Talk Radio, Partisanship and Hackery

Yesterday, James noted some quotes from Hugh Hewitt and Rush Limbaugh which appear to promote the notion that they both were cheerleaders for the GOP prior to the election loss to the point that they defended Republicans who didn’t deserve defending, but did so anyway to promote a Republican victory on Tuesday. Both quotes suggest that both Limbaugh and Hewitt are relieved that they don’t have to do that any more now that the GOP has lost.

Joe Gandelman at the Moderate Voice has commented on the issue in some lengthy, thoughtful posts: here and here.

I talked about it extensively yesterday and today: here, here and here.

Andrew Sullivan discussed the same quotes as did James here and had another example from Rush here.

Given the healthy commenting community here at OTB, it seemed to me that this all might raise some questions worthy of discussion.

1) Where’s the line between being a partisan because it promotes your ideological goals and being partisan for partisanship’s sake.
2) Do you expect/want people like Limbaugh, Hannity and Hewitt to be GOP boosters?
3) Is “partisan” a positive, negative or neutral term to you, and why?

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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. Michael says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with being partisan, even being outspokenly partisan. The problem is when you are disingenuously partisan, like Hewitt and Rush seem to be.

    Take Kos, since he seems to be a favorite example on the left. Does anyone here think he doesn’t truly support the Democrats he claims to support? He is partisan, extremely so some might say, but its really him, not made-for-tv/radio/internet ratings.

    The problem that Hewitt and Rush now face is that anytime they advocate support of a issue/candidate/party, you have to suspect whether they honestly support them, or if they’re lying to you. I mean, if the Republicans had held the House and Senate, they would have continued to support them, and everyone would still think they actually liked these guys.

    Add the President to this mix, and I’m amazed at how many people have voluntarily admitted to lying so soon after the election.

  2. Steven Plunk says:

    The line between the two types of partisans is a line defined by each individual. My perception of that person may be entirely opposite of how they see themselves so a definition is impossible and pointless.

    I expect smart, articulate people to be the ones speaking for the party and or cause. The people mentioned fit the bill. I want someone in that position who doesn’t care about ratings and is always rational and reasonable.

    Partisan is a fluid term subject to context. I can’t really judge the word itself. We all know it can be positive, negative and neutral depending on the circumstances.

    If we are going to discuss these radio personalities and partisanship should we also include the Air America crew? It seems one sided not to.

  3. legion says:

    By and large, I think Michael’s got it right. If someone’s blathering on about complete jerks – people he knows are bad, but supports anyway for some sort of ideological boosterism or quid-pro-quo scheme – you really can never believe anything that guy says. His entire credibility is shot, even for people who agree with the general ideology.

    A number of posters here have military ties. Those with deep religious convictions probably understand this as well: Some people are able to envision and dedicate themselves to a higher purpose. And some people literally can imagine such a purpose external to their own ego – something “bigger than themselves”. It’s this latter group that we’re looking at with the hyper-partisans – guys who boost their own team, even break the law to try to keep their own team in power (paging Dr Laura), even if their team is the wrong answer to a bigger question – what’s good for America?

  4. jpe says:

    The problem is when you are disingenuously partisan, like Hewitt and Rush seem to be….Take Kos….Does anyone here think he doesn’t truly support the Democrats he claims to support?

    There ya go. You’ll never see Atrios or Drum writing a post as disturbing as Rick Moran’s from the other day, in which he admitted to being Bush’s cabin boy. (he’s a good blogger, but that was a disturbing post)

  5. Hal says:

    Hewitt and Rush are stereotypical water carriers. It’s what they do. That they’re going to stop is a laughable proposition.

    The problem that Hewitt and Rush now face is that anytime they advocate support of a issue/candidate/party, you have to suspect whether they honestly support them, or if they’re lying to you.

    As someone once said, no one ever went broke underestimating the gullibility of Americans. I’m sure that they’ll both be a driving influence on the right wing of American politics for decades to come.

  6. jpe says:

    The line between the two types of partisans is a line defined by each individual.

    Those waffles smell goooooood.

  7. Hal says:

    Hey, didn’t OTB used to be a Pajamas Media site? Or am I misremembering?

  8. 1) I think the line resides between acknowledging the difference between “half a loaf is better than none” where you recognize one sides shortcomings but also recognize that the stakes are high enough that you need to continue to support them because the other side would make things worse.
    If it is just unquestioning agreement with one side, that is partisanship for partisan’s sake.

    A good example are those who condemn the Bush’s international intercepts, but not Clinton’s echelon program. Or they condemn Bush saying Rumsfeld would stay to the end of his second term, but not Clinton’s lie of “I did not have sexual relations with that women”. Or condemn the “call me” add for race baiting but not the Lewis and Young ad in Atlanta that a republican victory will turn back the civil rights clock and endanger black lives. In short, if you can only condemn the mote in your enemies eyes with out recognizing the beam in your own eye, you are probably being partisan for partisans sake. If you can acknowledge the problems on both sides but still support one as the lesser of two evils, that is being partisan for ideological reasons.

