Rush Limbaugh whipped last weekend's CPAC meeting into a frenzy, railing against Barack Obama and the socialists of the "Democrat Party" while Fox News and CNN rolled tape. For Thomas Schaller of Salon, the message was clear: Limbaugh, and not any elected official, is the leader of the Republican Party. The talk show host has made himself into a Louis XIV-style embodiment of the right wing—and the GOP is right to be worried.
Limbaugh's speech mixed "platitudes and cheap applause lines" with "the subject that really interests Rush Limbaugh: himself." That solipsism scares the Republican leadership, but while they complain that "the left" is making Limbaugh into a giant, in fact he is succeeding because "the other contenders have failed." As with Sarah Palin, the Republican base votes for Limbaugh "with their ears, feet, hands, and voices"—and the GOP is heading further right.