Was Limbaugh High? (Update)

Sandra Fluke, called a "slut" and a "prostitute" by Rush Limbaugh for defending insurance coverage of contraception

The Republican party is doing its best to distract people from high unemployment, high gas prices, and general uncertainty in the country.   They are doing this through a series of bizarre controversies and statements involving women, reproductive rights, and anachronistic attitudes that are sure to turn off independents and moderates.   I feel like I have entered an alternate reality programmed by Democratic operatives to have the GOP destroy its chances in the 2012 election.

It’s only March so they can bounce back, but Limbaugh’s bullying slur of a Georgetown student cannot help but make conservatives look mean, vicious and petulant.   Moreover his refusal to apologize or admit being wrong adds to the notion that people like him have low self-esteem and believe that admitting error somehow makes them look weak.   We’ve all known people like that, people who can’t admit they are wrong even when it’s obvious.   Their bluster is usually a sign of low self-esteem and self-loathing.  Given Limbaugh’s past addiction to pain killers (no doubt trying to escape from his internal conflicts), one can’t help but feel he’s a deeply troubled soul.   But this incident was so bizarre — and he doubled down on the air even after massive criticism — that I have to wonder if he’s not back on pain killers or something else.   It’s not rational.

Ratings down, Limbaugh has become as likable as Jabba the Hut

If it were just Limbaugh, the GOP wouldn’t be in that much trouble.   Scott Brown (R-Mass), in a tough election campaign, has condemned Limbaugh’s remarks and called on him to apologize.   Other Republicans have distanced themselves from them as Limbaugh loses sponsors.   He’s already past the prime of his career, this could be what pushes him over the edge.

Yet it isn’t just Limbaugh.   GOP efforts to exempt Catholic institutions from including birth control coverage in their health care plans feeds into the narrative that Republicans are anti-woman.   After all, many of the same policies cover viagra.   Considering the Santorum quotes I discussed in my last blog entry the GOP appears to be waging a full blown culture war around the issue of birth control and sexuality.  Add to that the numerous state initiatives around birth control, abortion and “personhood,” and Republicans are pleasing their base by driving away independents and moderates.

Some in the Republican party blame the Democrats, but given the scope and intensity of these efforts it’s a self-inflicted wound.  This is the result of a tea party movement that has overtaken the GOP with such zeal at turning back the clock to ‘retake America’ that they forget that they represent about 30-35% of the population.   The tea party activists, like many on the far left of the Democratic party, believe so fervently in their ideals that they ignore the fact that the US is a centrist country.   It’s not even center-right, it’s moderate/centrist.

The Tea Party movement had success in 2010, but seems to have misread it as a mass movement destined to change America

Any political strategy aimed to changing the country has to appeal to independents and moderates.   By driving them away, the GOP risks losing the House, giving up a chance at the Presidency, and blowing a chance to win the Senate.

It’s not that the country believes in the Democratic vision.   The 2010 election, while driven primarily by a bad economy, shows that there is concern that the Democrats spend too freely, don’t want to make needed entitlement reforms, and are too beholden to special interest groups.   Any Democrat wanting to push the country leftward has to address these concerns, either allaying them or finding creative policies to convince the center that they understand the critiques.

Perhaps the most common cognitive bias in political discourse is the belief that more people agree with ones’ point of view than actually do.  Inbred blogs (by that I mean blogs/websites where only like minded people post — and then gang up and personally attack those who dare whisper heresy against the dominant perspective) reinforce that.  That leads them to think “everyone is agreeing, how can the rest of the world not see the obvious truth?!   All we have to do is get the word out and not surrender on principle!”

President Obama suffered criticism from the hard core left early in his term, though even the ideologues who call Obama “Republican lite” seem to be coalescing around the President in response to the over the top policies and rhetoric coming from the right.   All of this has helped the Democrats recruit good candidates for the 2012 Congressional elections, turning what some thought would be another major Republican victory into a potential Democratic comeback.

Even George Will now asserts that the Presidency is likely beyond Republican reach and the focus should be on not losing the House and if possible gaining the Senate.  That certainly would limit the President’s capacity to bring about change.  Yet at this point with the primaries raging and red meat rhetoric dominating, the Republicans risk digging themselves a hole too deep to escape from.   If they moderate to regain the center they’ll dampen the motivation of their base.  Perhaps they need a constructive defeat to purge the party of the shrill negativity and prepare the way for a more positive conservative message.

Grover Norquist's anti-tax crusade has led to an inability of the Republicans to compromise on tax and spending, resulting in more debt and danger to the economy. Norquist has also suggested that the GOP impeach Obama if they take the Senate.

Democrats should be heartened but not confident.  It is still early March; a lot can change.   Romney could sweep super Tuesday and start recovering from the mud fight.   Democrats have to recognize that even if the Republicans push independents away, Democrats still need to lure them back in order to close the deal, especially if they want to win the House back.

The Republicans have squandered an opportunity.  After the 2010 election President Obama was willing to deal and compromise, but due to tea party pressure and a weird “commitment” to Grover Norquist, they decided to hold out and demand things be done their way or no way.   Instead of using the election to force Democrats to accept Republican policies and tweaks of health care as a quid pro quo for Democratic priorities, they hunkered down.   And now, with Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum leading the way with inane, bizarre and even offensive quotes, they may be on the verge of handing power back to the Democrats.

