When I was in college my brother told me that there was a guy on talk radio that I had to listen to, he was amazed to hear someone actually state conservative ideas on the air. I listened a lot to Rush Limbaugh. It was so fun to hear someone state what I had been thinking all these years. I laughed when he would demolish some liberal idea, and the “half my brain tied behind my back just to make it fair” persona was really fun.
Years later, with so many conservative choices I haven’t listened to Rush very much– and maybe that’s the point of the over-the-top things he’s been saying lately. He has found a very effective way to keep himself relevant, and keep people thinking about him.
But is what’s good for Rush Limbaugh’s bottom line what’s good for the conservative movement with our long-range goals of more freedom and economic opportunity in this country?
What started with a very convincing argument criticizing Sandra Fluke about her claims that young people need nationalized free contraceptives in front of a House Committee turned into a national furor (as he knew they would) when he crossed the line and called Ms. Fluke a slut and a prostitute. Now that was all well and good for Mr. Limbaugh, he ended the episode more powerful than ever and with his wealth increased; but the national conversation was not able to be about the actual issues of demanding free contraceptives once those incendiary words were used. A whole discussion of PC words being ridiculous versus civil and polite conversation could be inserted here, but the world we live in is our reality, including low information voters and an openly hostile news media, etc. All of us see the double standards that exist for conservatives in the media, but rage all we would like, we’re losing that battle.
Now we have Mr. Limbaugh forcing himself into the spotlight again by turning a discussion of the merits of reversing the filibuster rule into a rape analogy. It could have very easily been a mugging analogy or anything less charged, but a rape analogy will land him on front pages and increase his status in this “no such thing as bad publicity” culture. He knows this, and he also knows that nothing thoughtful about the filibuster will accompany this furor.
This is the country that took Mitt Romney’s awkward “binders full of women” and turned it into a campaign issue that was reverse of the reality of an Obama whitehouse that pays women less than men. We have the Tea Party brand so unjustly tarnished that people who share all our freedom ideals almost exactly will refuse to vote for a Tea Party candidate. These facts are frustrating and unrational, but that is our reality. We need to win over young people and women and we will never win the uncivil soundbites contest.
Mr. Limbaugh had his day of adding to the discussion of issues, that day is gone and he is now an impediment to the conservative message. We need our thoughtful discussion of issues to be the only thing the liberals can even find to put in their soundbites. The Democrats created a fantasy “War on Women” which has no link to reality, people like Mr. Limbaugh are helping us lose that war.
As Obamacare shows people the reality of big government hurting them in their everyday lives, we have been given an new opportunity to open a conversation of ideas with people who may be newly receptive. Big government has failed spectacularly here (and in green venture capitalism, and in funding Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, in stimulus to the economy, etc. etc.). The only things the Democrats have to rally people around are the “War on Women” and racism (which would be a whole different post). Lets not give them what they need.