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.