Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sunday Question for Liberals

Same question that the conservatives received this week. Rush Limbaugh: Good or bad for the Republican Party? Good or bad for conservatives? I didn't mention this the first time, but I'm talking long-term, not just this past week.


  1. If he's good for the party, he's sure bad for the rest of us. Maybe the only good thing you can say about him is he is a living example of the misogyny in a certain group of American men.

  2. Great question. Up until 2009 or so I say he's been good for Republicans and conservatives. He's given them a voice and talking points to use with all their friends. However, he's a big part of turning conservatives into a closed media system, which is now starting to bite them in a big way. So, I think the jury's still out.

  3. Long-term, very bad. He plays to pure id and racial/tribal animus, which prevents rational thought. That's never good in the long run. Also, by broadcasting lies he prevents discussions about real issues--the Right is then fighting phantoms. Sure, short-term he obfuscates and causes some mayhem; whips up enthusiasm, but look at the state of the GOP today: they have marginalized themselves to the point of being unable to run a potentially successful candidate. Finally, Limbaugh's audience is old. His demographics--and those of the GOP--bode very badly for the Party. (All of which makes me pleased--in the long run.)

    1. A warning: since the 1960s, people of my liberal ilk have been waiting for the old reactionaries to die off. Guess what? Young people become old people, and enough of those become reactionaries that we don't get any closer to the desired state.

    2. Sure, young people become old, but, generation to generation, their experience is not the same. A good example of an issue that older people flogged long after it had any salience for the many younger people whose votes they needed to influence was participation in the draft and the military. Republicans had no success with it as an issue against Clinton in '92 and Democrats even less so against Bush in 2000. Why? Because more people in Clinton and Bush's age group probably did whatever they could to avoid service in Viet Nam than actually served in Viet Nam, and, for younger Americans, including the bulk of baby boomers (those born in the mid 50s) the draft and military service were never an issue. By eliminating the draft, Nixon had killed off the notion that every American male had responsibility for the nation's defense, and outrage at those who didn't serve, decades earlier.

      Right now, I do think that Republican efforts to revisit the sexual revolution and "culture" war issues of the 60s and 70s can, at least in part, be accounted for by the advancing age of people who are still very influential in conservative media -- Roger Ailes for instance -- as well as that of the party's most important and influential donors.

  4. I would say both conservatives and Republicans (which only partially overlap) both have the problem that they would need more positive reasoning why they should be chosen to represent the people and less of pure attacks on the opponent - and Limbaugh is one of the loudest attackers. So my answer is: very bad.

  5. I think Rush is good for the Republicans and for American conservatives. He gives a very prominent voice to the restless id of conservatives. Rush is identity politics at its finest, and the tireless push of identity politics has built the Republicans into a strong party.

  6. It depends what "good" means. If it means making any effort to work through differences or to use the government in ways that might involve some collective effort, then pretty bad all the way around. If it means trying as hard as one can to marginalize any effort to use our collective tools to address our collective problems, reasonably good up until now, but now he may have jumped the shark.

    If the GOP didn't have to run for office, having him to keep a good part of the base charged up can be a useful tool. However the fact that there is no GOP establishment means that there's noone to take him on and marginalize him. I think its hard to see how his action recently haven't made the GOP rather more toxic for women. Symbolically its hard to see how his actions and relatively weak response from leading party members doesn't send a rather loud and clear message. The commencement speech at Barnard by Obama will probably drive that message home even more decisively.

    I think he's not a bad parallel (with respect) to the tea party folks. He's great at rallying those angry and being against. However he can put a straight-jacket around the party, probably can disable but not enable, and is accountable to no-one. And if the GOP ever wants to actually run the country he's a problem.

    There's one silver lining, however. If he does something similar after Romney gets nominated, he could provide Romney with a terrific means of in one fell swoop looking reasonable, moderate, and leader-like. Romney could take on Limbaugh, have a "Sister Soljah" moment, and gain instant credibility. But that doesn't seem in keeping with his character and the opportune moment may never present itself.

    1. Has Romney stood up to anyone yet? He's all about threading the needle and pleasing his audience for the votes he wants, not about standing up for principles. There are more accommodations every week, and no sign of that he'll confront anything difficult.

    2. I agree that Romney hasn't exhibited lots of examples of making a bold stand at odds with the views of the GOP base. However, if he becomes more politically secure I think its easier to see and in a sense might be not such a bold move if Limbaugh is weakened enough. Doing it now would be bold, for him. After getting nominated, considerably less so in my view. Thanks.

  7. Limbaugh spews a particularly vile brand of virulent hate. In terms of building a basic platform around dynamic negativism, that has been effective in dominating pure power politics. But it has led us to a point where rational political dialogue is almost impossible.

    It's bad for the Republican party, in any time frame, because it heightens their irrationality and diminishes their grasp of reality. This is bad, no matter how much power is grasped.

    It's even worse for thoughtful conservatives, because the current Republican party has no place in it for them. This is why Olympia Snowe is giving up in disgust.

    But there is a bigger question? Is Limbaugh bad for America and the human race. On that issue, there can be no doubt. Among Limbaugh, Grover Norquist and Newt Gingrich it's hard to determine who has done the most real damage to this country over the last 20 years.


