Thursday, March 5, 2009

The GOP's Rush Limbaugh problem

“If you’re a talk radio host and you have five million who listen and there are 50 million who hate you, you make a nice living. If you’re a Republican party, you’re marginalized.” David Frum, quoted here.

At the moment the GOP is beset by an internal contradiction. On one hand are the interests of the organization as a whole. On the other hand are the interests of the separate parts. The problem is, these interests go in differing directions.

At present, the party's interests rest on adapting to meet new conditions: the bubble has burst regarding recent political and economic beliefs about things like war, tax cuts, and economic policy. The Republican Party needs to adapt to changed times.

But the Republican congress and media members -- the parts -- want to ride out the same facade and keep their jobs just a little bit longer. I mean, Rush Limbaugh can't tomorrow on his radio show say, you know all those things I said about Democrats over the years? They aren't really that bad. He can't do this, because his show would lose its reason for existence. The Republican Congress strikes me as in much the same predicament. In other words, they are what they are -- and for the time being, these men and women are employed, even slightly relevant. I can't help but find their self-preserving actions reasonable, in this sense.

But these ego-centered actions on the part of the individuals come at a time when the growth and stability of the party, as a whole, face specific external challenges. It is clear to anyone with eyes we need new approaches to domestic and international policies. In large part, organizational power will come from meeting head-on these new realities, not by grasping to disproven ideologies and picked-over code words (i.e., propaganda).

If the goal of the organization is to out-live any of its current parts, even Mr. Limbaugh, then the men and women who have been given riches and power and cultural satisfaction from this party ought to think about how to go about giving a little bit back. Straightening the whole operation out, smoothing things over, leaving something behind rather than taking and taking till there's nothing left.

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