My Biography Subject Influences Events More Than Anyone Else

In a New York Times op-ed that coincides with the release of his Rush Limbaugh biography, Zev Chafets writes:

THERE are many theories for why very conservative Republicans seem to be doing so well lately, taking their party’s Senate nominations in Florida, Kentucky and Utah, and beating Democrats head-to-head in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia. Some attribute this to a generalized anti-incumbent mood. Others say it reflects the tendency of parties in power to falter in midterm elections. Recently it has been fashionable to ascribe right-wing success to the Tea Party movement.

But the most obvious explanation is the one that’s been conspicuously absent from the gusher of analysis. Republican success in 2010 can be boiled down to two words: Rush Limbaugh.

So let me get this straight: the longstanding, amply documented tendency of American voters is to trend against the incumbent party during midterm elections and times of economic strife. Here we are, a Democrat in the White House, mid-term elections on the horizon, and the economy in tatters. This coincides with a conservative resurgence. And the “most obvious explanation” is a talk radio host whose listeners mostly vote overwhelmingly conservative anyway?

Suffice it to say that the influence of Mr. Limbaugh is less than obvious to me, especially since as recently as the 2008 presidential campaign, the supposedly all powerful GOP kingmaker watched as his party’s primary voters narrowed the field to the single candidate he most abhors and repeatedly railed against, John McCain. Months later, President Obama succeeded in passing health care reform of a kind that the GOP successfully staved off since the early days of the Clinton Administration.

It is nevertheless worthwhile to explore what it would mean if Mr. Chafets is correct, and Mr. Limbaugh is “the brains and spirit” behind a GOP resurgence predicated on being “the party of no.” Best as I can tell, this would mean that Republicans gave up negotiating marginal improvements to a once in a generation health care bill that passed even without their support in a form less favorable to their interests, and in exchange they’re going to elect a marginally more conservative Congress in the 2010 midterms.

This would make perfect sense if electoral politics were an end rather than a means, but neither the GOP nor Rush Limbaugh have quite understood the difference in a very long time.

One additional excerpt deserves scrutiny:

When the Tea Party movement emerged, Mr. Limbaugh welcomed it. The movement’s causes — fighting against health care reform, reducing the size and cost of government, opposing the Democrats’ putative desire to remake America in the image of European social democracies — were straight Limbaughism. A very high proportion of the Tea Partiers listen to Mr. Limbaugh. Sarah Palin’s biggest current applause line — Republicans are not just the party of no, but the party of hell no — came courtesy of Mr. Limbaugh. (Ms. Palin gave the keynote address at the first national Tea Party convention.) Glenn Beck, who is especially popular among Tea Partiers, calls Mr. Limbaugh his hero.

So why the lack of attention? Mr. Limbaugh has studiously refrained from claiming credit for the movement.

If Mr. Chafets himself acknowledges that Rush Limbaugh reacted to the emergence of the Tea Party, why does he write as if the talk radio host could legitimately claim credit for it?

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8 Responses to “My Biography Subject Influences Events More Than Anyone Else”

  1. missu Says:

    So even Rush Limbaugh doesn’t like John McCain! That’s what happens to someone like McCain that is a dirty underhanded politicians that lies, flip flops, back stabs, and would cut your throat if you should disagree with. Here in Arizona McCain became a joke, no one hardly listens to him and we consider him an embarrassment.

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  3. mfarmer Says:

    I agree. Limbaugh has fired up the base in many ways, but he’s not responsible for the huge number of independents turning against the Democrats. I believe there’s a true gass-roots movement that so far has no identifiable leaders.

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  6. djspellchecka Says:

    when i read this sentence: “When the Tea Party movement emerged, Mr. Limbaugh welcomed it,” it doesn’t suggest to me that it appeared WITHOUT rush’s help…writing as no fan of either, there is no question that there is a major demographic overlap between teabag rally attendees and rush’s listeners…southern, small town, male, white

    • mfarmer Says:

      Not quite:

      In New York City, WABC has experienced huge gains during Rush’s noon- 3pm timeslot: from 4.6 to 6.7 overall (12 and older) share, good for first place overall in the nation’s largest market. Rush’s Big Apple listenership is now estimated at 693,000.

      In the second-largest market, Los Angeles, KFI-AM has surged into the number one position (all listeners 12 and older) from 9am to noon, with 618,000 listeners, a 4.6 to 6.0 audience share increase over three months and an even bigger males 35-64 (4.6 to 6.3) move, to take first place there as well.

      Chicago, saw another huge move, with Rush affiliate WLS also taking first place during his timeslot (12 and older), from 5.2 share to 6.9 and a total local listenership of 396,700 in the third-largest market.

      KSFO / San Francisco saw similar results, despite the extreme-left bent of the Bay Area: 4.7 to 6.0 share, now ranking second overall and with men aged 35-64. Total audience: 346,000.

      In Dallas – Fort Worth, 4.8 to 6.4 men 35-64 and fourth overall (12+), 3.5 to 4.5. Cumulative audience: 250,000.

      Houston’s results were truly blockbuster: 6.0 to 9.8 overall, ranking number one with a bullet and audience of 382,300. Men 35-64: number one again, from 8.6 to 12.2 over three months. Adults 25-54: first place, 4.6 to 8.7. Women 25-54: 3.7 to 8.3 again good for a top ranking.

      DC’s WMAL also saw Rush-related growth: 4.1 to 6.7, good for third overall and an audience of 155,300. Men 35-64: number one with a staggering 6.4 to 13.4 move.

      In Atlanta, Rush has helped WGST fend off an enormous competitor, WSB-AM, with a similar 4.0 to 6.2 upward move, good for fifth place overall and a total audience of 473,500. The results are better in the male 35-64 demographic, surging from 5.5 to 8.0 share.

      Bucking Detroit’s recent Democratic voting trend, Rush’s performance on WJR-AM has been more significant than ever, moving into first place with a 5.8 to 9.6 jump. Men 35-64: number one and 11.6 share. Total audience: 253,000.

  7. Bob Andelman Says:

    Rush Limbaugh’s biographer, Zev Chafets, author of Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One, talked to Mr. Media Radio on June 3, 2010, about El Rushbo’s new bride, Kathryn Rogers, and much more. Check it out by clicking HERE!

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