    1. Awesome.

      If only conservatives and Republicans would come drink.

      I would only add that Limbaugh's bad because he makes it okay for others to spew lies and hate. Brietbart died never correcting his lies about Acorn or Shirley Sherrod; and the epistemic closure in the Republican/conservative media won't correct the record they've laid down as truth. Brick by brick, they build a wall of falsehood that strangles their ability to deal with reality.

  8. Like JzB, I want to answer the bigger question. Following on the extended dialogue we had the other day about polarization and ideology, I'd say Rush is unquestionably bad for the health of American democracy. He pollutes the minds of his followers with lies, and they believe those lies.

    For the GOP? Good. He riles up the base, and they go out and give money (and volunteer, and...). Sure, he might tilt against the frontrunner (if they're more centrist), but as we saw in 2008, he turns on a dime to then rally the troops behind the nominee. Honestly, I think that if Rush (and his ilk...Hannity, Beck, etc) didn't exist, the GOP would likely raise less money from the non-rich.

    For conservatives? Mixed bag. He gives voice to their issues and makes some converts. However, he does have more than a little proclivity towards the events of this week. And that puts conservatives in a worse light than it does the GOP. The GOP can distance themselves somewhat, and even try to appear like an adult in the room.

    1. He pollutes the minds of his followers with lies, and they believe those lies.

      I think this is an important point to make, that Limbaugh has a profound indifference to the truth. Really, it doesn't serve him at all to expend any effort to find out what the truth is in any particular situation, because there's always the possibility that the truth may not make the Democrats look bad. It's better for business to run with innuendo and rumor.

      Look at this most recent kerfuffle, which is based makes use of three things that Limbaugh gets dead wrong: (1) The Georgetown student wasn't talking about her sex life at all, but about other medicinal uses for the pill; (2) "We" the American taxpayer are not in any sense paying for her health-care insurance; and (3) He said that if her contraceptive costs were so high they must be because she's having a lot of sex, which betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how female contraceptives work.

      That's an awful lot of misinformation to pack into one rant. Whatever else he's doing, Limbaugh is creating a whole lot of ignorant conservatives.

    2. @TN: in re: (3): I had the same reaction, so I poked around a bit, and it seems the idea is that the yearly cost of the pill would pay for some hundreds of condoms. Hence -- since
      1. There are no reasons to take the pill except contraceptively; and since
      2. There's no reason to take extra precautions because
      a. It's not like there are potentially life-changing consequences for the parties involved, and
      b. It's certainly not the case that the woman concerned, for biological as well as social reasons, has an extra measure of responsibility for the consequences, besides which
      c. the uneven burden on the parties doesn't give her a special stake in the question; and since
      d. there are lots of great options: abortion is widely available and affordable everywhere in the country, and the adoption process is famously smooth and painless: that also means that
      3. It isn't relevant that, actually, the woman is not the one who gets to control or even necessarily influence condom use
      [3i. (nor should she! That is a matter of a man's body and is entirely up to him); and since
      4. Sexual assault is so rare as not to be worth mentioning, on college campuses as elsewhere; further since
      5. Advance planning and personal responsibility aren't that important, especially not according to conservative values;

      C1. Obviously, a simple cost-benefit analysis will lead her to conclude that oral contraceptives aren't worth it when condoms are so cheap.
      C2. (corollary) Oral contraceptives are a luxury for the lazy and slatternly.

      This all makes even more sense once you remind yourself that health care is a gift from employers to employees, not a form of compensation included under "salary and benefits.

      Anyway, joking aside, there's some minimally rational thought behind (3). I do think it's important to note the difference between "a moment's thought shows you this is not a good argument" arguments and "where did this come from, at all" arguments. The latter puts you in hopeless "arguing you would be like arguing with tables and chairs" territory: whereas otoh it's pretty easy to believe the former when you would like to believe it and would not like to think about it, the latter of which is almost always (and reasonably so!) going to be the case for people who don't have a great personal or professional investment in the details of the issue --

    3. Oh, wow, even for me that was a long and involved comment. Hope it's not TOO too "tl;dr" ;/

  9. He's good for the Republican Party because he will help them turn off independent voters and lose elections. Losing a bunch of consecutive elections (preferably badly) is exactly what the GOP needs in order to force itself to regain a modicum of sanity.

  10. To preface, I am a registered Independent and usually side with Democrats on most issues. Regardless, I follow Fox News and MS-NBC daily for contrasting perspectives. Obviously, Rush's recent comments are vile filth (in much the same way that Bill Maher's comments toward Sarah Palin are filth).

    I do believe that Limbaugh is a problem for the Republican Party for the mere fact that Republicans fear him.. those who have publicly disagreed with him have been forced to backtrack on their comments because of his formidable media presence. GOP Chairs, Senators and Congressmen have honestly criticized Rush's comments during interviews, and have been forced to apologize (or backtrack) soon after because of the potential fallout.

    Although I may largely disagree with Republicans politically, at least I would like them to voice their opinions without the fear of repercussions from a radio host on the airwaves.


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