UPDATE: This article originally addressed Rush Limbaugh's apparent efforts to avoid additional trouble with his advertisers. But groups such as StopRush and Facebook's Flush Rush, which have been dogging Rush Limbaugh for nearly six months, are not Limbaugh's only concerns. Shortly after a mass exit of advertisers in the aftermath of his attacks on Sandra Fluke, media began to speculate on the challenge that Huckabee would present for Limbaugh's audience share. With the attack on Sandra Fluke still fresh, Huckabee was marketed with the "non-confrontational" tag as differentiation. But a new development now promises to split the right along a very different fault line between Limbaugh and Huckabee.
Anti-abortion groups are furious with the Romney campaign's treatment of Missouri's embattled legislator Todd Akin. While Limbaugh was tiptoeing through the anti-abortion minefield (which led to interpretations that he was both for and against Todd Akin), Mike Huckabee hastened to invite Akin onto his radio program, extending a sympathetic ear. More recently, Huckabee has decided to draw an even sharper distinction by championing the Todd Akin cause. In doing so, he has engineered a stark contrast between himself and Rush Limbaugh. Huckabee now seems unabashedly in the corner of the anti-abortionists; Limbaugh awkwardly tried to navigate a more pragmatic median between the anti-abortionists and the party leadership, and is getting flak for it.
Mitt Romney had already discovered that Tea Party politics is fraught with peril. He must now attempt to manage a new fracture between the ardent anti-abortionist base and the party leadership. So far an effort to avoid or delay addressing the abortion issue has been met with a spate of bad press; the media doesn't like to hear that certain topics are "off-limits", and neither does the base.
Anti-abortionists support Todd Akin because of the "purity" of his voting record on the abortion issue, oratory skills be damned. They regard treatment of Akin as a litmus test by which they are tallying their friends and enemies lists. The differing tactics adopted by Limbaugh and Huckabee not only promise a divvying up of the radio audience between them; it also portends yet another fracture on the right. Perhaps surprisingly, the new fracture may cleave between the anti-abortionists and some elements of the Tea Party; Tea Party Express has called for Akin to step down.
The original article, published earlier today, follows:
Not an hour of any week passes that someone isn't sending emails, tweets, or Facebook posts to acquaint Limbaugh's thousands of advertisers with the content of his radio show.
The material has been rich; Limbaugh has waxed eloquent about sluts and prostitutes, but he also loves to dig up arcane (and frequently bogus) material with which to shock. He recently promoted and embellished a sketchy story from Egypt about men having sex with their dead wives. Even the whimsical gets a lesson and a depraved dig; for example, Robin Hood stealing (not from the respected and honorable rich, but rather from the evil government, Rush clarifies), so that Maid Marian will put out. Limbaugh is a dishonest, conniving, scheming political actor with out-sized influence and a grotesque, disgusting preoccupation with the most degrading take on any given human situation. But Limbaugh is also dangerous to the world community; for example, when he convinces tens of millions that climate change is a liberal hoax.
Limbaugh's audience numbers are not even close to the twenty million listeners that he unabashedly continues to claim. It appears that he has also become a pariah for radio ad sellers; where they once touted his name as the King of Talk Radio to prospective customers, many no longer even mention him in their sales pitches. Yet dozens of right wing news aggregators – Breitbart, Daily Caller, Drudge, and others – cull his every broadcast for tidbits upon which to hang news stories. Thus, when Limbaugh pompously claims a mantle of power within the GOP, even those who doubt the power of his grasp are unlikely to challenge his reach.
Scores of volunteers now monitor Rush Limbaugh broadcasts in dozens of cities across the country as part of the StopRush network. Some operate individually, but others compare notes. Since the Sandra Fluke bash, Rush has been pulling many of his punches. Some are expressing surprise that Rush no longer seems the craziest of the right wing nut jobs. Others note a seeming role reversal between Limbaugh and the supposedly more mild-mannered Huckabee. Rush has even backed away – sort of – from his claim that another four years of Obama would destroy the country. Rush once seemed immune to pushback, but no longer.
Rush hails from the South, where they undoubtedly have some great preachers. And Rush learned the craft of persuasion well. The preacher's craft relies upon repetition; "the secret of a good sermon is to tell them what you’re going to tell them, then you tell them, then you tell them what you told them." With three hours to fill, Rush tends to ramble on; ironically, it may be one of the characteristics that endears him to his ditto head audience. And Limbaugh has a tell. When Rush wonders whether some statement will get him into trouble, he tends to mention this to his audience.
Earlier this year, just a few days pre-Fluke, Limbaugh boasted:
I don't care what kind of trouble I'm in. I've been doing this for 23 years. They can't get me in any more trouble than they tried to put me in now.Since that fateful week, the tone has been a little, shall we say, amended:
April 03, 2012 [about black on white crime]:These are just a few of the many such examples we've noticed. So has Rush Limbaugh finally developed a conscience? Not at all. Sometimes he can't help himself, and the debauchery gushes forth. But these days he is also acutely aware that any controversy on his show will find its way directly to many of his advertisers. And that's progress, of a sort.
Watch me get in trouble for this.
April 25, 2012 [about fundraising, with a mention of cars]:
No, no, I'm not gonna tell you what he told me about the ChiComs and their preferences for cars 'cause that will just get me into more trouble with Bob Lutz.
May 01, 2012 [about the DNC]:
"North Carolina looks like a mess," he writes. So if they chose it for political reasons, then they botched it. (interruption) Are you trying to get me to say something that's going to get me in trouble?
May 23, 2012 [about the relationship between campus lighting and virgins]:
You know, I once got in trouble. My very first radio job, I had to be 18, might have been 17, I mighta still been in high school. I might get in trouble for repeating today what I did then.
June 04, 2012 [about altruism vs. individuality at a track meet]:
RUSH: Now, I may or may not get in trouble. A little story here from Columbus, Ohio... [...]
Okay. Now you're asking, "Okay, Rush, how are you going to get in trouble?" I may not. I may just leave it there and leave it for you to draw your own analysis or conclusion.
August 22, 2012 [About his cat]:
... no, wait, never mind. That will just get me in trouble if I say that again now.
–Rush Limbaugh, various [emphasis added]
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