Now there's a tendency among many in the mainstream and the Left to view Rush Limbaugh as the leader of the wingnut contingent; he certainly has the ratings to back up such a claim. But I've always thought of Limbaugh more as the class clown than a leader; the guy who sits in the back of the room cracking offensive and crude remarks designed to disrupt the class. A nuisance but hardly a threat. Even his famed ratings are a bit of a mirage. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that more than half of Rush's listeners aren't even "Ditto Heads." They're just tuning in to hear what obnoxious thing he will say next.
But of all the hate mongers on the air, none have the street cred of Mark Levin. Intellectually speaking, Levin is light years ahead of Limbaugh. While Limbaugh was embroiled in the infamous Sandra Fluke "slut" controversy, it was Levin's Landmark Legal Foundation which was busy spearheading the challenge to the Affordable Care Act. In fact, it wrote the brief in the Supreme Court case that ended up - unfortunately for Levin - affirming the law's constitutionality.
It's no coincidence that Sean Hannity refers to Levin as "The Great One." His roots go all the way back to the days of the Reagan Administration. As an attorney, he defended then Attorney General Edwin Meese during the Iran/Contra scandal. He has an affinity for words like "liberty" and "tyranny" - the title of one of his books - which he throws around the way some people throw around words like "the" and "a." His vitriol knows no bounds or has no equal.
If you've never had the "pleasure" of tuning in and experiencing for yourself Levin's hyperbolic ranting and raving, all I can say is you owe it to yourself to check it out just once. Listening to Levin is like watching the hotfoot scene in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, where all patients on the ward go berserk. Calling him tightly wound would be putting it mildly. The man is a virtual supernova.
But what makes Levin particularly dangerous isn't his over-the-top rhetoric; it's the weight he carries with ultra right-wing conservatives, particularly Tea Party conservatives. They practically worship the ground the guy walks on. Among the faithful, a Levin endorsement is as good as gold. Conversely, if you piss him off, he will unload on you.
People like Levin have more sway and authority over the Tea Party than you would imagine. While Limbaugh, Hannity, et al all bemoaned the debt-ceiling deal that reopened the government and extended the debt limit, it was Levin that went a huntin. He made no bones about how he felt and he named names. And his listeners took notes.
If I were an establishment Republican right about now, I'd start looking over my shoulder. The Tea Party may represent a small percentage of the population, but what they lack in numbers they more than make up for in zeal and commitment. Remember, these were the people who thought it was no big deal to default on the nation's credit just to defund a law that couldn't actually be defunded. Dangerous and dumb is a deadly combination and this lot is loaded with both.
I can't predict what will happen in January and February regarding the budget and debt ceiling. What I can guarantee is that the Republican Party is about to get a colon cleansing, courtesy of the most extremist element the nation has seen since the days of the Reconstruction period. Not only aren't they going away, they are determined to take over the GOP and transform it into their own image.
With the Koch Brothers bankrolling them and ideologues like Mark Levin stoking them on, I wouldn't bet against them prevailing.