Since he burst onto the national scene in 1988, Rush Limbaugh has sometimes been accused of being merely an entertainer, a blowhard who doesn’t really believe what he talks about and someone who uses his schtick to excite his audience, drive up ratings and sell stuff. These are all claims I’ve never believed in, especially since I've listened to him on and off over the years. Here's what I think: Limbaugh is a dedicated ideologue who says what he believes and believes what he says. But his recent misadventure into almost buying a sports team gives ammunition to those who believe the former.
Here’s why: The modern struggle between conservatives and liberals which has gone on in this country since at least the presidency of FDR reached a crescendo in 2008 with the election of the nation’s most liberal president (I'm referring to his Senate rating as determined by The National Journal). But President Obama is more than that. He is also easily the most charismatic, smart, articulate, winsome, telegenic Democrat ever elected to office and all of this means that the conservative movement faces the greatest challenge of its lifetime. As a result, the movement faces the strong possibility that an Obama presidency will not only lead to the implementation of strong, liberal policies that will last as long as FDR’s have, but also the creation of a generation of young liberals, just as the election of a smart, articulate conservative named Ronald Reagan created a generation of conservative Americans.
For people like me who believe Rush is sincere in his beliefs, it’s simply baffling that at a critical moment like this for the conservative movement he presides over, he would be thinking about buying a football team. In fact, the real winner in the brouhaha that led to him being excluded from the deal may be the conservative movement itself which came very close to losing the full attention of one of its strongest leaders.
The chances of any president being denied re-election are slim. The chance that this president, with all of his amazing communication skills, especially in the absence of a formidable Reaganesque opponent, are even slimmer. If the conservative movement hopes to stop this transformational and dynamic leader from destroying their movement and codifying his ideals into law, it will take the full attention of all of its members and especially this one who has defined conservativism in the post-Reagan era.
Limbaugh’s detractors, including Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, may have won a pyrrhic victory with their successful effort to stop him from buying the St. Louis Rams. And they may come to rue the day they succeeded in keeping Limbaugh in his day job, fully focused on the battle his movement faces.
Mark Joseph is a producer, author and editor of Bullypulpit.com.