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“Getting By On Fumes”: Has Rush Limbaugh Finally Reached The End Of The Road?

Like him or hate him, there is no disputing that Rush Limbaugh’s very special brand of mixing right-wing politics with his flare for entertainment has produced one of the most successful radio programs in the medium’s long history.

Whatever the burning political question of the day, millions of Americans have relished the opportunity to tune into Rush’s program, knowing that he would quickly take that hot potato, throw a few gallons of verbal kerosene into the mix and elevate the matter into a five alarm fire with a just a few well-chosen words spoken in the style only Rush Limbaugh could produce.

Until now…

At long last, it appears that Rush Limbaugh has run out of steam.

I have to acknowledge that I have sensed Rush getting by on fumes for some time now (yes, I tune into his show from time to time to enjoy his broadcasting skills if not his message). However, it was only recently that the world of Limbaugh crossed that thin red line from partially serious to total self-parody and audience deception—a line crossed from which there is often no return.

It happened on the occasion of Stephen Colbert’s appointment to fill David Letterman’s soon to be vacated chair on the CBS  (CBS +0.65%) late-night set.

By using this occasion to create a political narrative designed to stir up his listeners, Limbaugh telegraphed to his loyal followers that he is now dependent upon feeding fully faux political nonsense that his audience instinctively—or explicitly—knows is a bunch of baloney.

To be sure, this is hardly the first time Limbaugh has fed his audience a diet of twisted information and bizarre, conspiratorial memes. However, it may well be the first time that he attempted to shove a diet down the throats of any semi-rational listeners still living in the real world made up of nonsense that even his most loyal listener could not possibly swallow.

That’s a problem for Rush.

A show like Limbaugh’s is wholly reliant on his listeners’ willingness to believe—or suspend belief—no matter how ‘out there’ their guru’s arguments may be. While it is one thing for me to sneer at much of what Limbaugh may present, it is quite another when he attempts to sell his loyal audience on stuff they already know, through personal experience, to be false and fraudulent hokum.

Upon hearing the news of Colbert’s new gig, Limbaugh pronounced— as only Limbaugh can pronounce—

“CBS has just declared war on the heartland of America. No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values, conservatism. Now it’s just wide out in the open. What this hire means is a redefinition of what is funny, and a redefinition of what is comedy. They’re blowing up the 11:30 format… they hired a partisan, so-called comedian, to run a comedy show.”

Not quite satisfied with his initial declaration, Limbaugh returned to the subject in a later program, commenting further on CBS’s  decision to hire Colbert—

“It clearly indicates that the people making this decision have chosen to write off a portion of the country, that they don’t care if a portion of the country watches or not.”

Rush has it right on his last statement.

Indeed, the people who make decisions at television networks have chosen to write off a portion of the country—a decision that was made for them a very long time ago.

However, it has never had anything to do with making choices of audience based on anything even resembling politics and has always had everything to do with blowing off  anyone older than 49 years of age because these older folks are poison to advertisers. In other words, the networks are clearly writing off those in ‘the heartland’ if they’ve reached 50 years old—just as they’ve written off folks in this demo in every other nook and cranny of America.

What Limbaugh chose to ignore in his rant is that this is a choice based on what television advertisers want—and what television advertisers want is a young television viewing audience or, to be more specific, viewers that fall between the ages of 18-49. Despite Limbaugh’s truly lame efforts to pretend otherwise, if you fall within this age group, you are welcomed to the party whether you be a progressive, conservative, independent, communist, John Bircher, or whatever other political affiliation you can conjure up.

You see, car companies don’t really care about your politics when they are trying to sell you a car via a TV commercial—they care about whether you are in a position to buy that new car should they succeed in getting your attention. Purina really doesn’t give a damn about your politics or your dog’s politics when they are trying to sell you their brand of dog food.

For these reasons that would appear to be obvious to everyone but Rush Limbaugh—although we all know that they are obvious to him too—all viewers younger than 50 are coveted by the television networks.

And yet, Limbaugh—a guy who has spent his life in media—wants his audience to believe that there is some political agenda on the part of a network at work here. Never mind that early morning and late night are the two largest sources of revenue for every broadcast network. Limbaugh expects us to believe that CBS is willing to throw all that money out the window to make a political statement.

If you are a Limbaugh fan, how are you not asking yourself just how dumb this man thinks you are?

Even the right-wing Frontpagemag.com was able to properly discern the truth of the situation and provide an excellent explanation of reality:

The number of people who watch a TV show stopped mattering years ago. If it did, Murder She Wrote, a show that had an older audience and high ratings, wouldn’t have been canceled. Instead there’s talk of rebooting it with younger multicultural leads in a different setting.

Network television doesn’t just fail to count older viewers; it tries to drive them away. A show with an older viewership is dead air. Advertisers have been pushed by ad agencies into an obsession with associating their product with a youthful brand.

The demo rating, 18-49, is the only rating that matters. Viewers younger than that can still pay off. Just ask the CW. Older viewers however are unwanted.

A network show would rather have 5 million viewers in the demo than 15 million older viewers. A cable show would rather have 1 million viewers in the demo than 10 million viewers outside the demo.

Colbert and Stewart have the top late night talk shows in the demo. That means 1 million ‘young’ viewers. That’s barely what Letterman was pulling in on a top network.

Networks, which already have high median ages, are doing everything possible to bring them down. CBS has a median age of 58 and is the oldest network. Colbert is supposed to lower their average.

