Now, here's something Rush Limbaugh said yesterday. He was talking about Sandra Fluke, "a student at Georgetown Law, who admits to having so much sex that she can't afford it anymore." Fluke is a woman who testified last week at an unofficial hearing (set up by Nancy Pelosi) in support of requiring health insurance coverage for birth control, even for those who get their health insurance from institutions affiliated with religions that see birth control as sinful. Opponents of that requirement had crafted their argument around respect for religious belief, and before Rush's loud voice took over, they seemed to want us to think about the exalted religious feeling underlying the objection to birth control. But Rush dragged our attention to the spectacle of a woman having sex, over and over — 3 times a day! — and she wants us "to pay for it." Heh heh. Wants us to pay for it?!! So she's a slut! A prostitute!
When [President Obama telephoned Fluke and] asked her if she's okay, she said that Obama told her that she should tell her parents they should be proud. (pause) Okay, I'm button [sic] my lip on that one. The president tells Sandra Fluke (chuckling), 30-year-old Sandra Fluke, that her parents should be proud. Okay. Let me ask you a question. I might be surprised at the answer I would get to this question. Your daughter appears before a congressional committee and says she's having so much sex, she can't pay for it and wants a new welfare program to pay for it. Would you be proud? I don't know about you, but I'd be embarrassed. I'd disconnect the phone. I'd go into hiding and hope the media didn't find me. See, everybody forgets what starts this, or what started this whole thing. Or maybe they don't! Maybe that's normal behavior on the left now, for all I know.If that were your daughter, you should be ashamed. Shame! She's having so much sex. Shame. 3 times a day. Wants to get paid. Shame. That's Rush's theme. He can't let it go. That's where he found the resonance with the audience he imagines as he speaks. Who are those listeners? They're not those people on the left. (Who knows what "normal behavior" for them is now?) But his audience, he knows how to talk to them, and he's sounding the theme of shame — shame for the woman who openly enjoys her sexuality. Rush is plying the audience, playing on their haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy. So much sex!
Now, I know he's also got the small government theme in there. "We" shouldn't have to pay for it. There shouldn't be "a new welfare program" for it. That's distorted. It's not a welfare program funded by taxpayers. It's an insurance regulation that will have some effect on insurance premiums. That's a conservative theme that resonates with listeners who don't worry about how much sex other people are having. But he doesn't bother to get the conservative argument straight. He has to distort it so it works with his joking about prostitution, and he's only talking about it in connection to sex — that very, very frequent sex that somebody else is having.
And whatever happened to religion? I mean religion as the exalted aspiration toward God, the theme that other Republicans had worked so hard to refine and articulate before Rush's big voice drowned them out. Now, the connection to religion seems to be about the old sexual Puritanism. This is a theme that makes many modern American women suspect that what people like Rush are really about is preserving the body's uncontrolled sexual function for the purpose of subordinating women. How dare women seize the power to disconnect sexuality from the consequences God built in!
But it is fundamental to women's freedom that we have the ability to decide for ourselves when our bodies will go through pregnancy and bear children. At some point, society ought to intervene to protect a developing child, and we will argue until doomsday about exactly where that point is, but it is nevertheless crucial to the equality of women that we control our bodies' reproductive function. There are in this world societies that appropriate the reproductive function and use it as a means of intimidating and punishing women who might act upon sexual desire, but that is not the United States, not since quite a long time ago. Now, we could become a society like that, and I suspect some of Rush's listeners, if not Rush himself, love that idea.
Yes, yes, no one is currently proposing taking away birth control. The debate is about who pays for it. Of course. But the political effort to channel public opinion reaches more deeply into the human mind. Politicians make choices about what emotions to stimulate. The Republican Party and the Republican candidates seem to have decided that their emotional theme would be freedom of religion. That might elegantly balance the Democratic Party's theme of reproductive freedom. And then Rush lumbered into the spotlight and spouted about sex. Sex! The women are having too much sex! Sex, sex, sex, all the time, 3 times a day! Sex!
In the long comments thread on yesterday's post about Limbaugh and Fluke, Mark O said:
This is part of a wonderfully orchestrated maneuver to distract the voters from Obama's economic failures to something nearly irrelevant.And I said:
Nice of Rush to sit in on Obama's orchestra.