Salon.com today reports on Rush Limbaugh’s powers to mesmerize and electrify his faithful devotees, and quotes a female college student smitten by him:
CPAC attendee Chelsea Barnett, a 21-year-old student at the University of Central Oklahoma who says she’s been listening to Limbaugh since she started driving, was inspired by Limbaugh’s address. “Omigosh, I think he energized the base so much,” said Barnett, who at one point ecstatically shouted, “Are you single?!” toward the stage. “I think everybody’s asking themselves, ‘Where in the world has this guy been and why have we not heard from him face-to-face?’ He’s so effective in person in energizing people. It was so amazing. I think we’re going to see a lot more from him in person.”
I watched Limbaugh’s CPAC oration and would characterize it as the performance of an emotionally hysterical, psychologically closed-off, authoritarian and charlatan. I don’t think its unfair to characterize his oratorical style as Mussolini-like. Limbaugh has a severe, angry, jut-jawed manner that echoes the political temperaments of those who harangued 1930s Germany and Italy into a fascist frenzy. Limbaugh’s way of speaking before an audience is accompanied by the grosses intellectual oversimplifications, and the way that he demonizes his opposition can only appeal, ultimately, to the ignorant, the paranoid, and the fanatic. Strutting confidence and simplification can be “sexy,” but in politics it can also make for authoritarian-driven mass movement leaders who substitute discourse and nuance with passion and prejudice—and are cheered and adored for it. Rush Limbaugh, unfortunately, is just such a leader—the defacto leader of the contemporary Republican party.