Is Limbaugh subverting a sacred trust?

Cobb is saying Rush Limbaugh has crossed a line with Operation Chaos, and he even has a cartoon up about it.

My take on “Operation Chaos” is that Rush is doing several things, here – he’s demonstrating his sway, he’s enjoying making mischief (and hoping that when the press talks about “Hillary winning and demonstrating momentum” they’ll mention his “Operation,”) and he’s getting a feel for just how strong may be the desire of conservatives to — not now, but in coming years — jump the GOP ship and form a more demonstrably “conservative” party.

Rush is justifying “Operation Chaos” by suggesting that since Democrats routinely play around with some Republican primaries (I believe the Kos folks did something similar) this is an acceptable thing for conservatives to do. Rush seems to blame the Democrats rather than the conservatives for the GOP nominating John McCain over some never-specified “perfect conservative” candidate, and his line is “since the Democrats selected our nominee, we’ll select theirs.”

I reject the premise that the Democrats “selected” John McCain.
Had conservatives managed to find that “Ronald Reagan II” they were demanding, he/she would have been immune to stray Dem hijinks; if the conservatives couldn’t find/groom a preferred candidate when they’ve known they needed one for the past 4 years, they shouldn’t whine about it or blame others. (Please don’t tell me “Mitt was perfect” – you only loved him when you had no other choice but McCain, and you got McCain because no one else was “good enough” and Thompson was never serious. And remember, I’m the girl who still thinks — because things turn on a dime — that McCain may still not be the GOP candidate; health and age are real issues.)

Cobb writes:

This is quite obviously subversive which is bad enough, but when Limbaugh much to the consternation of party bosses on both sides claims to be influencing elections and manipulating democracy with his plotting it demonstrates what I consider unconscionable hubris. He’s gone too far and he needs to be stopped.

Well, it is subversive, and it is hard to justify the subversion on the basis “fighting fire with fire.” One cannot compare the influence of — at most — a couple million KosKidz to Rush’s enormous audience. I keep thinking that if a liberal with Rush’s audience was advocating “Operation Chaos,” lots of conservatives would be decrying the game-playing and mischief-making misuse of our votes, which I believe most conservatives consider “sacred” things.

But I don’t think Rush should be stopped. That would involved trampling on something equally sacred, our right to speak freely and organize and assemble, even if we’re making cakes of ourselves doing it.

This 2008 election – and much of our electoral process – is already a two-ring circus; Rush is simply adding a third ring, and he’s perhaps also demonstrating how absurdly dishonest and vapid has it all become – the endless campaigning, maneuvering, manipulating and lying. And like a good capitalist he is turning a profit on the thing, besides. (If the “Operation Chaos” tee shirts, hats, etc are meant to support a charity, please let me know.)

So, I don’t think Limbaugh should “be stopped.” But I also don’t know that people should be giggling and guffawing over “Operation Chaos” without considering that — if the “operation” is rooted in a spirit of spiteful payback — it is bound to reap negative fruit. Moreover, I am old-fashioned enough to think of our vote is “a sacred trust” even if that is unsophisticated of me, even if others think vote manipulation is timely sport.

I keep thinking about the Russian Immigrant who looked forward to his first chance to vote in America, and told Gerard Vanderleun, “I will vote always for best, always”…and about the people in Iraq who braved so much to hold their purple fingers in the air…and about the Iraqi and American dead who fought to give them that right.

And in thinking about them, I’m a bit ashamed of our three-ring circus and the casual menace which we are bringing to our own sacred process. They all deserve better than we’re giving them, right now.

What is your opinion? Is Limbaugh subverting a sacred trust, or is he – somehow – “saving” it?

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  • Nels

    What is the evidence that Operation Chaos is working? That now that the primaries in their states are meaningless, some Republicans are making their votes count through Democratic primaries, and that they are favoring the less liberal of the two candidates?

    The situation seems similar to what we had here in California, where as an Independent I was able to vote in the Democratic primary but not the Republican one. I would rather have chosen from among the Republicans, as I doubt I’ll be voting for a Democrat in the fall, but as I never skip an election (plus we had ballot measures on which anyone could vote), it made no sense not to ask for the Democratic ballot and spend five extra seconds registering a preference for Obama or Clinton. Total chaos.

