Blaming Rush

By Richard Miller
Author, "In Words and Deeds: Great Speeches in History"

I read with a mixture of amusement and despair the Democrats' recent announcement that they intended to make talk show host Rush Limbaugh the "face of conservatives."

It won't work.

But in fairness to my few liberal friends, I should concede that there is nothing illegitimate about these efforts. Political parties aren't in the business of bipartisanship or creating even temporary across-the-aisle coalitions.

The historical reason for political parties is to emphasize the differences, not the similarities with the opposition. They must do so in order to retain, increase and exhort members. Moreover, both Republican and Democratic parties do this by putting a face on political evil and then aggressively marketing the symbol.

Thus, Republicans depicted the Age of Bill Clinton as the Age of Laxity in every thing from national security, political corruption and personal morals.

The Democrats, with their meme factories in newspaper cults (now dwindling at a sufficient rate to be termed a cult) and academia, have generally been more successful in hate-marketing. Those of a certain age will recall when the pinched face and high collars of Senator Orrin Hatch was the symbol; he was quickly followed by President Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, President George W. Bush and others. All of this matters because without hate marketing to exhort the faithful, contributions slack off. Nothing personal; it's just business.

The reason why the Democrats' current campaign against Limbaugh will fail is that he makes a poor target. Unlike earlier villains chosen by Democrats, Limbaugh is not a politician. He's a private citizen with no governing responsibilities; it is impossible to legitimately attach his name to bills, policies or wars that Democrats may portray as evil or wrong headed. In short, he's just one man with an opinion, and here, resembles pundits of every political stripe.
Unlike politicians that hold office and govern, Rush Limbaugh may be "turned off" with a switch on the radio.

And what Limbaugh's selection suggests is that Democrats are running out of blame targets. The Republicans are now a minority in both houses. And as Obama's failures aggregate into a deepening crisis of confidence the Democrats' need for villains will increase in an effort to deflect blame.

And this is why I despair. I predict that in opting to campaign rather than govern, the Democrats are likely to spread the blame net far and wide. The result will be uber-polarization more typical of socialist and fascist polities. The stock market not cooperating? Blame capitalists, the banks, the "investor class."

Not getting your way in the Middle East? Blame Zionists, Christian conservatives, hint darkly at organized "new-conservative" cabals of Jews. Unemployment continuing to rise? Blame employers. I don't know which of these or other villains are likely to appear, but based on Democratic Party behavior thus far, am certain that blaming Limbaugh is only the beginning.