March 6th, 2009
09:16 PM ET

The de facto problem with de facto leadership

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Ken Olshansky
Senior Producer, CNN'S D.L. Hughley Breaks the News

It was a noisy week here at D.L. Hughley Breaks the News.

Last weekend, in a conversation with Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, D.L. called Rush Limbaugh the ‘de facto leader of the Republican party’. “No he’s not,” Mr. Steele asserted. “I’m the de facto leader of the Republican party.”

Then Saturday, Rush Limbaugh—the “incendiary” entertainer himself—gave an energetic address (OK, that’s an understatement) to the Conservative Political Action Committee, in defense of his statement that he wants President Obama to fail.

And on Sunday morning on “Meet the Press”, the president’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel called Rush Limbaugh the “voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party."

These three incidents came together to create a firestorm of cable news chatter. But the problem with firestorms is that they throw off a lot more heat than light. In all the talk, we missed a chance to talk about what we really need: a loyal opposition.

Look, I’m as excited about our new president as the next guy, but presidents are like toddlers (OK, some presidents more than others…). They need firm boundaries or they’ll end up hurting somebody. A loyal opposition provides those boundaries: keeping the president and the ruling party accountable; questioning the motivation behind policy decisions; and most importantly, forcing the president and his party to defend their actions to the voters.

Voters can be supportive of the president and his party, but they shouldn’t be blindly loyal. We need a loyal opposition to keep our system functioning.

But… when the opposition gets all hot and sweaty, and jumps around like the Vegas-period Elvis … we don’t really need that so much.

That’s why the kerfuffle that started here on D.L.’s show was more than just a cable pile-on. Letting Rush Limbaugh take the Republican reins de-legitimizes the opposition, which hurts us all.

I live in Brooklyn, in a neighborhood called Cobble Hill. It’s a very livable neighborhood of townhouses and small apartment buildings. At the end of my block is a large housing project called the Gowanus Houses. It’s not a bad development—relatively safe, relatively well kept up. But there’s no way that these blocks of monolithic housing are preferable to the private houses they replaced. The Gowanus Houses are a living symbol of why we need a loyal opposition. The Democratic orthodoxy of the post-Goldwater 60’s led to the wholesale destruction of countless homes and neighborhoods, in the name of ‘urban renewal’—just one of way too many examples of government overreaching.

Government is big and has a big impact. Without a legitimate counterweight to keep government in bounds, there can be a lot of collateral damage. The last decade—a period that also lacked an effective opposing party, couldn’t have been more different than the 60’s, but the excesses were easily as destructive.

The pendulum swings—but we need a loyal opposition to keep the pendulum from becoming a wrecking ball. That’s why the leadership of the opposition—de facto or otherwise—is worth talking about.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Rush Limbaugh
soundoff (One Response)
  1. Will

    I think Rush Limbaugh forgot to drink his medicines & yes medicines. Please give him a pill called "reality check" & to be taken 3x a day. This time Rush use prescription.

    March 9, 2009 at 4:38 am |