  • DarthPichu

    Believe you me, the Dems were quite active making McCain win in Michigan. I think Rush is just doing tit-for-tat.

  • rightwingprof

    1. How, exactly, is Limbaugh different from Kos, who tried to get Democrats to vote Romney in Michigan?

    2. People who live in non-party registration states (like Michigan or Indiana) often cross in the primaries. There is no “sacred trust” to violate.

    3. How, exactly, does one “stop” Limbaugh in a free society?

    The third really sums up my opinion of Cobb, who doesn’t seem to understand the concept of liberty.

  • DarthPichu

    Ooops. in a hurry and forgot to write 2000 for the McCain win. Many Dems sources were campaigning for McCain this year, but his manufacturing jobs faux pas ended that.

  • NewEnglandDevil

    Ever since we’ve opened the primaries to allow cross-overs people have taken the added opportunity to increase their impact, and I don’t think that’s wrong.

    My wife and I registered unenrolled in MA for exactly that reason – it gives you two opportunities to have your voice heard. It isn’t any different than “Op Chaos” in true intent or results.


  • Sigmund Carl and Alfred

    Rightwing Prof, et al, are absolutely right. What Limbaugh advocates is nothing remarkable or even noteworthy.

    I would be impressed if the same people who want to sanction Limbaugh were as animated and outraged at ACORN for the hundreds of thousands of the nation wide phony voter registrations on behalf of the Democrats, the well documented Democrat voter fraud in Wisconsin or the Chicago Democrat party machine that STILL has dead citizens voting Democrat.

    I knew the 2000 Florida vote had Democrats in a panic when they proposed Richard Daley of Chicago oversee the recount.

    Lastly, I’m still waiting for outrage at the decades of Democrat voter district gerrymandering that had the real net effect of disenfranchising Black voters.

    Limbaugh may be a pompous blowhard, but he’s minor league when it comes to political fixing.

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  • alexandrag

    From a state where Dems have played the cross over game for years, I still think it is a rotten game. The biggest problem with the game is the law of unintended consequences, and therefore I think it is an extremely risky game. Rush can be funny, but right now I think his ego is too much in the game. I also am not sure I agree that Hillary would be the weaker candidate against McCain. Rush seems, as well, to be mad at McCain, so I question the motives behind the operation.

  • ejhill1925

    Voting in a democracy is, indeed, a sacred trust. However, the primary process is an extra-constitutional exercise, a taxpayer subsidy for the two major parties. There is nothing sacred about a system where the citizens of the states of Michigan and Florida pay to run and vote in an election only to have it nullified by the “those who know better” at the DNC. In that sense, Howard Dean has probably done more to subvert the Democratic primary than has Mr. Limbaugh.

    Electing a president was supposed to be the job of the Electoral College, almost in the same way that the Cardinals of the Catholic Church elect a pope. There are no provisions in the Constitution for primaries, conventions or even debates. So anything that happens outside of the Constitutionally mandated general election hardly qualifies as “sacred.”

    Is there a better way to elect a president? I’m sure that there is and almost equally sure that it will never be sought, let alone implemented. Politics is the business of acquiring, keeping and expanding power. The two major parties have it and they will do whatever it takes to keep it.

  • singleton

    When I lived in Texas, where you can decide which primary to vote in, I sometimes voted in the republican primary, to select the best, and sometimes voted in the democratic primary, to select the least worse. In Oklahoma I had to pick a party, so I am a registered Democrat and vote in the primary to select the most conservative Dem, just in case. I even went to a Democratic caucus one time, before they had primaries, but my candidate, John Glenn, did not pass the 15% threshold.

  • stix1972

    I live in Illinois and a lot of my friends voted for McCain and they are Democrats. Since the open Primaries aer allowed, the Democrats havebeen constistently voting in Rpublican Primaries. Do thismake hwat Rush is doing right?? Maybe not,but we need to play the game the way the Dems play it. They take no prisoners and will do evertything legal or illegal to get the Dems elected. I live in the Mini Me of Chicago. Without Chicago and St Clair County, JFK would have lost the election in Illinois, but we have dogs and the dead voting in elections every year. It is a known fact and guess what we still have a Daley in Chicago.

