When this rant was over Limbaugh went to a commercial for Tax Defense Partners, one of his biggest advertisers. Limbaugh personal endorsement on their site reads, "Tax Defense Partners are THE experts and the only tax resolution firm I recommend. If you owe $10,000 or more in back taxes, have unfiled returns, or are under audit, they can help." So then the portrait of the Limbaugh listener began to emerge. The show is on from noon to 3 in much of the country. Who is the Dittohead listening to the radio at that time? Is it the retired white male, the housewife, the unemployed, the truck driver, the traveling salesman? Do a lot of them have trouble with more than $10,000 in back taxes from the IRS? According to Quantcast, Limbaugh's audience is 76 percent male and 54 percent over the age of 45, which would account for why single women become the scapegoat for all that ails America.
But all of this raises a troubling question. What is the appeal of Limbaugh's half-baked Ayn Rand "Moochers" rhetoric to a population of poor, older white men with tax troubles? The only analogy I could come up was the history of the Populist Party in the 1890s led by Tom Watson of Georgia. As Wikipedia states, "as a Populist, Watson tried to unite the agrarians across class lines, overcoming racial divides. He also supported the right of African American men to vote." But in the face of this class based politics, the southern Democrats played the race card and appealed to the poor whites to reinstate Jim Crow laws and the Populists lost out. So the question remains, will Limbaugh playing this modern day version of the race card (single mothers being code for "welfare queens") continue to cause poor whites to continually vote for a Republican Party whose real interests lie with the Koch Brothers and the other plutocrats? Or is there a new version of a progressive populism based on the "we are the 99 percent" meme that could counter Limbaugh's demagoguery?
Taplin is a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California and the Director of the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab.