that is Steele or someone else needs to be decided. Please, just don't make it Bobby Jindal. It needs to be someone who can clearly articulate the base goals of the Party, their philosophy and their legislative agenda. I know that many would disagree with me because of his stance regarding the auto industry bail out, but Michigan Representative Thaddeus McCotter is, I believe, an untapped talent within the Party. Perhaps there are others.
Second, the Party needs to have a consistent and coherent policy message and that has to be based on the underlying concept os smaller government. It needs to emphasize the economic realities of the people and start to de-emphasize the socially divisive issues like gay marriage and abortion and stem cell research, and the like. And if you must take a stance, then it needs to be repeatedly linked to the economy and smaller government. For example, you can be philosophically against government-sponsored stem cell research, yet frame it in terms of the economy. Does it make sense for the government to fund this research given our limited financial resources? Isn't this task more suited to the private sector if it really holds such great promise? You can be against gay marriage without ever mentioning Biblical references and passages. What is the cost to businesses and the government programs in recognizing gay marriages in terms of benefit programs and the like?
What the Republicans need to understand is that they cannot get involved in these petty squabbles being framed by the Democrats. In a way, this reminds me of the Republican Party to a certain degree in my home state of New Jersey- the California of the east coast. Here, the Republicans always seem to shoot themselves in the foot and offer up candidates who fail to frame the opposition and instead have their perception framed by the Democrats. Petty, internal, distracting squabbles prevent them from offering up viable candidates with a coherent and consistent message and legislative agenda. The result is big spending, big government, nanny-state Democratic Governors and legislators. Once in power, they dictate the agenda and frame the perception of the Republicans. The same thing happened nationally with McCain and his incoherent, all over the map message. So, lets realize that this is a well-coordinated Democratic political strategy in an effort to consolidate political power. The Republicans need to rise above the fray and get to work on the difficult task of rebuilding the Party. Let Limbaugh make his controversial statements without comment. Controversial statements is Limbaugh's job. Rebuilding the Republican Party into the party of the people of this great country is Michael Steele's party. The stakes are important as we continue our march into socialism under Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and the other power brokers in the Democratic Party. At the very least, is the Republican Party going to allow Area 51 Poster Boy (James Carville) and shrunken apple head dude (Paul Begala) define the Party, or are Republicans going to define themselves?