There is a reason why Rush Limbaugh never made it on TV.
CNN was eager to carry this talk show host’s incendiary remarks at last weekend’s right-wing CPAC convention in Washington, and its cameras revealed a sweaty, larded buffoon costumed in a black shirt, wide-eyed and flailing his flabby arms looking like a panicked great whale trying to free himself from a fisherman’s net.
Is this the new de facto leader of the Republican Party, capable of getting its top leaders to grovel before him in obscene displays of self-flagellating brown-nosing because they’d inadvertently spoken from their hearts to denounce him?
Limbaugh is the creation not only of the Reagan revolution – that arch-right wing coup by the “radical free market” charlatans of greed, hoarding, deceit and fraud – but also of that revolution’s torpedoing of the Fairness Doctrine.
The Fairness Doctrine was the creation of the reformist mood in the nation following Watergate. It was originally instituted in 1949, but considered strictly a voluntary agreement that those licensed to use the nation’s airwaves would make an effort to be fair and balanced (I mean, really, not in the phony Fox News way!) in political comment. Then in 1974, after Watergate, the rules were stiffened with the idea that mandatory constraints and use of penalties might better encourage fair play.
But under pressure from the Reagan administration, the Fairness Doctrine, in any form, was officially terminated in 1987, allowing the financier elite-controlled corporate boardrooms of the nation’s dominant radio and television organizations to go on a one-sided feeding frenzy against the sensibilities of the American public.
They dragged out, funded and threw on the airwaves an amazingly bizarre circus sideshow string of potty-mouthed right wing crackpots, without fear of having the slightest obligation to provide equal time to a contrary viewpoint.
Playing on the lowest, gutter sensibilities of their listening audiences, sleaze balls like Morton Downey Jr. prided themselves on gaining market share through vile profanity, in-your-face degradation of invited guests and use of downright fraudulent claims and methods on the air.
Similarly, the innovative television daytime talk show model pioneered by Phil Donohue was degraded into the clownish theatrics of Jerry Springer. It was like the WWE or Roller Derby replacing baseball as the national pastime.
In this context, Limbaugh was one of the chubbier bad-mouth mascots that the financier elites allowed to waddle out and squat on a radio microphone.
Under anything resembling a Fairness Doctrine, almost no radio station would have dared to give this man the kind of license for political demagoguery he has flaunted for so long. On the other hand, America’s corporate elites love him, and they make sure he gets the ad revenues his shows need, while starving progressive alternatives.
But here’s the problem with Limbaugh for the GOP now. His “shock jock” comments, that he hopes the Obama administration will fail, were not the most troubling thing he said last weekend.
No, it was the fact this man was gyrating and pontificating on national TV in defense of the rich! He was flailing against Obama because Obama, he said, was punishing the rich, and that’s not the “American way.”
How out of touch could he be? The fact is, whether he has a clue about it or not, a huge part of his historic fan base is composed of middle and lower-middle class people who’ve been thrown out of their jobs, fear losing them, have had their homes foreclosed, lost their health insurance and their 401k retirement nest eggs.
These are not people eager to hear this clown rail at Obama in defense of the tiny fraction of Americans making over $250,000 a year. The days when it was fun listening to someone tick off hate-tainted litanies about the evils of “liberals” are in the past. No, this Limbaugh is no fun at all. He is a very bad joke.
And he is weighing down the GOP, literally and figuratively. In the metaphor of sink or swim, the Republicans can’t swim tethered to him. They’ll soon be heading down for the third time.