    2) I don’t listen to any of them, so I really don’t have expectations of any of them. They are in a form of entertainment. If their audience doesn’t like what they say or are bored by their blathering, that is the market self correcting. See Air America.

    3) Partisan for partisan’s sake is a negative term to me, but partisan of taking a side is not negative. If I already know what you are going to say before you open your mouth and you have no new insights, ability to summarize neatly or deeper knowledge, then I should waste my time with you because…

  9. RickC says:

    I am kind of with yetanotherjohn. In a closely fought election, most of us have some overriding principles that decides our vote. Once that vote is decided, the fun begins. Say your principle to support the war on terror. You may object to your choices stands on immigration or whatever, but you don’t want to trash the guy who is doing what you most wish to be done. When you are as high profile as Rush and Hewitt, you have a problem. If you carp at the guys who are fighting for your overriding principles, then the guys who don’t support your principles pick up and that and say “Even, Rush and Hewitt think he is doing a bad job on this point”. So, to defend the war on terror, you are forced to mute criticisms on other points. Not fun, but not much of a choice either.


  10. Anderson says:

    We seem not to have a clear definition of “partisan.”

    I criticize someone as partisan when I believe that his take on an issue is governed by what his party says about it, rather than his having an opinion of his own.

    We’re all partisan to some extent, & even the Rush Limbaughs and Bill O’Reillys have moments of non-partisanship (the immigration issue, say). But I think my definition covers what we mean when we think of someone “oh, he’s just being partisan” — no point in arguing or discussing w/ him, b/c his mind was made up back in Moscow, er, D.C.

  11. just me says:

    But the left has plenty of its own water carriers.

    After all I didn’t see too many people on the left arguing that people not vote for Jefferson in Louisanna, or Menendez in New Jersey, or similar. Look at the treatment of Steele by many partisan democrats in this election cycle-hardly the example of nonpartisanship.

    The reality is that once we have chosen a side, we generally brush off the shortcomings of the guys on our side-oh sure we may give a nod to the yuckiness of what they have done, but we often follow that with a “but . . .” and some excuse for the action or some attack on the other side.

    Partisianship is just part of politics. Does anyone think the liberal mouth pieces aren’t going to play partisan water carriers at some point over the next two years?

    I think where the freedom for the likes of Hugh and Rush is that they have real targets they can blame stuff on-the other side is in charge now, the screw ups get to be theirs (just look at how quickly and easily the dems don’t lay any claim to NCLB when one of their favorite liberal senators from New England was one of the main authors and sponsers of the bill)-but that piece of legislation and its shortcomings get dumped at the feet of Bush and the GOP congress.

    In a lot of ways it is much easier to be a partisan bomb thrower from the minority side of the aisle than when you are the people in charge and things aren’t going well.

    Rush’s best years probably were when the GOP was in the minority, or during the Clinton years-because there was a democrat in charge somewhere.

  12. Hal,

    OTB was not a PJM site. They did make an offer, but James declined.

  13. Michael says:

    After all I didn’t see too many people on the left arguing that people not vote for Jefferson in Louisanna

    Actually, some on the left (DKos, MyDD and SwingState) are throwing their support behind Jefferson’s opponent[1]. Some are even taking the party to task for putting questionable people in committee chairs[2]. How often did Rush and Hewitt and their ilk do the same?


  14. just me says:

    How often did Rush and Hewitt and their ilk do the same?

    Can’t speak for Rush or Hewitt as I don’t really listen to either, and like I said I don’t regularly read his blog, so I can’t say how often they did or do the same.

    But Mullhollan of WVA is under investigation by the FBI-haven’t seen too many calls for his resignation.

    Hastings may be a qui quo pro appointment to appeas the congressional black caucus, when the man was impeached by Pelosi herself and was involved in a bribery scandal-yet nobody of consequence is asking for him to resign.

    I think that is the amusing thing in all of these-Pelosi promises to be the queen of ethics, but her party has quite a few members who carry their own unethical baggage.

    Basically-the reality is that we can all find links to bloggers who have called for some accountability, and links/examples of those who are willing to overlook the faults in their parties members in order to retain power for powers sake or so they can see the agenda of their party moved forward. Whether or not this is or should be acceptable is irrelevant-it has been part of the political proccess for years.

  15. Hal says:

    OTB was not a PJM site.

    Thanks. I am quite glad to be remembering incorrectly about this.

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  17. […] The real irony is that I have taken some grief over at OTB for my criticism of Rush Limbaugh and Hugh Hewitt and my concerns about knee-jerk partisanship. […]