Republicans fading into irrelevancy

A Rasmussen poll recently found that 44 percent of Democrats but just 11 percent of Republicans view Limbaugh as the leader of the Republican Party.

After years of mismanagement, the Democratic Party finally has a capable, charismatic leader. The Republican Party does not. With the political tides so thoroughly turned, parallels can be drawn between early Bush II Democrats and the current Republicans in how theyâÄôve handled their full minority status. During the last administration, Democrats faced an America that had [at least once] elected a âÄúman of the peopleâÄù; no Bush-bashing is necessary to establish that Republicans were benefiting from a simple, straightforward message and a president capable of little more. Oops. Throughout that ordeal, though, the Democratic Party stuck to its goals instead of hopelessly recreating the contemporary success of their opponents. People liked Bush because it seemed like you could have a beer with him. Today the Republicans have adopted a very different strategy. Ignoring the possibility that voters support President ObamaâÄôs policies and not merely his physical qualities, the Republican Party has been trying to emulate just the facade of the recent Democratic success. During the campaign, the media and public were enthralled by ObamaâÄôs youthful vigor and followed each of his daily visits to the gym. The Republican response? Elevate young conservative rising star, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Only they appear to have picked this fruit a little early. Despite JindalâÄôs relative youth, the unpolished, childish simplicity with which he talked down to the nation in his rebuttal to ObamaâÄôs speech to Congress was unfortunately familiar. That speech showed that his age will have little impact on his partyâÄôs preference for the failed policies we voted against in November. And he clearly was not ready for the national stage. Similarly, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael SteeleâÄôs performance so far casts doubt on the argument that he was selected simply because he was the most qualified candidate for the position. It is perhaps fortunate, then, that neither of these men are really viewed as the partyâÄôs current leader. According to many pundits, Rush Limbaugh is the de facto leader of the Republican Party. But while Limbaugh has influence, he also has a penchant for saying things respectable people wouldnâÄôt say. Steele did briefly condemn his remarks, but he ended up groveling only a day later when King Limbaugh got mad. Their hierarchy seems clear, but the country is remarkably divided about Limbaugh. A Rasmussen poll recently found that 44 percent of Democrats but just 11 percent of Republicans view Limbaugh as the leader of the Republican Party. We appear to be witnessing the return of an ancient phenomenon: Democrats controlling a media narrative. Last October, Democratic strategists discovered that only about 1 in 10 voters under age 40 view the talk show host favorably. Since then, many Democrats and now even White House officials have engaged Limbaugh directly, propagating this unflattering caricature of conservative America. But while happy to bask in the spotlight, Limbaugh rejects any leadership responsibility. So although there is confusion about exactly who is leading the party, a January Rasmussen poll shed some light on the type of leader Republicans want; 43 percent of respondents thought that their party had become too moderate, and 55 percent said that Sarah Palin should be the model for the future. A scant 24 percent thought Sen. John McCain was the correct model. The current Republican retreat to the right could yield wonderful results. With many minorities and especially young voters heavily favoring Democrats, the Republican future is grim. At this rate, the current Republican recession will long outlast the financial one they bequeathed to us. This column, accessed via UWire, was originally published in the Duke Chronicle at Duke University. Please send comments to [email protected]