He begins with an intriguing hypothesis: our latter day Father Coughlins -- Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity & co. -- command plenty of attention but virtually no votes. His evidence is probably selective, but it's an intriguing hypothesis. They are puffed up by enablers. True enough. But...
They are enabled by cynical Democrats, who love to claim that Rush Limbaugh controls the G.O.P.Just another politically expedient lie, right? Oh, wait --
And the saddest thing is that even Republican politicians come to believe it [that the shock jocks have real power]. They mistake media for reality. They pre-emptively surrender to armies that don’t exist.To anyone who believes that democracy can't function without viable choices, it was a sad and shocking spectacle to witness a parade of Republican leaders first calling out and then kow-towing to Rush Limbaugh earlier this year. Democrats would rather have an opposition they can work with; as Paul Starr demonstrated recently, their health care bills are comprised almost entirely of Republican ideas past, but there's no one on the other side negotiating in good faith.
They pay more attention to Rush’s imaginary millions than to the real voters down the street. The Republican Party is unpopular because it’s more interested in pleasing Rush’s ghosts than actual people. The party is leaderless right now because nobody has the guts to step outside the rigid parameters enforced by the radio jocks and create a new party identity. The party is losing because it has adopted a radio entertainer’s niche-building strategy, while abandoning the politician’s coalition-building strategy.
The rise of Beck, Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and the rest has correlated almost perfectly with the decline of the G.O.P. But it’s not because the talk jocks have real power. It’s because they have illusory power, because Republicans hear the media mythology and fall for it every time.
But in David Brooks' still partisan mind, Democrats who agree with him that the Republican party is entirely in the grip of media demagogues are "cynical." And what is Brooks? Pure-minded?