Republican pollster and strategist Frank Luntz was caught on a hidden camera recently, talking smack about one of the most influential and least constructive people in America: Rush Limbaugh. Luntz asked that recording devices be turned off before he began to talk honestly about the destructive political polarization being caused by conservative media and divisive talk radio hosts. Luntz was right, if understated, in saying that Limbaugh's m.o. is "problematic" for America and not helpful to the cause of helping Republicans get elected.
I want to use this space to agree with Luntz and propose at least one solution.
First, the problem. Luntz is certainly correct that bombastic talk show hosts are more interested in boosting advertising revenue than they are in solving our country's problems. Limbaugh's denial of climate change is but one of many examples where outrageous ignorance is standing in the way of progress. Luntz is right when he says that politicians understand the harm being inflicted by these media personalities, yet they remain unwilling to cross them, fearing the consequences of their ire.
Second, the solution. Politicians must begin responding to the wide swaths of their constituents -- including Republicans -- who want action of a range of issues, rather than kowtowing to Limbaugh and company. Across the suite of controversial and divisive issues, a clear majority emerges for action. On immigration, two thirds of Republicans support the recent bipartisan proposal for reform. Likewise, a clear majority supports action on environmental issues like clean energy and climate change. Seventy percent of Republicans believe, despite what Limbaugh says, that the world is warming and about 90% of Americans want to generate more wind and solar energy. This includes huge majorities of Republicans. For example 84% of Republicans said they think it is important to generate more solar energy.
In the wake of 2012 election losses, the Republican Party has begun soul-searching. Moving beyond a narrow base and rebuilding a durable majority will require being on the same side with a majority of Americans. Those people want clean energy jobs. They believe in climate change. They want action. And unlike Luntz, I'm willing to put that on the record.