Giving Limbaugh too Much Credit

While I think that there is something to the thesis that the Republican Party is overly influenced by a talk radio/cable news mindset (i.e., a bombastic and simplistic approach to government and politics), Zev Chafets’ column today (The Limbaugh Victory) in the NYT goes quite a bit too far.   He starts off:

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.

He then proclaims:

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.

First, monocausality is always problematic.  Second, if one wants to pick a better variable, how about the economy (including GDP growth and unemployment)?  Third, we aren’t actually talking about a large number of cases here.  Fourth, three of the cases cited are internal party fights (Florida, Kentucky, and Utah).  Fifth, he is ignoring all the House special elections that Republicans have lost in the same timeframe (half a dozen or so, in fact).  Sixth, I am not sure how Limbaugh specifically could be given responsibility for electoral outcome anyway (and nor does Chafets actually provide any evidence, rather he just asserts).  Seventh, of the above-listed examples the other truly dramatic example is the Senate special election in Massachusetts.

Apparently Chafets has a book on Limbaugh coming out, and hence the column.  He must have a great publicist.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. DavidL says:

    Nature abhors a vacuum. The inability of the Obama administration to recognize the real world in which we live and the fatal instincts of moderate to feel loved by the MSM, has created a leaderhip vacuum.

    Rush Limbaugh has no more media exposure, but there is a much bigger political vacuum to fill. People will follow those with the clues. Obama, Pelosi and Reid are devoid of clues.

  2. Ugh says:

    Why did you change the picture of El Rushbo?

    And how is it that Bithead gets to post under several different names?

  3. Why did you change the picture of El Rushbo?

    James must’ve done that. I guess he prefers this shot 😉

  4. anjin-san says:

    Actually, I think DavidL is a bithead groupie, if you can imagine such a thing…

  5. Wayne says:

    You can’t read too much in a special house elections like PA which was in a gerrymander district that had a two to one Democrat favor ratio. Even then the Candidate ran as a conservative and against many of Obama’s policies.

    I would agree that as many writers do the columnist exaggerated a particular person influence. Rush deserves some credit but as he would say he is a voice for many conservatives not their leader. Does it help hearing someone articulate conservative principles and does that influence people at times? Yes. However many of the sentiments exist without Rush but you seldom see it in the liberal MSM, films, shows, etc. It is nice for many to have someone explain how to articulate their thoughts and beliefs but most of those beliefs are there even if they are unable to express it.

  6. James Joyner says:

    James must’ve done that. I guess he prefers this shot 😉

    Heh. Doing some work on the new site layout and the pic was too small. Also, it was just referencing an image from elsewhere rather than embedded on the OTB server. I’ve actually found a much better Rush shot that I’ll add to the “stock” image collection.