I like Kathleen Parker’s columns in general and it’s almost not fair to call her a Villager, but her latest column about how Obama made a mistake in taking on Rush Limbaugh is a perfect example of Villager thinking:
Never start a land war with Asia. Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel (or who owns the patent on the microchip). Never let rabble-rousers get under your skin — especially those whose popularity in some circles compares favorably with your own and whose earnings make bailed-out bank presidents envious.
While we’re at it, tread very carefully around the implication that conservatives cling to their talk-show hosts out of anger and frustration.
That may be true, but the backfire Obama felt in West Virginia was a gentle zephyr compared to the blowback that can be bellowed by El Rushbo.
One of the most cherished beliefs among Beltway insiders is that the massive talk radio audience swings elections…or something like that. Since all the Ditto Heads vote Republican anyway, Parker et al. can’t really believe that, can they? I think what they actually believe, in some form or another, is that if all the Rushbo Strike Force all send balls or silly putty or whatever to Obama, then Obama will have to surrender to the power of Greater Wingnuttia. Of course, Greater Wingnuttia only constitutes about 20% of the population, as Nate Silver points out:
Most fundamentally of all, the McCain campaign radically overestimated the importance of appealing to the base. House Republicans may be replicating their mistake. Self-described conservative Republicans represent only about 20 percent of the population. This base is not necessarily becoming smaller; it’s still alive and kicking. What is true, however, is that the (1) base has never been sufficient to form a winning electoral coalition, and (2) that there are fewer and fewer non-base (e.g. moderates, libertarian Republicans, Republican leaning-independents). As these moderates have fled the GOP, the party’s electoral fortunes have tanked. But simultaneously, they have had less and less influence on the Republican message.