Rush Limbaugh's gross closing argument: How GOP still relies on race-baiting

While Mitt Romney claims GOP Senate will end gridlock, Limbaugh crows about “white women” being threatened by Obama

Published October 29, 2014 6:00PM (EDT)

Rush Limbaugh                         (Jeff Malet,
Rush Limbaugh (Jeff Malet,

The leaderless GOP has two men who can reasonably be considered the head of the party: Mitt Romney, its last presidential candidate, and Rush Limbaugh, the guy who enforces party discipline on the radio every day. It’s worth noting their two different but complementary approaches to the 2014 midterms.

Romney appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday and shared the respectable GOP line: When Republicans win back the Senate, they’ll “pass bills” and “end gridlock.” Of course, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly promised that his party will pass bills they know the president will veto, first and foremost a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. “Gridlock” is guaranteed to continue with the GOP in charge; it will likely get worse if Senate Republicans tie the administration up in phony investigations aping their friends in the House.

Romney is lying about his party’s governing agenda – it doesn’t have a governing agenda – but it’s a respectable lie, so he got a pass.

Meanwhile, the party’s other leader, Rush Limbaugh, is having a lot of fun with the racial undercurrent of the race, in which the party without an agenda is appealing to white voters based on their hatred of our first black president. On Tuesday Limbaugh crowed to his listeners about the way President Obama is threatening “five white women” in tough red-state Senate races.

Here you have five white women seeking reelection, they desperately need the black turnout. We just had a story today that in New Orleans only 5% of the black vote's voted in early vote for [Louisiana Sen.] Mary Landrieu…if that's all they get then it's sayonara. And yet here's the first black president, Barack Hussein Obama, and none of these white women want him anywhere near their campaign.

So how do we explain this?  The explanation is the guy is toxic and will cause others who might want to vote for these white women to stay home.  So they don't want him anywhere near their campaign.  And he said, "I don't care, I don't blame 'em.  They just gotta do what they gotta do to get elected."  In the meantime, the irony is the first black president is an albatross around the necks of five white women who need the black vote because he will hurt.

Limbaugh makes plain the GOP’s midterm strategy, with the special twist of making Obama the scary black man menacing “five white women,” the eternal story line of racists everywhere. It’s implicit that the five white women – Landrieu, Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes, North Carolina’s Kay Hagan, New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen and Georgia’s Michelle Nunn – deserve what they get for hanging out with the scary black man in the first place.

But Limbaugh is just explaining the GOP’s strategy in the creepiest way possible. I put it differently myself last week: The Republican Party is narrow-casting to its almost exclusively white base, while Democrats are trying to be a multiracial party and reach every race – including white people. That leads to the painful irony of the “five white women” who need black votes but can’t embrace the president who can help turn them out.

In the campaign’s final days, an increasingly confident GOP is relying on Obama-hatred as its closing argument. Landrieu is being hammered in ads for casting “the decisive vote” on “Obamacare,” and to her credit, she’s not running away from her vote, however she might distance herself from Obama.

RNC Chair Reince Priebus, meanwhile, is telling the party base not to listen to guys like Romney, who is saying the GOP must pass bills – he singled out immigration -- and promising all-out war, especially if Obama goes ahead with executive action deferring deportation after the election. “We will do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen: Defunding, going to court, injunction. You name it."

There’s really no doubt about the GOP strategy post-2014: They’ll be running against Obama at least through 2016. NBC’s Mark Murray had a funny Freudian slip Wednesday morning, talking about Romney’s promise to “end gridlock” on MSNBC: Whether Republicans use their Senate power to govern “remains to be unseen,” he said. That’s obviously not what the fair, mainstream Murray meant to say, but I couldn’t put it better myself.

By Joan Walsh