In a seemingly unprecedented move, Rep. Boehner has issued a mild rebuke of Limbaugh’s comments about Sandra Fluke, calling them “inappropriate.” Several advertisers have pulled their ads from his show. Limbaugh is definitely catching some negative pushback on this one.
I’m happy that something Limbaugh has said is finally generating some pushback amongst the business community and his political allies. But I can’t help but wonder what it was about this particular comment that finally resulted in that pushback. What Limbaugh said about Fluke was shameless, idiotic, and mean-spirited. But no less so than many of the absolutely abhorent things Limbaugh has over the course of his career. It has almost unviersally been the case that, more often than not, when Limbaugh says something terrible, he not only suffers no backlash, he actually benefits from the negative attention, because he turns it into another talking point to criticize his political opponents.
To wit: back in October, Limbaugh infamously gaffe’d by defending the Lord’s Resistance Army, an organization so heinous that there is a website devoted to tracking in real-time the amount of human rights violations they commit. While Limbaugh was panned by all the usual suspects at the time (i.e. those of us who hate Rush Limbaugh), there really was no quantifiably bad result for Rush. To my knowledge, there were no petition drives, no calls for pulling advertising, and no unusual public outcry. His employer had nothing really to say about it (given how much money he brings in). If defending the LRA doesn’t push Limbaugh over the edge, why would invidious sexism (which he has a proud history of) be the coup d’etat that finally results in some negative backlash?
The only thing that comes to mind is timing. The Republican “War on Women” has been raging fairly hot these past couple years. In fact, the number of anti-reproductive choice bills being submitted in state legislatures has been unprecedented in the modern era. The chart below demonstrates this quite vividly:
(via Daily Kos)
Over the past few years, we’ve seen Republican-led state legislatures declare war on Planned Parenthood, attempts to pass personhood amendments, a debate over mandating insurance coverage for contraception, and most recently, bills which mandate transvaginal ultrasounds prior to receiving an abortion. We are, in other words, in the midst of an all-out war on reproductive rights; and female voters (and their male allies) are organizing politically to fight this trend. And the polls are on their side on virtually every one of these issues. In short, Rush may have simply chosen the wrong time to call women advocating for reproductive rights sluts. They are politically organized, and both men & women are afraid of losing some of the reproductive freedom that they now enjoy. If that’s the impetus behind the substantive backlash against Rush, then I welcome this latest batch of serendipity.
I welcome it not least because Rush needs to be discredited among those sympathetic to his political stances whenever possible. A small business that advertises on his show might conceivably share his beliefs about high tax burdens and over-regulation. But those small businesses are not stupid. They know that associating one’s self with Rush’s show means associating with Rush’s rhetoric. And if people who are otherwise sympathetic to Rush’s message start abandoning him, he will start losing credibility amongst the very people who keep him relevant. I welcome the day that Rush Limbaugh finally recedes into the chasm of political obscurity, where his blathering can no longer infect impressionable minds from the comfort of his echo chamber. Here’s to hoping this is the beginning of that journey.
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