For the past several months Rush Limbaugh has been promulgating what he calls the Limbaugh Theorem. It explains, in a very high-concept way, how Barack Obama has been able to escape responsibility for his many failures.
According to the Limbaugh Theorem, Obama has never gotten out of campaign mode. Since he never appears to be governing, when his administration does something wrong, he does not look like the man in charge. He does not look like he is responsible. He looks like someone who is fighting the Washington forces that are causing the nation’s turmoil and malaise.
Thus, Obama presents himself as the perpetual outsider, the champion of the downtrodden masses. By trafficking in this mirage, he deflects blame from himself on to those who he puts in charge, whether it’s the Bush administration, Congressional Republicans, the Tea Party… whomever.
It’s a brilliant strategy, but it does not have to have been a premeditated strategy. Obama knows how to campaign. He has a great deal of experience campaigning. He does not know how to govern. He brought no governing experience to his current job. If we are all naturally inclined to do what we know how to do, it makes sense that Obama would remain in campaign mode. As the old saying goes, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Limbaugh explains that Obama could not be selling this illusion without the active assistance of the mainstream media. When something bad happens, be it Benghazi or Fast-and-Furious or the IRS scandals, the media does everything in its power to shield the president from any association with it.
If, Limbaugh points out, the Secret Service closes down all White House tours, the first thing you know, Obama’s spokesman is out there saying that Obama has nothing to do with the Secret Service. The press dutifully reports that Obama has no control over the Secret Service.
Barack Obama comes to us straight from central casting. The media wanted to advance its agenda, and to flex its muscles. More than that, it wanted to impose a narrative on America.
In the narrative, policy does not matter. Governance is trivial. Obama is above all that. He is the Savior who was sent to redeem America’s original sin of racism. With this redemption, the narrative goes, a new kingdom of social justice will descend on America and the nation will, for the first time, be worthy of its citizens’ pride.
Within this narrative, failure is unthinkable. Being crucified is inevitable.
Many of those who are living the narrative are what Limbaugh calls the “low-information voters.” They do not care about the facts. They like the story. Rather than see themselves as failures, they see themselves as actors on the stage of world history.
Besides, even if the news is bad, even if they and their neighbors are out of work, even if their children have graduated college and can’t find jobs, it is just the punishment that America deserves for its sins.
They believe that America’s pain, its diminishing status, its failures in the world are well-deserved punishment for the crimes it has perpetrated. They see the pain as a stepping stone to a glorious future where their suffering will be redeemed.
Naturally, they are not just taking it all on faith. When they hear good news, dutifully reported by the press, they use it to sustain hope. The stock market has been on an extended rally. The housing market has been recovering. Inflation has been moribund. The unemployment statistics seem to be improving. Besides, the “low-information voters” still have their food stamps.
It’s what I once called the politics of bread and circuses.
Here’s Rush, articulating his theorem in March:
I'm talking about the perception that he's creating with the perpetual campaign, the perception among low-information voters. They think that Obama is still fighting these powerful forces that are doing great harm to the country. And he's come up with idea after idea. He had the stimulus to try to fix the roads and bridges, and he promised that he'd do a health care plan that would lower everybody's premiums, and he said that whatever program he did would never add a dime to the deficit, and people believed that. None of that happens, but it's not tied to him, because he's not seen as in charge of it. It's the magic, the beauty of constantly running against something, in this case, the Republicans, or the bad news, or the sorry events that are taking place in the country.
The key for Obama and the low-information voters that vote Democrat is to make sure that he's not seen as having any relationship to these events. This is where you and I for four years were pulling our hair out trying to figure out how in the world, with all of this bad news, with all this unemployment, the stagnant or plummeting economy, no increase in salary, no increase in disposable wages, none of this, no economic improvement at all, why does this guy continue to be popular and get reelected? And it's because nobody associates him with the bad things happening in the country. And that's why he will never come to an agreement with Republicans on, say, the fiscal cliff or the debt ceiling or the sequester.
There won't be an agreement, because that puts his name on it, and that then connotes some measure of responsibility. A further proof of this is when the sequester finally went into effect, Obama then told everybody that was listening: Whatever bad economic news happened in the next month -- the next two months, three months, six months -- is because of this, because of this sequester.
And, the other night on the Greta van Susteren show Rush said:
I've never, never known a president to be immune from economic circumstances at an election as he was in 2012. It all became clear to me -- there was a New York Times story, I think one of their blog posts on the Web back in February. And it basically said via poll data what I just said to you. It said most people disapprove of the Obama agenda. They don't like the direction the country's going. They like him and they think he's great for the country.
And I said, How can that be? Intellectually, how can a majority of people -- and you know they oppose "Obama care" by 55, 60 percent in a number of polls. They are worried about jobs. How in the world can they like him, reelect him and yet disapprove of everything he's doing?
And I came up -- I call it the Limbaugh Theorem. And you hear other people talking about it in the sense that he's a bystander president or he's outside Washington. The way he does this, he never appears to be governing. That's why he's constantly campaigning.
Why is there a campaign going on for "Obama care"? It's already the law of the land. Why is he out campaigning for all this stuff that's already law, it's already going to happen?
And my theory is that Obama has positioned himself as an outsider, not attached to anything that's happening. What he has made happen, he positions himself as opposed to it and against it and fighting for everybody else to overcome what he has done!
And that's one of the reasons why the constant campaign, so he doesn't appear to be governing, so he doesn't appear to be part of Washington, so there are -- he appears to have this mysterious, powerful bunch of forces that are opposing him and stopping him from creating jobs and stopping him from giving people proper health care and stopping him from making their home values go up. But he's constantly out there fighting it. And he does that by constantly campaigning and never seen to be -- to be governing.
So all of these scandals -- he calls them -- they're not distraction, they're real. But he likes them because they detract from the absolute reality of what has happened to this country as a result of his policies.