    What needsto bedoneto stop all ofthis is have closed Primaries or have the parties themselves go back to picking the nominee. I would rather have the smoke filled backrooms choose, instead ofthecircus we got now. The onlything Rush is doing now is make it more intersting. Do I think he is really making that much ofan impact??? Not really. We are just seeing what the Democrat Party is. A bunch of Identity Politcs factions. But since we have one faction agasint the other, they are tearing themselves apart, with or without Rush

  • igout

    I think the whole primary process is subversive of our federal form of republican government in that it creates a kind of huge electronic mob, swayed by pundits, polls, spin doctors, the media, stylized debates, entertainers, various Beltway attendants and hangers on.

    In effect we disenfranchise ourselves twice over. First, by virtue of the hoopla surrounding the presidential race, we forget about the other, local and state races whose outcome will touch ours lives at least as much. Second, we become just one of the millions of anonymous digits in the Hillary column, or the Obama column, or name any column you please. We cease being citizens and turn into somebody’s statistic.

    Beyond proposing that mass communications be uninvented, I have no solution to offer.

  • gilletbd77

    I agree. I think the whole thing sheds a lot of light on the subject of the voting process in America. However, if Florida 2000 didn’t prompt the correct changes, I doubt Operation Choas will… Nevertheless, the Republican and Democratic parties need to take responsibility for their own nominating process. If open primaries are cause for concern among their constituencies (which I believe is the case – I would be disillusioned to have my vote cancelled out by an opposition party member), then the two parties need to demand greater restrictions in the primary process from the various states.

  • balsam

    I’m a Republican but in 2000 I went to Iowa for a month to help Bill Bradley. I did not want Al Gore to get the nomination because I believed he would be a disaster as president. I intended all along to vote for Bush in the general election. I was perfectly open about it with the other Bradley workers. No one thought I was making a fool of myself. Looking back, it still seems like it was the right thing to do. I can relate to Operation Chaos. Voting is private; that’s the whole idea behind voting. And organizing others out of a sense of wanting your side to win is a good thing for the country.

  • tom

    The Democrats are suffering from memory loss and whining as usual. They were messing around with Republican primaries as long ago as I can remember, long before I could vote myself. During 1974 liberal college students were registering Republican in droves so they could give liberal Republican Paul N. “Pete” McCloskey the nomination in Palo Alto, which back then was a reliable conservative district. The move was organized not by students but the leftist, anti-war organizations that loitered around, and inside, the Stanford U campus. I do not find Limbaugh’s actions any worse. In fact, he is open and honest about his goals in the media, which is more than I can say about the lefties who were meddling with primaries back in the 1970s.

  • Dust Bunny

    The Democrats did select the Republican candidate. 90% or more of the MSM are Democrats and they have manipulated the primaries to their own ends. By selectively covering with continual bad new and negative press certain candidates and by ignoring and refusing to give equal coverage to other candidates they essentially pushed out the conservative candidates that have and still have the backing of their constituents.

    Fred Thompson was “too lazy” and didn’t get barely any face time. Duncan Hunter…ignored. Mitt Romney…well, you know those Mormons and their funny underwear. For a while the MSM toyed with Huckabee because they knew he was a fatally flawed candidate in the “big election” because of his evangelical leanings. The interference in the Republican primary by the MSM. The questions slanted to only address Democrat and liberal positions to the Republicans inn those travesties of debates. No actual addressing of the issues that Conservatives and Republicans wanted to hear from our candidates.

    It goes on and on. So, Yes, the Democrats through their puppets and shills in the media have selected the Republican candidate. John McCain one of the most liberal, least conservative of the pack and the one who least represents the will of the Republican voters.

