"The 'Rushification' of the GOP is the natural and inevitable result of the fact that those who are supposed to provide leadership -- Republican elected officials and party officers -- are doing little to bring the party back. Nature abhors a vacuum, and there is no vacuum in nature as empty as the leadership of the Republican Party today."And that's exactly what's happened. It's not that Republicans have all gone to Rush. It's just that since nobody else is as influential as him, he's the biggest guy they've got (both figuratively and literally). He didn't gain in popularity. It's just that all the others shrank away.
The Ghost Presidency
But their problem is deeper than that. This isn't a short-term vacuum created by our current financial woes. Or even one that goes only as far as the Bush self-destruction. This goes all the way down to their core: They haven't had a real leader since Ronald Reagan, and even he really didn't have such a strong hold on things.
The best they had was Bush and he was a total joke. But they were told to worship him and they did. Not just because they were told to, but because they wanted to. They wanted a leader they could believe in. So the party belonged to him. Congress was nothing more than his rubberstamp and the conservative movement relegated all power to him. And each and every one of them sold their soul to this man, who they were told was the Next Ronald Reagan. And that's exactly what they needed.
And now he's gone. But really, he was gone all of last year too. As well as 2007. In fact, it was hard to tell at the time, but I'd guess he had been coasting since the re-election. Campaigning was what he liked best and after he didn't need to worry about another campaign, the wheels fell off the wagon. We can also point to Katrina, and Social Security Reform, and other issues which undermined him. But really, once his last election was over with, he just wasn't there.
And it all goes back to the basic problem: They're authoritarians. They believe in a top-down model of doing business, but once the head gets cut off, the body flails around helplessly. And even worse, Republicans require a puppet president because they're always up to no good. That was Nixon's downfall, that he actually knew what the hell was going on in his administration and had no plausible deniability.
And so their leaders must be people who command respect and look authoritative, but don't care if they're kept in the dark as to what's going on under them. And that's a damn near impossible thing to get. And hell, Bush NEVER pulled it off. He always acted jackass retarded from beginning to end and it took a miraculous level of self-delusion for anyone to imagine he was the bold leader they pretended he was. And people just saw what they wanted to see. The establishment knew his name and who his handlers were. The media liked the fratboy charm. The "intellectuals" knew he was an Ivy League man with an MBA. And the base heard that fakey Texas accent, religious talk, and liked his ranch. And a great marketing campaign filled in the details.
But he wasn't the beginning of a new wave of idiot presidents. He was the only one they had who was dumb enough to be a Republican president, without being too meritless to be president. And he was only the puppet anyway and had he lost the 2000 election, would never have been their leader. And that's what we're seeing now. This isn't a temporary setback. They pinned all their hopes on Bush because he was all they had. And there is no successor. They should have filled Bush's VP slot with someone to hand the torch to, but they got a puppetmaster instead.
And now they've got no one. They didn't train any successors, not by mistake, but because their system can only have one Big Boss. Free-thinkers always do poorly in authoritarian regimes, as authoritarianism only rewards yes-men. And that's what Congress is full of: Dopey yes-men who only know how to follow orders. And all the smart ones rigged the system and got booted out. And now they've got no one. They've been the party of Bush for ten years now and they still have no one to replace him. While it's possible they find one, I wouldn't bet on it.