Blame Rush and Co. for GOP's Fall

Divisiveness makes for good ratings, bad political movement
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 17, 2008 12:40 PM CST
In this Jan. 30, 2008, file photo, radio personality Rush Limbaugh arrives for a screening of Bernard and Doris at the Time Warner Center in New York.   (AP Photo/Gary He, file)
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(Newser) – Blame has been flying in Republican circles, but not enough has stuck where it belongs: on conservative talk radio. Rush Limbaugh and his imitators skyrocketed to prominence by being "rabble-rousers—high intensity, 'hot' performers whose appeal is based on energizing their base," writes Steven Stark in the Boston Phoenix. That's “all well and good for radio,” he argues, but “a terrible way to structure a mainstream political movement.”

Ronald Reagan is their idol, but Reagan’s own radio persona was "genial, low key, calm, and measured." In an era with relatively few media outlets, building a mass audience was more important than riling up true believers. The GOP has a similar figure today in Mike Huckabee, but today’s talkers are intent on finding niches, so they prefer the familiar divisiveness of Sarah Palin. Like them, she’s “good for ratings; bad for politics.”