Can't Teach an Old Party New Tricks

The more things change in the Republican race, the more they stay the same. Punditry had it that Tuesday’s primaries and caucuses would be conclusive, because punditry yearns for the conclusive when it can’t have the purely chaotic. “The beginning of the end,” was the result that commentators anticipated, by which they meant the final collapse of the final anti-Romney incarnation—as precipitated by Rick Santorum’s stall in Michigan last week—and Romney’s consolidation of the nomination. Forty-eight hours later, nothing is different at all. Romney is still the front-runner and the only candidate whose ultimate victory is fathomable, even as more and more he appears the weakest nominee of either party since the 1980s. 

What’s most striking about this—not in the sense that it’s surprising, which it isn’t, but rather in the sense that it’s so characteristic—is that nothing rocks this race, nothing shifts the inherent dynamic. The race is hermetically sealed, impervious to untamed truths in the way that ideological rigidity dictates, in the way that orthodoxy insists on bending perceptions of the outside world to fit preconceptions. If the Republican Party alienates the independent vote as much as it seems intent on doing, it will be because of a collective disconnect with the rest of the country that barely skirts the sociopathic, and to that end, this has been the month when one of the great political parties of the Western World in the last 200 years, a party co-founded by the nation’s greatest president, revealed itself to be in the grip of a sexual hysteria. Gonzo radiohead Rush Limbaugh’s character assassination of not just one young woman but, by the simplest of extrapolations, tens of millions of women belied once and for all the right’s contention that the recent contraception controversy is about religious freedom. Though just enough bungling by the Obama administration allowed the ruse some oxygen for a while, the contention was always specious given Santorum’s promise, in an interview last October, to address the “libertine” nature of birth control from the Oval Office. 

When the hysteria peaked with l’affaire Limbaugh last week, there was general bewilderment over whether Rush understood that the birth-control pill is not female Viagra, that a woman takes the same daily dosage of estrogen and progestin regardless of whether she’s going to have sex one time, a thousand times, or zero times (entirely leaving aside the fact that three out of five women take the pill for reasons having nothing to do with sex or pregnancy). Perhaps indeed it’s true that someone previously investigated for an oxycontin addiction would be of the mind-set to think of the pill in these terms; more likely, however—since no clear-headed person ever has called Limbaugh stupid—is that he understands the basics of contraception but wasn’t going to let them get in the way of invoking for his program’s listeners the sexual spectacle of orgiastic women caught on videotape. Thus the Limbaugh comments about Sandra Fluke transparently were not those of a naïf but rather a bully at best and a pervert at worst, with many shades of creep lying between the two. When women of whatever political stripe heard Limbaugh, they heard several millennia of familiar male piggery.

Just on cravenly political grounds, the response of the right should be more stupefying than it was. John McCain (whose condemnation of Limbaugh has been bracingly unequivocal and dishearteningly rare among conservatives) polled 43 percent of all women voters in 2008. At the rate the Republican Party is going, it will struggle to get 33 percent in 2012, leaving the party to try scaring up seven out of ten men (whom women outvote). That none of this had any apparent impact on Tuesday night’s result, that the candidates showed no more cognizance of what happened these past eight days with the female electorate than they did the Tuesday before or the Tuesday before that, and that Romney’s opportunism was so determinedly unfazed may mean—in terms of Republican prospects in November—that the more things stay the same, the more they change, and not for the better. 

Comments

There is a petition asking Clear Channel to discontinue Limbaugh’s radio show here:

http://signon.org/sign/clear%2Dchannel%2Ddiscontinue?source=mo&id=36711-17576294-GiBFzXx

If you haven’t already signed the petition, please consider joining the 435,164 of us who have signed as of this posting and over the last 48 hours. Reading the comments at the bottom of the page also gives me hope that we can make it more difficult for people like Rush and their hate speech on the airwaves.

Are you also going to petition HBO to remove Bill Maher for calling conservative women c***s, or ask Obama to return the one-million this misogynist raised for Obama's campaign? Hello?....crickets. How about getting David Letterman off the air for claiming Sarah Palin's daughter went to Yankee stadium to get knocked up by a Yankee player? Knock, knock...anyone home, hello?

Let me complicate a premise--that these goings-on are actually repelling women voters. The exit polls from Ohio and Tennessee seem to indicate that slightly fewer women than men are turning out, but if one disaggregates those who are by marital status, one finds that Santorum, the guy who's put contraception front and center, is actually doing *better* among married women than the other candidates are. It's *single* women who are fleeing him in droves, as, indeed, it has been single women who have generally driven the "gender gap" when it has appeared. One complicating factor, to be sure, is the Paul campaign, which is drawing lots of young single guys to the ballot box and is thus inflating the female percentages of the other candidates. But nonetheless, Santorum is doing just fine among the married women who are showing up at the polls--and, one suspects, because there's a large but unacknowledged *intragender* divide among women.

David it is best to keep Romney on the radar for voting him off in NOV-women have no way to vote against this guy unless he is the candidate or any of them are candidates in November. so I discount any info being guessed at this time about the power of women- young and old- except the wealthy in 1% they can get anything done at any price so have no concerns about issues like this just protecting their $

It seems these people are just lacking in some native smarts. I work in a high-tech environment with a broad spectrum of political beliefs. Also a broad spectrum of innate intelligence. Yesterday a network administrator could not find a virtual hard drive installation path for a virtual guest. He came to me for information which I readily gave him and his response was that he would have never thought to look there. This guy has been building and configuring Windows servers for twenty years. I guess being a rethugnocant isn't just about the political arena.

Has anyone pointed out to Rush et al that many--possibly a a majority--women who use birth control are married--including a lot of Catholic women? How much do you want to bet that Rush's three (?) wives all used birth control?

I guess I could swallow your premise whole, IF, I believed women were the one-dimensional simpletons your hypothesis demands. So women cannot see that Sandra Fluke is a whinny cry-baby "activist?" And they cannot see that Obama is trying to play this like Nero played his fiddle as Rome burned? And the issue is clearly about not demanding everyone else pay for your birth-control, NOT about limiting or denying birth control. If you always eat like a pig and get fat, must I pay for your stomach-stapling? I am sure you get the analogy.

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