  • TheAnchoress

    Dust Bunny, I take your point, but only to a point. While media coverage and exposure does play a part, the truth is Duncan Hunter appealed only to the “far” right and he had zero charisma – he simply didn’t capture anyone’s imagination and like it or not charisma is part and parcel of the game. Ron Paul was equally ignored by the media but managed to – for a little while – make a stir. As to Fred Thompson, he was not hurt by the press calling him “lazy” – he was hurt by the fact that he came off like a guy who didn’t know if he wanted any part of the whole thing, was being forced into it and would rather be out playing golf.

    There is something to be said for a candidate who doesn’t “WANT” the job with his whole being – those Al Gore/Hillary Clinton types we’ve seen enough of – but Thompson needed to approach his “campaign” with a modicum of enthusiasm and even aggression. He didn’t. I believe had he put a little more oomph behind him – had he wanted it at all – the press’ “lazy” narrative would not have held.

    And it’s not like GOP candidates with negative press narratives CANNOT win. Reagan and Bush both dealt with “rich, dumb, cowboy idiot” narratives and won. They were able to transcend the narratives; Thompson could not.

    And the fact remains: the GOP had 4 years – five, really – to groom a candidate acceptable to “the base” and savvy enough for the press. They didn’t do it. They share a huge chunk of the blame, at the very least. I share your disdain of the press…but they’re not the only problem here, and they are not wholly responsible for John McCain.

  • lsusportsfan

    HEre is my two cents for what it is worth.

    It seems to me that a vocal minority of Republicans and Conservatives are upset their view of the world was not the majority. McCain was written off for dead last August and it appears that the voters had different ideas. I say this as someone that was a fanatical Huckabee supporter. THere was a election people had to a chance to present their case to people that more than often agreed with them on 80 percent of the issues. The problem is not the party or back rooms but the fact that people’s guy lost. IT is a party and these things happen.

    As to Democrats. I have a hard time thinking that vast amounts of “liberals” played around in the GOP election. There is some evidence of this by the way since Democrat Primary turnout is at all time levels.

    The Democrats that voted in the GOP Primary in SOuth Carolina and other places are what are generally Reagan Democrats. People like my parents that more often than not vote GOP on the Federal level.rush migh dimissive of these folks but in South Carolina again a Democrat Military guy(yes they exist) more than likely voted for McCain and hopefully will vote for him in Nov. We need them.

    JOhn McCain also did very well with the Catholic vote that is still having a large amount of “d”s by the name. These are the Catholics that voted for Bush in 04 to some degree.

    I really encourage people to go take some time and look at the CNN exit polls for gop voters starting in Iowa and ending in Texas. THere are a lot of suprises(especially as to the immigration issue it appears that the deport them all big and small policy is not even the majority postion in the deep SOuth). I think conservatives (and I include myself in this number) did to take some time understanding what conservatives think and not just what Rush and Hannity and Savage tells what they are thinking.

    I agree with the Anchoress this playing around in other people’s primaries if one is a committed Republican and Democrat is distasteful. UNless the other party is about to nominate a Hitler or David Duke and is a threat to the Republic I would stay away from it

  • Bender B. Rodriguez

    It is subversion of a sacred “trust” and crossing a “line” only if conservatives are automatically required to vote only for Republicans and are, by virtue of their conservativism, morally and politically prohibited from having any kind of voice in the Democratic Party.

    I do not agree with Rush’s Operation Chaos, but that is because I do not think that anybody, anywhere — especially conservatives — should do anything that helps the Clintons. It is a grievous mistake to keep Hillary politically alive. The sooner a wooden stake is driven into the heart of Clintonism, the better.

    However, those complaining about the tactic on fairness grounds need to understand — conservative does NOT equal Republican, and when one starts speaking in terms of “us” versus “them,” conservatives do not take that to mean Republicans versus Democrats, but conservatives versus liberals. For conservatives, the “us” are not Republicans, but conservatives, and if voting Democrat best promotes conservative goals, then voting Democrat is absolutely a proper thing to do.

    Conservatives really could care less about the Republican Club. They may align themselves with Republicans now and then, but that does not mean that they must forever and always owe fealty to the Republican Party.

    Conservatives are conservative before they are Republican. Conservatives are American before they are Republican. There is absolutely no rule — in morality or in reason — that denies conservatives a voice or vote in the Democratic Party.

