Does anyone think that Republicans, absent fear of Limbaugh’s lash, would be throwing flower petals at Obama’s feet as he sells the Great Society II? If that’s true, I say thank goodness for Limbaugh’s lash.
Just because the Democrats’ shtick is old and often dishonest doesn’t mean it’s tactically dumb. Limbaugh and other right-wing talkers are popular with a third of the country. Fairly or not, they turn off moderates and self-described independents (and, for the left, conservative talk radio is the font of all evil). Most politicians would prefer to have 70% of the public on their side at the cost of losing 30%, even if that requires being less than fair to the 30%.
The more interesting war on Limbaugh comes from the right. My National Review colleague John Derbyshire has written a thoughtful article for the American Conservative disparaging the “lowbrow conservatism” of talk radio. His brush is a bit too broad at times. Some right-wing talkers, such as Bill Bennett and Dennis Prager, can be almost professorial. Michael Savage, meanwhile, sounds like the orderlies are about to break through the barricades with straitjacket in hand. Derbyshire is nonetheless right that conservatism is top-heavy with talk-radio talent, giving the impression the right is deficient in other areas and adding to the shrillness of public discourse.
Talk Radio sometimes gets a bad rap. I think Rush as well as Hugh Hewitt (best interviewer), Michael Medved (great debater), and Dennis Prager (everyone’s rabbi) are great at what they do (entertaining) while being smart and informative. There are plenty of others who aren’t so great.