Rush Limbaugh is the Republicans' most senior member (in spirit), and has the largest audience>"/>
Krist Novoselic's column runs every Tuesday on the Daily Weekly.
Rush Limbaugh is the Republicans' most senior member (in spirit), and has the largest audience and the loudest voice. So it only makes sense that he's the leader of the Republican Party.
Limbaugh helped make Newt Gingrich and the Republican Revolution of 1994, a feat that resulted in a GOP majority in congress for the next 14 years. Gingrich, Dole, Hastert, DeLay, Lott, Frist, and of course Bush/Cheney--Limbaugh has outlasted them all to become the default party leader. And believe it or not, he's right on at least one of his recent rants.
Limbaugh is not only a national figure, he's on the air every weekday, heard by some 20 million people. Many politicians get insulated by the pomp of Washington, D.C., but Limbaugh connects with grassroots conservatives every day. From my experience, Limbaugh listeners are mostly hardworking people who resent government handouts to whom they see as lazy people. Listeners are also not happy about the financial industry handout, either. His Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) speech was very libertarian and hit all the right themes with these folks. Limbaugh stole the show at CPAC and demonstrated his lock on the Republican Party rank-and-file. This left recently elected Republican Party chair Michael Steele in the background and resulted in a dustup between the two.
Steele derided Limbaugh as only an entertainer. And the conservative radio giant had this to say to Steele: "I hope the RNC chairman will realize he's not a talking-head pundit, that he is supposed to be working on the grassroots and rebuilding it and maybe doing something about our open primary system and fixing it so that Democrats don't nominate our candidates."
And this is an example of where Rush is Right. Limbaugh knows a lot about the open primary. He instigated Operation Chaos, in which where he urged conservative voters to raid the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries and vote for Hillary Clinton. Since the Republicans had their nominee early in the season, the objective of Operation Chaos was to prolong the Democratic nomination process long enough to try and weaken the eventual candidate.
It's wrecking-ball politics that makes a mockery out of political association. And not even Limbaugh likes it when he perceives it to impact him. But he has a point: If you really want to rebuild grassroots politics from any side of the spectrum, you need to do something about primary elections.
Both the open and closed primary system used in most of the U.S. amounts to nothing more than a state socialist program. Rush Limbaugh's speech at CPAC was libertarian at its core. Yet the primary system exhibits the classic criticisms of socialism: State control stifles competition, discourages innovation, and is inefficient.
Republicans could use technology to open up their nominations to voters who choose to associate with the party. An inclusive system could demonstrate that state control of a party's nomination is no longer needed.
Rush Limbaugh is effectively the head of the GOP grassroots. And through the massive power of his radio program, he can call on local party organizations to pass resolutions for technology-based, inclusive nominations. The Republicans need to do a lot to rebuild their party. And in the course of privatizing nominations, they could rebuild our democracy.