In many nation-states, more than one person is regarded as the leader of a respective country. One person serves as a monarch due to his/her familial relation or elected official with little to no legal power. This figure has merely ceremonial duties such consenting to have his/her image printed on currency and addressing the citizenry on occasions. This figurehead is ascribed as the de jure leader of the country or head of state.
In contrast, a different person has true executive, possibly dictatorial powers. This official assumed office typically by plebiscite although inheritance or violent usurping have occurred and still do in some areas. This leader is considered the head of government, also known as the de facto leader. Just as role can be divided between nominal and effectual leaders, such arrangements exist among those in charge of political parties and movements.
Can someone not holding a political office and has never done so actually dominate a major political party? Perhaps, if this person hosts a talk-show with millions of loyal fans. Additionally, this host/hostess, an opinionated millionaire who openly expresses political opinions and preferences, contributes financially large sums of cash. This celebrity of enormous fame regularly spouts socio-political opinions on the air and invites guests who parrot them. Therefore, the people of the United States of America might rightfully conclude that a media mogul serves as the true leader of one of its two major parties. With that said, the chatter about Oprah Winfrey and her grasp on the reins of power within the Democratic Party should inevitably dissipate.
Media coverage of last week's Conservative Political Action Conference has spawned an overblown controversy regarding who is the leader of the Republican Party.
On this subject, an important distinction must be stated. Michael Steele has been chosen as the de jure leader of the Republican Party. Who is the de facto head of the Republican Party seems less obvious. With the absence of any clearly influential and prominent Republican politician in Congress, the debate will rage among those touting various Senators, members of the House of Representatives, governors and others who have held one or more of those positions in the past in addition to Steele's supporters.
Rush Limbaugh has been widely regarded as the leader of the conservative movement for more than a decade. That role does not necessarily coincide with directing the Republican Party. Although a definitive standard for determining the undisputed chief of conservatism does not exist, Limbaugh has maintained a high-profile among the right-wing of American politics for nearly twenty years. Granted, he has detractors within the various factions on the right; some questioning his consistency and commitment over various positions taken on issues in the past. However, no one since the passing of William F. Buckley has continually and persistently championed conservatism as Rush Limbaugh has done.
Only time will tell if Steele will claim Limbaugh's title or if Limbaugh will continue to hold , in the minds of many, the rank that Steele nominally possesses.