Letterman’s show had a median age of 56. Colbert’s show has a median age of 39. That a 49-year-old comedian with an audience whose median age is 39 is considered a draw for younger audiences reveals just how thoroughly younger viewers are abandoning television.”

As someone who spent the overwhelming majority of his career as a television producer and executive, I can state with absolutely certainty that Frontpagemag.com got it precisely right—and when was the last time you heard me say that a right-wing anything got it exactly right?

So, what does it say when a guy like Rush Limbaugh stoops to trying to build a political fire out of what is about as apolitical as chicken soup?

It says Rush is running on empty. It says he’s grown lazy. It says he’s probably trying to hold on to get though the next presidential election cycle before fading off into the sunset.

Rush’s audience knew that his anti-Colbert rant was nonsense the minute it left Limbaugh’s lips. How did they know?

While Limbaugh’s listeners may be inclined to believe the words of the great Rush Limbaugh, these aging listeners are the very people who can no longer find anything on TV to watch because everything is so skewed to the young viewer. They know all too well that it has nothing to do with their politics and everything to do with their age and being outside the desired demographic.

Rush Limbaugh ‘works’ when he can fire up his audience with red-hot ideology designed to bring out the anger of his listeners. But no entertainer succeeds when they try to stupidly pull the wool over the very listeners who have been loyal—and Limbaugh’s effort to politicize the Colbert hiring was just that.

 

By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, April 15, 2014

April 16, 2014 Posted by | Politics, Rush Limbaugh, Seniors | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Midwest’s New Class Politics And The Political Irony Of The GOP

The battle for the Midwest is transforming American politics. Issues of class inequality and union influence, long dormant, have come back to life. And a part of the country that was integral to the Republican surge of 2010 is shifting away from the GOP just a few months later.

Republican governors, particularly in Wisconsin and Ohio, denied themselves political honeymoons by launching frontal assaults on public employee unions and proposing budgets that include deep cuts in popular programs.

Democrats in the region are elated at the quick turn in their fortunes. A few months ago, they worried that a region President Obama dominated in 2008 was turning against him. Republican triumphs in Wisconsin and Ohio, as well as in Indiana, Michigan and Iowa, all pointed to trouble for the president.

Now, for reasons having more to do with decisions by GOP governors than with anything the president has done, many voters, particularly in the white working class, are having second thoughts.

“We certainly addressed the issue of Reagan Democrats,” said Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee, referring to the blue-collar voters who began drifting Republican in 1980. Barrett lost to Gov. Scott Walker in November by 52 percent to 46 percent, but recent polls suggest he would defeat Walker if the election were rerun. In Ohio, the approval rating of Republican Gov. John Kasich, who won narrowly in 2010, has fallen to as low as 30 percent in one poll.

In telephone interviews last week, Democratic politicians across the Midwest avoided premature victory claims. “I don’t think we’ll know until November of 2012,” Gov. Mark Dayton of Minnesota replied when asked if the Republican moves against public employee unions would turn out to be a major error.

It’s a political irony that Republicans clearly believed unionized public employees were so unpopular that taking them on would play well with voters.

“It was part of an intentional strategy on the part of the right-wing Republican ideological machine to split private-sector workers from public-sector workers,” said Dayton, a Democrat who beat back the 2010 Republican tide. After decades involving “a giant transfer of wealth to the very top,” Dayton said, the campaign against public unions was “a way to distract attention” by creating “a fight over who is getting a dollar an hour more or less.” The effort, he added, “has not worked as well as they thought it would.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, said that even union sympathizers were surprised at the degree to which the Republicans’ approach “blew up in their faces” and that “the poll numbers of support for collective bargaining for public-sector workers are stronger than even most labor supporters expected.”

Another surprise: the extent to which Democrats, long wary of being accused of “class warfare,” are now more eager than ever to cast the GOP as the party of the privileged.

Barrett recounted a parable making the rounds among Wisconsin Democrats, telling of a room in which “a zillionaire, a Tea Party person and a union member” confront a plate of 12 cookies: “The zillionaire takes 11 of the cookies, and says to the other two, ‘That guy is trying to steal your cookie.’ ”

Still, Democrats are aware that the flight from the Republicans is also a reaction against ideology. Dayton saw the GOP’s heavy-handed methods in Wisconsin as playing badly in a region proud of its tradition of consensus-building and good government.

And Brown said that while joblessness was the most important issue in last year’s election, one of the most effective Republican arguments was the claim that “Obama was governing by ideology.” That charge has been turned on its head because “now, they are so overdoing governing by ideology.”

Sen. Al Franken said he saw this reaction against ideology playing out in Washington’s budget battle as well, citing the example of leading Minnesota business people, including Republicans, who have been appalled at cuts in effective job-training programs.

The first electoral tests of the new class politics will come in Wisconsin. David Prosser, a conservative state Supreme Court justice, is facing a surprisingly tough challenge April 5 from JoAnne Kloppenburg, who has strong backing from anti-Walker forces. Later this year, several Republican state senators could face recall elections.

The tests for the longer run will be whether echoes from the heartland’s struggles over economic justice are heard as Congress debates budget cuts — and the extent to which Obama, who has already benefited from fights he did not pick, decides to join the battle.

By: E. J. Dionne, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 27, 2011

March 28, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Gov Scott Walker, Governors, Ideologues, Jobs, Middle Class, Politics, Populism, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Unions, Wisconsin | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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