Republicans continue to have to defend themselves against charges that Rush Limbaugh is the head of the Republican Party. On Meet the Press, Newt Gingrich said that Limbaugh isn’t the leader of the GOP, because the party has, “tons” of leaders. If by tons, he means lots of Indians but no chief, then he is correct.
When Gingrich was asked if Limbaugh is helping or hurting the Republican Party, he answered, “Rush, Rush Limbaugh is, in the long run, an interesting radio personality who is–it’s like saying, you know…” After his fellow panelist Erin Burnett jumped in and told him that he was being diplomatic, Gingrich continued, “No, it’s like saying does Chris Matthews help or hurt the Democratic Party? The fact is he has a large audience, he–the audience believes him, the audience calls their members, and the audience has an effect. He’s not the leader of the Republican Party. And Michael Steele’s one of the leaders. Bobby Jindal, who you had on recently, is one of the leaders. Sarah Palin’s one of the leaders. Eric Cantor’s a rising new leader. Paul Ryan’s a–I mean, there are tons of leaders in the Republican Party. It is a deliberate strategy by the White House. And Politico did a good job this week of laying out how, how cynically the White House pursued this.”
Gingrich went on to blame Rham Emanuel for trying to create a distraction to take attention away from the spending bill. Gingrich is right in the respect that this is an intentional strategy, but he is wrong about the motivation behind it. Republicans can’t seem to wrap their minds around the fact that the majority of people support the increased spending. The motivation here is to frame the Republicans as the party of the angry white man. The conservative movement sustains itself on contempt and anger, but those emotions don’t play well against a popular and hopeful president.
I don’t buy for a second, Gingrich’s description that the Republican Party has tons of leaders. There isn’t a single member of that party who can rally everyone around a common message, which is why Limbaugh has been able to step up and fill the leadership vacuum essentially unchallenged. Republicans are split on their future direction, and Rush Limbaugh is conservative comfort food. Gingrich is the first person to say that Limbaugh himself has no power. His power rests with his audience, but it is a stinging indictment of the state of the party when even the leader of the Republican Revolution was reluctant to criticize Rush Limbaugh.