  • RandomThoughts

    I agree completely with your comment, “This 2008 election – and much of our electoral process – is already a two-ring circus; Rush is simply adding a third ring, and he’s perhaps also demonstrating how absurdly dishonest and vapid has it all become – the endless campaigning, maneuvering, manipulating and lying. And like a good capitalist he is turning a profit on the thing, besides.”

    For me (surely I’m not the only one) Rush is 50% entertainment. I don’t think he’s a divine orator, or a leader of mankind. He’s a radio personality; if he wasn’t amusing as well as thought provoking, he would not keep his audience. And I strongly believe much of “Operation Chaos”–including the merchandising–is done with Rush’s tongue firmly in his cheek. Has he crossed some sort of line this time? As you point out, our election process has become a ridiculous circus (and an obscenely overpriced one to boot). What may have begun as a sacred trust (and I question that; a study of past presidential elections as far back as Jefferson and Adams reveals that the process has long been far from holy) has become so degraded that Rush’s antics can’t possibly defile it further.

  • joe doakes

    Crossover voting in primaries is an old, old tactic in Minnesota. We did it when I worked for a political campaign in 1980, and we learned it from people who did it in the 1960′s, God knows where they learned it.

    The basic concept is to weaken the other candidate. Whenever one of his operatives offers you literature or a yard sign, take as much as they’ll give you and destroy it all. It costs them money to replace, it won’t influence you, and it prevents them from influencing undecided voters.

    Same principle applies to voting for the weakest candidate in their primary. Now the other team must spend money campaigning against themselves, leaving less to spend campaigning against your team.

    It’s politics, people. Crossover voting where it’s legal isn’t crooked, not like the Democrats who actually PAID people to vote for them last time (see the convictions in Wisconsin).

    Sacred trust? Please. This is as secular as it gets.

  • fraydna52

    Well, it’s certainly been done before by Republicans, and it definitely backfired (from Wikipedia article on Lester Maddox):

    When Maddox sought the Democratic Party nomination for Governor of Georgia in 1966, his principal opponent for the nomination was former governor Ellis Arnall. That election was still in the era of Democratic Party dominance in Georgia, when winning the Democratic primary was tantamount to election. Since there was no Republican primary at the time, and there were a great many voters who identified with the Republicans, the Republicans voted in the Democratic primary and chose the candidate who they thought would lose against their candidate, Howard Callaway. In the primary election, Arnall won a plurality of the popular vote, but was denied the required majority. Lester Maddox, the candidate in second place, then ran in a run-off against Ellis Arnall. Again, the Republicans voted in the Democratic primary runoff. There were some two or three other candidates, including then-state Senator Jimmy Carter. Arnall barely campaigned in the run-off election, and the result was a victory for Maddox.

    Stunned, Arnall announced a write-in candidacy for the general election, insisting that Georgians must have the option of a moderate Democrat besides party-nominee Maddox and the Republican candidate. In that contest, Republican nominee Howard Callaway, one of the first Republican members of the United States House of Representatives elected from Georgia since Reconstruction, won a plurality and Maddox finished second; under the election rules then in effect, the state legislature was required to select a governor from the two candidates with the highest number of votes. With the legislature overwhelmingly dominated by Democrats, all of whom had been required to sign a Democratic loyalty oath which required them to support Democrats only, Maddox became Governor, serving from 1967 to 1971.

  • Bender B. Rodriguez

    I have to confess — I’ve voted more times in the primaries of the “other side” more than I’ve voted in “our” side’s primaries.

    And when I was in the College Republicans, a very high ranking elected Democrat in our state approached us to help with some election day “get out the vote” activities on behalf of his preferred candidate in the Democratic primary. (although a Dem, he leaned right, and it was a good idea for us to have friends in high places)

  • roylofquist

    Mr. Limbaugh is all about Mr. Limbaugh. He regularly states that he is an entertainer first and foremost. “Talent on loan from GODDD!!!”. “Half my brain tied behind my back”. He gives a very good impression of not taking himself nearly as seriously as does his audience.

