Posted by: mulrickillion | March 8, 2012

Has Political Discourse Hit Rock Bottom?

By Andrew Rosental, The Opinion Page – New York Times, March 7, 2012 —

They say hitting bottom is prelude to a rebound, at least for drug addicts, housing prices and bungee jumpers. Does that apply, I wonder, to political discourse?

There’s lots of evidence that the national conversation is near the ocean floor, especially regarding what pollsters call “women’s issues.” (Not that we’re doing so great on race: Birthers. Or class: Typical right-wing response to Occupiers voicing legitimate concerns about income inequality, “Get a job!”)

I don’t even need to reach back to the Herman Cain blame-the-victim carnival to make my case. Consider the following examples, all from 2012:

  • Foster Friess, the billionaire investor and Rick Santorum supporter, said that in “his day” contraception was cheap— “gals” just put aspirin between their knees.
  • Virginia very nearly passed a bill requiring women seeking an abortion to submit to trans-vaginal ultrasounds, a coerced penetration that in other circumstances would constitute rape. (The state legislature passed a watered down but still bad version: Ultrasounds are a prerequisite for abortions, but women can refuse trans-vaginal procedures.)
  • Rick Santorum said that women should not serve in combat, because men’s “natural instinct” to protect women might prove too distracting.
  • After Sandra Fluke, a law student at Georgetown University, criticized her school’s refusal to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives, Rush Limbaugh attacked her on his radio show. He called her a “slut” who wanted taxpayers to fund her recreational sexual activities.
  • Enraged by the Obama administration’s contraceptive care rule, Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri sponsored a bill that would have allowed any employer—not just churches or church-affiliated organizations – to deny insurance coverage based on religious or moral objections. The Senate defeated the Blunt amendment, but only narrowly: 51-48.

Now, is there any reason to believe that a recovery is possible?

  • Dozens of companies have pulled their ads from Mr. Limbaugh’s show (27 as of Tuesday evening), including big names such as AOL, JC Penney and Allstate Insurance.
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she regrets having voted for the Blunt amendment. She told Talking Points Memo on Tuesday, “I heard a lot [from my constituents] because it was in the news this weekend. I will tell you, it’s not so much just the discussion about contraception that the Blunt amendment precipitated. There’s just an awful lot that’s been going on. There have been some comments made by some of our presidential candidates. …I think [these incidents] are just adding to this sense that women’s health rights are being attacked.”
  • Barbara Bush spoke out about the state of the presidential campaign, saying it’s the nastiest one she’s ever seen.

So there are positive indicators, and yet it’s easy to feel cynical.

Advertisers knew Mr. Limbaugh was a misogynist before he attacked Ms. Fluke (he popularized the term “feminazi”). They don’t care that he degrades women, they’re just worried about negative attention. Similarly, didn’t Ms. Murkowski realize that the Blunt amendment was a bad idea before her constituents heard about it on television?

I guess we’ll find out soon enough if we’ve reached a turning point, or if we’ll keep bumping along the bottom, since the campaign is sure to provide more material. Mitt Romney does not have the nomination sewn up. Mr. Santorum won’t concede the race until it’s absolutely clear he can’t win. Newt Gingrich is still as nutty as ever (he promised $2.50 a gallon gas last night). And Ron Paul is, well, Ron Paul.

Has Political Discourse Hit Rock Bottom? – NYTimes.com

_______________

See also Further Media Miscellany

See also Sandra Fluke Receives Call From Obama After Rush Limbaugh ‘Slut’ Comments

See also Independent Poll Shows Most Americans want Obama’s Health Care Reforms and Contraception Coverage

See also Obama’s Accomodations to Religious Institutions – The Quiet Resolution of an ‘Ab Initio’ Non-Issue

See also The Republican Conundrum

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