More than anything else, the clearest warning shot fired at President Barack Obama's hopes for some sort of "post-partisan" America was the one that hit Representative Phil Gingrey. The Georgia Republican said something eminently sensible earlier this week in defense of his own party's leadership in the House:
I mean, it's easy if you're Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don't have to try to do what's best for your people and your party.You know you're just on these talk shows and you're living well and plus you stir up a bit of controversy and gin the base and that sort of thing.
Days later, in one of most embarrassing public displays you are likely to witness in your lifetime, Gingrey was utterly, thoroughly emasculated by Rush Limbaugh on the air. Honestly, it was pretty breathtaking. Even the haters had to pause.
It was well worth the moment of reflection. See, like a lot of people, I sort of see Obama's rise to the Presidency as a conquering of those old "Nixonland" tactics of tar, smear, and fear. But Limbaugh's not going down easily. Rather, he's positioning himself for another oppositional heyday.
And lest you think there are limitations on Limbaugh's ability to influence conservative opinion -- and conservative votes -- you'd better take another moment and check out this video from Media Matters for America, which ably documents the Limbaugh effect. Media Matters' Karl Frisch points out that "Limbaugh's latest comments prove that he is out of step with the American people and their hopes for overcoming this economic crisis." So he asks, "How much longer will conservatives allow Limbaugh to be their voice?" In light of what happened to Phil Gingrey, it's a pressing question.