    Operation Chaos occurred to him and he has run with it. Just look at all the press and discussion. It is a small gold mine for him. He has lots of small gold mines. A couple of million here, a couple of million there, after a while it adds up. More power to him and his fabulous mansion in Palm Beach. He is a man who is truly enjoying all that has come to him.

    I listen to Rush if he is on when I’m driving. Much more entertaining than the rest of the radio band. Fortunately he’s not on against Prairie Home Companion or Car Talk. I would be seriously conflicted. It has nothing to do with politics. I am selfishly concerned with being entertained. I listen to Wagner and The Dixie Chicks. I’m not voting for these people. I’m voting for McCain. I’m listening to anybody with talent. Pretty much an in the moment kind of guy.

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  • Bender B. Rodriguez


  • Gayle J. Miller

    Virginia has an open primary as well and without anyone prompting me, and despite his withdrawal from the race, I voted for Romney anyway. And I’m not sorry that I did. Maybe nobody got the message, but I sent the message anyway. IF John McCain is the nominee, I will vote for him – but only because either Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Hussein Obama scare the living peewadden out of me!

    What continues to annoy and confound me is the large number of people who are quite proud of the fact that they didn’t vote at all and don’t intend to vote in the general election.

    Voting is a right, yes. It is also a RESPONSIBILITY. And if you don’t fulfill that particular responsibility, then you are forever interdicted from complaining until the next time you DO vote – or at least that’s my view of things.

    So the non-voting conservatives really ought to consider whether or not they can button their lips for 4 years, since that is what us VOTING conservatives will demand.

  • TheAnchoress


    If you are offering, then yes, please, I’ll take it.

  • newton

    Subverting a “sacred trust”? Heck no!

    If anything, he’s showing exactly part of what has brought the GOP into the impossible situation it’s in, mainly due to the cowardice of so many of them when confronted by dirty tactics coming from the Democrats. To be fair here, the field of GOP candidates guaranteed lots of division and unhappy customers to begin with. Democrats voting in GOP primaries just made sure “the fix” was in, and presto! Here’s John McCain, someone who won the SC primary by a plurality, and a shorter one than in 2000, when he lost with a higher percentage of votes to Bush.

    As much as I would like to see him President (because he seems to have the guts the other two candidates don’t), John McCain’s win as the nominee is, unfortunately, a Pyrrhic victory. Even I have overheard people talking about it where I live and conclude “There’s no way he can win this.”

    When a caller scolded Rush a while back for doing “Operation Chaos”, pointing out that it can “screw over” the GOP, his reply was gold-worthy: “We are already screwed!” He has read the tea leaves. He knows this year is going to be “scorched-earth” disastrous for the GOP. All he’s doing is “spreading the wealth”, so to speak, and to let the Democrats have a taste of their own medicine, by having Republicans in Democrat clothing do a little mischief…

    He knows exactly what he’s doing.

  • Piano Girl

    I’ve listened to Rush on a semi-regular basis since he’s been on the radio in the DC area. I think he has an enormous amount of wisdom & talent in the half of a brain that he uses for his show. I have a feeling that Operation Chaos started off as a tongue-in-cheek remark, but took on a life of its own, and he’s simply run with it. As for the Operation Chaos gear, I’m not sure how much of the profits go to charity, but they all could. He also has Club Gitmo gear for those who are interested. He gives an enormous amount of real money (as opposed to the Clintons giving to their own foundation) to very worth causes. A year or so ago, when he called someone a “false” soldier (it turned out to be someone who pretty much flunked out of basic training, but then wrote articles about atrocities supposedly committed by military in Iraq and the guy had never been there), Harry Reid fired off a nasty letter condemning Rush. He and 41 other dimocrat senators (including Herself & Hussein-Obama) were dumb enough to sign it & then sent it to someone who gave it to Rush, who promptly held an on-line auction. A major philanthropist in the DC area (big supporter of Washington Opera) bid two million dollars for a Marine Corps charity, and Rush matched it with funds of his own. You might not always agree with him (and I don’t ~ I think for myself), but I think he is generous to a fault, and has only the best interests of this great nation in his thoughts and deeds unlike many who are only worried about their next election.