Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, O’Reilly, And The Decline of the GOP

There are multiple factors involved in the Republican Party’s decline from a major political party to a regional fringe party. One is that they began to follow the lead of people in the media such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and now Glenn Beck. What they fail to recognize is that people such as Limbaugh and Beck are not representatives of their mainstream but are the modern day equivalents of the right wing extremists of the past. They display the same extremism, bigotry, hatred, and contempt for true American values as the right wingers who marched around in sheets in the past. While today they have larger audiences thanks to the media, they are just as poor a model for the Republican Party. While William Buckley, Jr. and other conservatives distanced themselves from the worst extremists of their day, the modern Republican Party has been deluded by their media following into believing they speak for their members. David Brooks explains that they do not:

Over the years, I have asked many politicians what happens when Limbaugh and his colleagues attack. The story is always the same. Hundreds of calls come in. The receptionists are miserable. But the numbers back home do not move. There is no effect on the favorability rating or the re-election prospects. In the media world, he is a giant. In the real world, he’s not.

But this is not merely a story of weakness. It is a story of resilience. For no matter how often their hollowness is exposed, the jocks still reweave the myth of their own power. They still ride the airwaves claiming to speak for millions. They still confuse listeners with voters. And they are aided in this endeavor by their enablers. They are enabled by cynical Democrats, who love to claim that Rush Limbaugh controls the G.O.P. They are enabled by lazy pundits who find it easier to argue with showmen than with people whose opinions are based on knowledge. They are enabled by the slightly educated snobs who believe that Glenn Beck really is the voice of Middle America.

So the myth returns. Just months after the election and the humiliation, everyone is again convinced that Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity and the rest possess real power. And the saddest thing is that even Republican politicians come to believe it. They mistake media for reality. They pre-emptively surrender to armies that don’t exist.

They pay more attention to Rush’s imaginary millions than to the real voters down the street. The Republican Party is unpopular because it’s more interested in pleasing Rush’s ghosts than actual people. The party is leaderless right now because nobody has the guts to step outside the rigid parameters enforced by the radio jocks and create a new party identity. The party is losing because it has adopted a radio entertainer’s niche-building strategy, while abandoning the politician’s coalition-building strategy.

The rise of Beck, Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and the rest has correlated almost perfectly with the decline of the G.O.P. But it’s not because the talk jocks have real power. It’s because they have illusory power, because Republicans hear the media mythology and fall for it every time.

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13 Comments

  1. 1
    Captin Sarcastic says:

    While I agree with the central premise, that these people do not represent mainstream Republicans, I disagree that their power is illusory because the people who listen to them are very active, and although they can’t swing an election, they can, and do swing primaries. I believe the mainstream Republicans are being represented by extreme Republicans in large part because of these blowhards. Worse, I don’t believe that Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, or any of the very successful rightwing media hacks believes even half of what comes out of their own mouths. There have been plenty of rational people in media, making sound arguments, listening to sound arguments, and honestly looking for the right path on each issue. These people don’t get ratings because they are simply not bombastic enough to create a buzz. So more and more, the rational personalities are replaced with more extreme personalities, until the media becomes a caricature of political debate, and then they impact primary voters, who project that caricature on Republican representatives, voting in the guys (and gals – Bachman) who sound most like the extremist talking heads. 

    A  media personality cannot get high ratings and serve the interests of the country, so the editorial media has essentially become the enemy of good policy, and advocates for disaster. And if any one of them grew a conscious, it would be interesting a news cycle, and then their ratings would drop like a rock, and the next bomb thrower would step right in.

    Until Americans value honesty over bombast (not bloody likely), what we have to look forward is an editorial media that foments hatred and distrust.

  2. 2
    R Scott Driver says:

    » Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, O’Reilly, And The Decline of the GOP … http://tinyurl.com/yaty38c

  3. 3
    Eclectic Radical says:

    I agree with Captain Sarcastic’s comments about the influence the right wing media jocks have over the hard core GOP primary voters. A lot of the fringe-right GOP congressmen won their primary battles because the talk radio and Fox tv demographic in their district favors the hard right. In some of these districts the same media muscle might be good enough to win the election as well, but when the conservative media guarantees that the general election fight will be between a far-right Republican and a conservative Democrat they’ve really won the important battle already.
     
    ‘There have been plenty of rational people in media, making sound arguments, listening to sound arguments, and honestly looking for the right path on each issue. These people don’t get ratings because they are simply not bombastic enough to create a buzz.’
     
