Steele, Republicans Bow to Limbaugh—Is There a Rush of the Left?

Limbaugh occupies a unique role in politics. Is it a good one?

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By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

So Michael Steele predictably has apologized to entertainer Rush Limbaugh for his comments to entertainer D.L. Hughley over the weekend. No word on whether Steele is now willing to concede that Limbaugh is in fact the de facto leader of the party (even if Steele is the de jure leader). The Democrats are loving this and DNC Chairman Tim Kaine weighed in with some shots at Steele and Limbaugh.

Which brought to mind another way of measuring the power of Limbaugh: Is there anyone on the left who could so quickly cow Kaine or other elected Democratic officials in the way that Limbaugh has Steele?

I don't think there is. We ask in Public Opinion today whether Limbaugh is the Michael Moore of the right, but if Kaine got into a fight with Moore, can you imagine him doing a 180 within days and publicly self-flagellating for stepping out of line? Suppose Kaine or another prominent Democrat dissed Markos Moulitsas and the DailyKos crowd. Does anyone think that Markos has the juice to force what Josh Marshall aptly calls Maoist self-criticism from defiant party leaders? Could Keith Olbermann? Rachel Maddow?

Am I missing someone?

And for that matter, recall Phil Gingrey, the original Rush-critic-turned-apologist. Does anyone think that if he ran cross-wise of Steele that he would immediately and publicly suck up to his party chairman?

We can quibble about whether Limbaugh "leads" the Republican Party, but know this: He currently has a role in American politics that is unmatched by anyone else on either side of the political spectrum. And Republicans should carefully consider whether they want that sort of power vested in one unaccountable person. (And whether they could do anything about it anyway.)

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