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Robert J. Elisberg

Robert J. Elisberg

Posted March 10, 2009 | 10:52 AM (EST)

Michael Moore is Wrong


On Friday, Michael Moore wrote a commentary explaining the difference between how Democrats paint Rush Limbaugh's relationship to the Republican Party, and Republicans previously trying to pin Democrats as the "Party of Michael Moore." And in making his analysis, he was wrong.

Mind you, he wasn't completely wrong. In fact, pretty much everything he wrote was spot-on accurate. And most accurate of all was his point: the difference is "The American people agree with me, not Rush." Agree with him about Iraq, health care, global warming, Wall Street excess, and on and on. All of which ultimately increased his popularity. Where he was wrong is that in explaining these things as his reasons, he left out one other significant difference -

Republicans are terrified to criticize Rush Limbaugh, and will quickly apologize if they mistakenly do so, which is what has given fodder to the charge that Mr. Limbaugh has become de facto leader of the Republican Party.

Democrats, on the other hand, have never had a problem arguing with Michael Moore. Because Democrats never have a problem arguing with anyone, even amongst themselves. That's why no Democrat has ever felt a sense that they had to check with Michael Moore first before voicing an opinion - something, if they did, Mr. Moore would likely have been aghast by.

Democrats always have had plenty of leaders, pushing the party's direction. Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama. Some pushed with more success than others, but those were the party leaders. It wasn't Michael Moore. He was just a very outspoken voice - sometimes pushing on the fringes, sometimes smack in middle of the mainstream.

That's the hole that Republicans find themselves. They've had their leaders, as well, of course. But George Bush and Dick Cheney ended up so wildly unpopular that the Republican Party ran away from them. And John McCain was a party leader, but only by default, deeply unpopular to the untrusting Republican far-right base.

And so the GOP was left with an empty hole. And nature abhors a vacuum.

Rush Limbaugh isn't the actual, true "leader" of the Republican Party, of course. That position belongs to...well, nobody. Which is the real problem the Republican Party faces. Nature abhors a vacuum, so in the absence of anybody, after decades of cultivating an intolerant far-right base, all that remains is the bellowing voice That No One Dares Criticize.

It's not so much that Rush Limbaugh is a leader, it's that everyone else in the Republican Party are followers.

And so, you end up with a Republican Party where virtually no one dare criticize Rush Limbaugh (or, okay, sorry, criticize him without apologizing) no matter how reprehensible his words. Like saying that the feminist movement was created by ugly women. Demeaning them as "feminazis." Slamming Michael J. Fox for supposedly faking his degenerative disease. Hoping the President of the United States failed. Yet not even a whimper of indignation from what should be the actual, but non-existent Republican leadership.

That's the difference between Rush Limbaugh's relationship to the Republican Party and Michael Moore's to Democrats. The difference that Mr. Moore left out.

Agree with him or disagree (or both), Michael Moore has reveled in being the outside agitator - the very opposite of a Party Leader. His whole public career had been standing on a soapbox trying to get Democratic leaders to lead. If they haven't, he's called them out on it. If they have, he's promoted it. And if Democrats have disagreed with him, they've had no problem saying so. And Michael Moore relished the debate.

Compare this to Rush Limbaugh who skewered the chairman of the Republican National Committee for daring to call himself - the head of the party, not Rush Limbaugh. And the very next day, the chairman of the Republican National Committee apologized. To Rush Limbaugh.

In the end, this isn't about Rush Limbaugh, and it isn't about Michael Moore. It's about the parties themselves. Democrats are united behind President Obama. And Republicans have abolished all sense of party leadership and worshiped instead at the temple of a radio entertainer, afraid to take a position he wouldn't approve of, terrified to say he's wrong about anything, no matter how repellent it may be. All the while trying to convince the country that they should be the party to lead the nation. Lead? They can't even stand up to a radio host!

And that's what Michael Moore was wrong to leave out of his commentary.

And if he disagrees with me...I don't apologize.

But he's probably fine with that.