Conservative talking heads like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh often poke fun at President Obama’s penchant for running the country from the golf course. Yet, ironically, their snobbish treatment of independents is teeing Obama up for another four years of putt-putt presidency.
I respect all three of these pundits, particularly Rush Limbaugh who is a pioneer in his field. However, I’m concerned that their communication style of late is sidelining independent voters that the GOP presidential nominee will need to attract in order to defeat Obama, including Hispanics, gays, women, libertarians and young people.
If we want to win the general presidential election, we need a strategy for attracting new voters to the GOP’s “Big Tent.” Preaching to the choir is not a strategy. Burning bridges is not a strategy. And insulting our active duty military men and women by smearing the lone GOP candidate (Ron Paul) that they overwhelmingly donate their money to as “crazy,” “nutty,” and “half-witted” is downright feckless.
“As a libertarian, I don’t feel welcome in the GOP party,” a caller told syndicated talk radio host Jason Lewis earlier this month.
Why would an independent feel this way about the GOP? Well, listen to how our most influential pundits talk about the presidential candidate who holds his own in Republican primary polls and shares debate stages with political heavyweights like Mitt Romney:
Limbaugh made this comment: “I’m sorry, ah, but this Ron Paul is gonna to destroy this party … This is nuts on parade. They want the whole Republican party to be identified with the kookiness of Ron Paul.”
Meanwhile, Hannity’s frequent prodding sends the message that Republicans can’t trust libertarians. Hannity recently questioned Paul: “If you don’t win this nomination, and you’re doing very well here in Iowa, [will you] support the Republican nominee and not run third party?”
Paul answered: “Well, I’ll give the same answer I’ve given about 39 times now, that I have no intention of doing that. I plan to do my very best and see what happens … absolutely no plans and thoughts of doing it.”
Paul’s son, Sen. Rand Paul, diplomatically censured Hannity for his prodding approach: “… he gets asked [that question] over and over again and I guess to him, I guess, he feels it’s a little insulting, and not from you in general but because he’s leading in the Republican primary and everybody’s saying ‘Oh are you gonna run as a third party?’ and he thinks that we have a shot of winning. … [The GOP and Ron Paul are] a lot on the same team; we may not agree on every issue.”
Rand Paul added: “I would reverse the question though and say to many of the other Republicans who I think aren’t being fair to him that they should want him in the party and they should want all of his followers in the party instead of saying ‘Oh we’re going to get so mad if he leaves the party.’”
To be fair, Hannity responded: “I’ve said I agree with your Dad on [cutting] the Fed. I support his plan to cut a trillion dollars.”
Rand persisted in pointing out how his father is attracting new voters to the GOP: “I would venture to say that he’s had the biggest crowds and he is offering something unique—that you can be a fiscal conservative and be a little bit more reasonable on foreign policy and less interventionistic—and that is different than anybody else is offering … it’s also attracting a lot of these young people.”
Like Hannity, Beck still vocally supports many of Paul’s ideas for fiscal reform. However, as Paul has surged in Republican primary polls as a strong contender for the GOP nomination, Beck has attacked Paul as someone who “can find a conspiracy in a glass of water” and “not a constitutionalist … but a progressive politician.” Beck even blasts his own callers who identify themselves as Paul supporters (some of whom fail to correctly articulate Paul’s views) with sophomoric attacks like: “You are a bigot” or “you’re crazy.”
Beck’s intolerance is likely causing him to lose more influence and credibility with independent voters. Over the years, Beck has developed a reputation for entertaining conspiracy theories, making loaded remarks like: “[President Obama] has a deep-seated hatred for white people” and he has received substantial criticism from conservative journalists (most notably Andrew Breitbart) for growing his media empire irresponsibly. Earlier this month, Breitbart tweeted: “Unfinished Biz 2011: @GlennBeck need[s] to apologize to those [he] dishonorably crossed.”
Beck, who relentlessly tells his audience “Do your own research” apparently doesn’t always do his own due diligence before ripping Paul: “If you can’t run a newsletter, you shouldn’t be given the keys to the United States of America.” Here, Beck was referring to off-color comments that were published in a newsletter under Paul’s name years ago.
Ben Swann of Fox 19 pointed out in Reality Check that President Obama and every major Republican presidential candidate have each been accused of being insensitive towards minorities. So, allegations of insensitivity like those leveled against Paul appear to come with the territory when one runs for president and are often petty tactics employed by opponents to destroy a candidate's reputation.
International Business Times writer Hao Li maintains (after combing through Paul’s past) that Paul neither wrote nor reviewed these comments before someone else published them under his name. Without denying that Paul had too many pots on the stove at once, Li further determines that Paul’s character is whole and his track record toward Hispanics and African Americans is equitable.
Li’s research also shows why it’s non-strategic for talking heads like Beck to spend so much time nudging Paul and his followers out of the GOP. Paul emphasizes repealing “most of the federal law on drugs,” which Li says has “created a marginalized underclass in [America], mostly consisting of blacks and Hispanics.” So, by implying that Paul’s views aren’t welcome in the GOP’s “Big Tent,” Beck is merely nudging Hispanics toward Obama.
Indeed, former George W. Bush adviser Mark McKinnon tells TIME Magazine: “Every extra day of the Republican primary means more ugly messaging about immigration. And if Republicans don’t win back Hispanics, they will not win back the presidency.” Sarah Palin warned after the Iowa caucus: “The GOP had better not marginalize Ron Paul and his supporters after this because Ron Paul and his supporters understand that a lot of Americans are war-weary and we are broke and he has reached these constituencies who are very concerned about the solvency of the U.S and he has proposed solutions … so the GOP had better listen to what these Ron Paul supporters are saying, better work with them.”
I think talking heads like Beck, Hannity and Limbaugh should focus on dismantling President Obama’s socialist policies and his kinglike executive orders instead of slamming independents. Otherwise, they are teeing Obama up for a hole-in-one this November.