Sunday, March 4, 2012

Such a Rush

Now that Rush Limbaugh has apologized, let’s pay him the undeserved compliment of taking his position on the issue seriously. But first we have to determine what the issue is. From the howls of outrage on both sides you’d think it had something to do with sex. A young lady spoke up in favor of mandatory insurance coverage of contraception; with his usual subtle and nuanced approach Rush called the young lady a slut, making her behavior the issue and squirting lighter fluid on the already smoldering controversy about a Republican War on Women. Hotheads of all camps rushed to the barricades, and to most people it appears that the United States is convulsed in an argument over whether women should be having sex outside of marriage.

The real issue, of course, is mandatory insurance coverage and the creation of entitlements. And as far as I can make it out, Rush’s position is that the government ought not to prescribe what kinds of arrangements companies and individuals can or cannot make with insurance companies. That’s an arguable if controversial position, and it would advance the state of the discussion and increase the chances of a reasonable legislative solution to our health care problems if that’s what people were talking about.

But Rush couldn’t help himself. He had to start with the innuendo and the name calling, and now the debate is thoroughly sexualized. Rush is not the only one to blame, of course; the talk about a War on Women had started before he vented his toxic little rant. Liberals have been known to obscure issues through inflammatory rhetoric, too.

But Rush’s tantrum is an example of why people like me who think that conservatives are right about some important things are so dismayed by the current crop of Republican presidential candidates. With Rick Santorum at their head, social conservatives hold the whip hand in the race for the Republican nomination. And that’s not very promising for the Republican party, because the country’s not going to elect a man who frowns on contraception and doesn’t think that women should be having sex outside of marriage. It just isn’t. American men and women both like the idea of women having sex, in or out of marriage. You can deplore that, but you have to acknowledge it.

Bill Clinton saw that the country was more conservative than the Democratic party, and he moved the Democrats to the right and got elected. Even Barack Obama saw that, and he ran significantly to the right of his instincts and got elected. The Republicans have a similar problem: if they fail to see that the country is not as socially conservative as Rick Santorum, they’re going to lose. Maybe that’s what you’re rooting for. Me, I’m still holding out hope that one of our major parties will genuinely promote the things I think conservatives are right about, like fiscal restraint, tax and regulatory reform and a market-oriented approach to economic problems. And I have a feeling it’s not going to be the Democrats.

Republicans pay lip service to those conservative values but too often betray them. And if on top of that they are going to demonize people for having active sex lives fifty years after the sexual revolution, then I’ll be casting a hopeless vote for the Libertarians again and the Republicans will be sitting tight-lipped in the cold at the second Obama inauguration.

Sam Reaves

No comments: