Cheering for Limbaugh, Missing the Point

If a doctor can’t accurately diagnose what’s wrong with his patient, then the treatment he prescribes is doomed to fail. Republicans tempted to heed Rush Limbaugh’s advice on how to return to power ought to keep this in mind.

According to Limbaugh, who spent about an hour fulminating against assorted villains from “the Democrat Party” at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday night, the G.O.P. simply needs to re-embrace Ronald Reagan and ignore any suggestions that Reagan’s message isn’t well-suited for this era.

“How do you get rid of Reagan from conservatism?” Limbaugh demanded.  “The blueprint — the blueprint for landslide conservative victory is right there.”

He also said that last November’s election, in which Barack Obama recorded a higher percentage of the vote than any Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, should not be cause for shame for the G.O.P.

“This wasn’t a landslide victory, 52 to, what, 46. Fifty-eight million people voted against Obama. There would have been more if we’d had a conservative nominee,” he said.

Not surprisingly, Limbaugh’s blustery defiance and overt contempt for the new president brought the room to its feet over and over. Ideologues, whether on the right or left, love to hear how right they are – especially when (no matter how Limbaugh frames it) their side has just been through two straight electoral drubbings. But at the heart of Limbaugh’s message – a message that has essentially become the official message of the Republican Party – is a glaring ignorance of political history and the forces that shape public opinion.

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Cheering for Limbaugh, Missing the Point