UPDATE:  I was wrong – he did apologize.   He did not do so unequivocally, and many think it still didn’t go far enough.  I think the lose of sponsors at a scale unprecedented for Limbaugh despite numerous controversies convinced him he had to start damage control.

  1. #1 by stanchaz on March 3, 2012 - 15:37

    Republi-cants….what a circus. These holier-than-thou clowns just LOVE to tell you what you can’t do. Their campaign slogan should be “No you can’t”. The headlines just keep coming: Republicans condemn condoms! Republicans legislate forced trans-vaginal probes. Republicans tell us to have children of rape …as a gift from God.  Republicans insult women in hateful word and deed ….degrading women who simply want to plan their families, and control their own bodies. What’s next with these guys? Republicans mandating missionary-position only? Procreation, not recreation…or else?  I really really hate to admit it, but Newt was right. ‘Cause Newt and all his Republican friends SHOULD set up a moon colony…. AND GO THERE! Then they could tell each other what to do, and how to live, and who to love…. and who to hate…while leaving the REST of us alone, in peace, back here on Earth. Newt, I always KNEW that you were a problem-solver. Unfortunately, you and your Republican friends ARE the problem. P.S. We may laugh, and smile, and ridicule…but I know that this is not a game. People that are elected DO affect our lives, and the lives of those we love. It does matter. If I want a find a preacher I go to my place of worship, NOT my voting booth…

  2. #2 by lbwoodgate on March 3, 2012 - 18:30

    It does appear that the GOP is reviving Jesse Jackson’s old mantra for the Democrats – “Keep Hope Alive”

  3. #3 by modestypress on March 4, 2012 - 04:10

    I usually vote Democratic, but I am not doctrinaire on the matter. Today, just to try and keep my mind open and my sources of information varied, I attended a Republican caucus on the island where I live.

    While there were a variety of points of views, the general trend was toward Libertarianism. I don’t now the results of the caucus where I attended, but my impression was that a lot of people leaned toward Ron Paul. As I am a difficult person, I spoke very briefly in favor of Gary Johnson, also a Libertarian. I am not a Libertarian and I probably won’t vote for Johnson, but I think he would be a better choice for the GOP than Paul or any of the other candidates.

  4. #4 by Luke on March 4, 2012 - 20:37

    Limbaugh’s JOB is to be outrageous, and offensive, so he gets a larger audience share. Period. He’s done it for so long that he obviously thought he could say anything he wanted and get away with it. He’s has no personal filter at this point, possibly besides directly calling Obama a nigger; otherwise, it’s all on the table for him. He’s played with fire for years. This time it just happened to blow back in his face. Honestly, this is no more or less offensive than mocking Parkinson’s disease, calling Michelle Obama “uppity”.

    Somehow, though, along the way, republicans decided that Rush was a Man of Great Importance, and Someone Worth Listening To. That is their big problem at the moment. Until they stop and realize that their spokesman is a fucking SHOCK JOCK, they will never be taken seriously by any thinking rational person.

    • #5 by Scott Erb on March 4, 2012 - 20:54

      Excellent points Luke! He’s there to entertain and appeal to the emotions of his listeners. I wonder if the pressure on his sponsors isn’t an aspect of the new social media — suddenly people can effectively organize against him.

  5. #6 by sekanblogger on March 5, 2012 - 08:45

    The only thing Rush understands is cash flow. Boycott his sponsors, several have already pulled their ads.

  6. #7 by ourfriendsinthewest on March 5, 2012 - 21:30

    Excellent post. I especially liked your idea of the constructive defeat.

    I’m a Brit who blogs on American politics from a British perspective, so I find it interesting to hear what Americans have to say these matters. I was a bit surprised to see you deem the USA a ‘moderate/centrist’ country, as although I agree that the Tea Party’s influence has been overstated, my European view certainly puts the US on at least the centre-right. Though I suppose such things are relative.

    Anyway, I wrote a post on Limbaugh and the GOP too, which is here if you’re interested: http://ourfriendsinthewest.wordpress.com/2012/03/03/the-republicans-unhealthy-sex-obsession/

    I’ve followed now so I look forward to reading more.


    • #8 by Scott Erb on March 5, 2012 - 22:03

      I actually have done a lot of work on European politics and have lived a year in Italy and a year in Germany and agree that from the European perspective the US is on the right. Most American Democrats would be comfortable in the German CDU, for instance. So you’re absolutely right. I was thinking in terms of how this usually gets defined in the US; moreover, I do think American political thought is shifting towards the left, tea party notwithstanding. I’ll definitely check out your blog!

  7. #9 by pino on March 6, 2012 - 05:24

    Do you think that non-medical reasons for contraception, like her friend needing that medicine to over come cysts, should be a mandatory coverage in insurance policies?

  8. #11 by Alex on March 13, 2012 - 22:54

    Pino having had a cyst rupture let me tell you that they are medical. My husband took me to a hospital and by the time we got there I had a fever of 103. Much like a burst appendix I was lucky I didn’t go into septic shock. Plus it hurt like you wouldn’t believe. So if cysts are non-medical then guys not being able to get it up should be considered non-medical and viagra should not be covered.

    • #12 by Scott Erb on March 15, 2012 - 18:30

      Sorry this didn’t get approved until today. First time commentators get moderated, and for some reason my e-mail put your comment into my spam folder. Sorry for the delay, Alex!

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