    How do you explain Rachel Maddow outperforming Fox? Unless one is the Daily Howler or a right wing nut, the general consensus would be that she is ‘rational’ and comes far closer to ‘telling it like it is’ than most commentators. Nor does she go for Olbermann’s over the top sportscaster-style histrionics in her show. So rational isn’t a guaranteed ratings killer.
     
    One thing that is important to remember is what Bob Lassiter once said about Rush Limbaugh and similar talk radio hosts on the right: it’s ‘support group radio.’ These guys get their ratings telling their extremist listeners that it’s okay, they’re just like everyone else, their views are really mainstream. Right wing extremists listen to these guys to be told their views really aren’t that extreme. Which enables those views.
     
    All respect to David Brooks, I think the enabling the hosts do for people almost certain to then go out and vote in Republican primaries is the real danger.
     

  4. 4
    MC BLOGS says:

    » Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, O’Reilly, And The Decline of the GOP …: Ron Chusid: Eclectic, The blog is done.. http://bit.ly/CuDAj

  5. 5
    Cheryl Jones says:

    » Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, O’Reilly, And The Decline of the GOP … http://bit.ly/CuDAj
    http://zigeek.com

  6. 6
    R Scott Driver says:

    » Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, O’Reilly, And The Decline of the GOP … http://tinyurl.com/yaty38c

  7. 7
    MC BLOGS says:

    » Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, O’Reilly, And The Decline of the GOP …: Ron Chusid: Eclectic, The blog is done.. http://bit.ly/CuDAj

  8. 8
    Cheryl Jones says:

    » Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, O’Reilly, And The Decline of the GOP … http://bit.ly/CuDAj
    http://zigeek.com

  9. 9
    butch03 says:

    Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck  mesmerize, proselytize and provide talking points for unthinking conservatives, and entertainment for thinking liberals. Everyone should just “take time to sift the dung” as explained in more detail here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spKr46-KPC0

  10. 10
    Captin Sarcastic says:

    “How do you explain Rachel Maddow outperforming Fox?”

    I think Rachel Maddow is fantastic, her mix of intellectualism and some juvenile fun is entertaining. She’s clearly the brightest of the bunch when it comes to talking heads, left or right (what do you expect from a Rhodes Scholar?).

    But Rachel Maddow is on at the same time as Hannity, and Hannity get 2.5 times the number of viewers that Maddow gets.

    http://tvbythenumbers.com/2009/09/26/glenn-beck-vs-chris-matthews-sean-hannity-vs-rachel-maddow-tv-ratings-through-thursday-september-24/28522

    Hannity and Maddow have also both had radio shows for a while, and Hannity in is the top three highest talk show ratings, while Maddow is nowhere near the top.

    I also think there are some other variable at work here. While there is clearly a market for progressive pundits, it is clear that lefty extremism is not competitive with righty extremism. Liberal pundits, to be successful, need to be liberal, but not too liberal, while for conservatives, the frther right they go, the more successful they are. Apparently, liberals like their pundits to be a bit more rational than conservatives.

  11. 11
    Eclectic Radical says:

    ‘Apparently, liberals like their pundits to be a bit more rational than conservatives.’
     
    Not too rational, though. Phil Donahue bombed out depressingly in an attempt to do the kind of show Maddow is doing now in a straightforward and buttoned down interview format. And Olbermann’s histrionics clearly find an audience that wants to see someone ‘take it’ to the Bill O’Rileys of the world.
     
    Don’t get me wrong, I like Olbermann and I think his show is fun. But Donahue didn’t get his numbers trying to be sensible. 🙂
     

  12. 12
    Captin Sarcastic says:

    “Don’t get me wrong, I like Olbermann and I think his show is fun.”

    Maybe it’s just me, but I used to like Olbermann a lot more than I do lately. I think perhaps during Bush’s term, he could be pretty dead on factual, and still be bombastic, because perhaps the facts warranted it, but now, he seems to stretch to find foundation for the histrionics. It’s just not as good as used to be, bet cause he gets just as jawed up, but over much more pedestrian complaints.

    I think he does fine just making fun of stupid Republican tricks, but the animous seems forced.

    I could well be wrong, just my current opinion.

  13. 13
    Eclectic Radical says:

    I can sort of get that.
     
    I like Olbermann because he directly addresses the things people like Beck, O’Riley, or Hannity say and comes back swinging.  But I agree that there’s less for him to get so worked up about with Bush out.
     

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