Saturday, March 10, 2012

Political gamesmanship and the culture war

Last week, as the result of the pounding he's taken as the result of his remarks condemning Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, radio commentator Rush Limbaugh admitted that he may have fallen into a trap.

I rarely have reason to agree with him, but he may be right this time.

While I have no way to know for sure right now, I suspect that the recent controversy surrounding the health insurance mandate for contraception, which has a lot of "culture warriors" aflame, may very well have been instigated by the White House -- a deliberate strategy to keep the Republican Party at war with itself. (Of course it could be just dumb luck, but that seems unlikely.)

The reason is simple: The "culture war" is at bottom a losing proposition for the GOP.

Two things to consider: The folks who support "traditional morality," including anti-abortion activists and opponents of same-gender matrimony, generally aren't interested in the political process in that they see compromising -- the "art of politics" -- on their positions as tantamount to ultimate defeat. These are the people who are driving the candidacy of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who has always run on those themes and is currently second in Republican primaries and caucuses.

However, they don't seem to understand just how relatively few of them there are; indeed, candidates rarely run campaign ads on such issues, whether for or against, because voters as a rule just don't care. The now-nearly-invisible tea-party movement understood that, which is why it as a whole was silent despite its supporters' likely commitment to traditional morality.

Moreover, with the "religious right" practically defunct since 2006 and U.S. Catholic bishops regarded cynically by many Catholics because of a number of sex-abuse scandals in that church, neither group can provide the prophetic leadership needed to rally the troops. And let's not forget Pat Buchanan's "culture war" speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention, which many believe caused even many Republicans to vote for Bill Clinton that year. Bottom line, by taking what many consider to be hard-and-fast stances, such folks manage to make people vote against them.

Which is just what the Democratic Party wants. (Getting Limbaugh, who has inordinate power in the GOP these days, off his game and possibly off the air certainly won't hurt the cause.)

Clearly, this is a problem for whomever the Republicans finally nominate this summer. While former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, now in the lead, would probably be the strongest Republican to run against Obama when it comes to political positions, many conservatives see him as "Obama-lite" and won't commit to endorsing him. But GOP honchos also probably understand that a Santorum victory might drive away even more voters because of what they might consider his extremist rhetoric.

Assuming that this represents a Clintonian set-up, the birth-control flap is certainly cynical and divisive politics. But it will probably work -- and that's the bottom line.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Tit for tat?

The ongoing imbroglio concerning Rush Limbaugh's remarks last week have created yet another side issue. And it is a side issue which deflects from his overall modus operandi, which created the problem in the first place.

I've noticed that some conservatives, while properly disavowing his reference to a Georgetown University law student seeking health insurance for birth control medication as a "slut" and "prostitute," have in turn noticed that liberal commentators have made similar remarks toward conservatives. In one instance Bill Maher supposedly referred to former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin with a word I will not use here, and because I have a lot of left-wing activist friends on Facebook I see the kind of language that they use -- and certainly don't condone it.

There's a difference, however: When liberals slam conservatives, it's always based on what conservatives say and do, not what they believe. A distinction without a difference? I don't think so. Every single liberal broadside against a conservative I've ever seen or heard, without exception, is in response to either an arrogant pronouncement or a punitive policy that says to the rest of the world, "Screw you." That kind of attitude cannot but create an atmosphere of animosity, and since 2004 the left has decided to fight fire with fire.

More to the point, I see a lack of self-awareness on the part of the right on just how it regularly insults people not of its party, as though if you question it on anything its reaction is "Yo' Mama!" or an equivalent taunt. In my experience it accepts no criticism, even constructive, and considers any challenge as a personal attack. (One example: Former president George W. Bush referring to "the politics of personal destruction" when someone questioned his policies.) You wonder if it's really secure in what it believes if it has to eliminate or browbeat any opposition.

I don't listen to talk radio or watch cable news at all, largely due to time constraints but also because I don't want to participate in the sludgefest. However, it's not enough to call for "civility" -- those who create an atmosphere of divisiveness in the first place must be identified, confronted and repudiated. Immediately.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Why Rush needs and deserves to be shunned

Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
-- John the Baptist, Matthew 3:8

Rush Limbaugh is probably in more trouble right now than he's ever been in.

Of course, last week the radio commentator lambasted as a "slut" -- and worse -- a Georgetown University law student who was asking for insurance coverage for contraception. Limbaugh's intemperate remarks caused a firestorm across the country, with folks (especially on the political left) calling for a boycott of firms who advertise on his show.

Seeing the threat of perhaps being a liability, Limbaugh issued a tepid apology, saying that he didn't mean it to be taken personally.

Sorry, but that's not enough. Keep in mind that he has made his nearly quarter-century career, let alone millions of dollars, making insults and personal attacks on people he doesn't like. He, as much as anyone, is responsible for the political and ideological polarization in this country, and I have yet to see any signs that he will change his ways.

I am not going to tell people not to listen to Limbaugh's show because they can make that decision for themselves. However, if you're a believer in Jesus Christ, Who demands a change in attitude and lifestyle to follow Him, you listen to him at your own risk because his on-air conduct mocks the kind of character that we Christians should strive to maintain.

"But he's witty," you may protest. Big deal -- the devil can be witty, too. Really, the kind of hate-filled resentment demonstrated regularly on Limbaugh's show should never be part of any Christian's diet, if for no other reason than it's "worldly." I personally will not be impressed with any "apology" he makes until he also shows remorse for trashing people on a regular basis and renounces that way of doing business.