There’s an article by Lloyd Grove in The Daily Beast about how the press supposedly encourages Mitt Romney to act artificial:

Romney’s story [about his father closing a factory with humorous consequences], on its face, is a parable of the frequent absurdity of politics and campaigning, which often present reality as viewed through a funhouse mirror; by telling it, Romney not only revealed his little-known sardonic side (and an appreciation of the bizarre nature of the democratic process that speaks well of his sense of perspective), but he also treated Wisconsin voters like grownups who are themselves sophisticated about that process. [Emphasis Mine.]

Predictably, the Democratic Party and the Obama campaign’s media machine pounced on the anecdote as further evidence that Romney is an out-of-touch plutocrat with zero capacity to feel the pain of laid-off autoworkers, never mind that the great majority of these particular workers, who lost their jobs in Michigan 58 years ago, are feeling no pain themselves.

Journalists, Grove complains, attacked poor Romney for this remark, their reportage on the incident being more or less in line with the Democrats’ line on it. This, he argues, will in turn make Romney even more artificial.

In a way, both sides are right here. It is true that this was an instance of Romney being less artificial, but it’s also very telling that, when Romney is kicking back and telling a funny anecdote, it’s about factory closings and politics. The thing that makes Romney look out of touch here is not so much his lack of sympathy for those workers all those years ago, but rather that his mind, even when relaxed, focuses on issues of running big businesses and political strategy.

In other words, running big businesses and political strategy are all the guy knows. That’s not his fault, and it may even be to his credit in a sense; as those aren’t bad things for a President to know. But the point is that that’s his life, and he has very little visceral understanding of other things. Laughing during the story isn’t what makes him seem out of touch; it’s the fact that that’s the kind of story he thinks of. Romney seems out of touch because he, in fact, is.

I can only hope that this piece by Grove, which doesn’t seem to quite get that, is an April Fools’ joke.

According to a Pew Research Center report:

Female eligible voters participated in the 2008 election at a higher rate than male eligible voters—65.7% versus 61.5%. Nearly 10 million more women voted than men.

As this report from the Center for American Women and Politics shows, this isn’t new, either.

Given this, how incredibly, amazingly, stupendously boneheadedly stupid would the Republican strategists have to be to wage a “war on women”, as they are accused of doing? Surely, no party with many well-paid strategists could fail to notice how the math works out here.

I mean, if they’re really planning to be the party of misogyny and want to have a chance of ever winning an election again, they’ll have to repeal the 19th amendment. And the Democrats would never let that happen.

Personally, though I’m no supporter of the Republican party in general, or their policies on abortion, contraception etc. in particular, I cannot bring myself to believe they are so abysmally dense as all this. Why, some women are quite in favor of their policies. This New York Times article notes:

The battles over access to contraception and other women’s health issues that have sprung to life on the Republican campaign trail in recent weeks have had the effect of disenchanting some moderate Republican women. But for conservative women, the opposite may be true.

“[Rick Santorum’s] ideas don’t infringe upon my rights at all,” said Lauren Deppe, 21, a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “As far as birth control, my mom and I say you’ve got birth control right with you. It’s called abstinence.”

Conservative women support the conservative candidate, and non-conservative women don’t. Think of that!

Presumably, Santorum and his crew don’t intend to wage war on women like Ms. Deppe, who will apparently vote for him. No, “there is no war here,” as Tion Medon told Obi-Wan Kenobi, “unless you’ve brought it with you.”

So, what are the Republicans really up to? Perhaps you have heard that a recent poll discovered that most Conservatives do not trust the scientific establishment. Perhaps you have heard, also, about Rick Santorum calling universities “indoctrination mills”.

You see, this is not a war on women; this is a war–metaphorically speaking–on intellectualism. Anybody, male or female, who goes about worrying about anything sophisticated or intellectual, in addition to the tasks of day-to-day life, is the true target of their policies. What the Republicans oppose is anything that deviates from their very rigid and traditional vision of society.

Two years ago (it feels like yesterday) when the Health-Care bill passed, I concluded my posting on the topic with “Alea iacta est“. I said this because, at the time, everyone agreed that this was a momentous, historic occasion, with Democrats saying it was a progressive triumph and Republicans pretty much calling it the end of America as we know it. Everyone agreed it was a big deal–indeed, some went even further than that.

But now, the word on the virtual street is that the Supreme Court is going to uncast the die and pack up and go right back across the Rubicon. At the time, people had said there would be a big court case about, but no one on the Democratic side seemed that worried about it, and no one on the Republican side seemed to think it would get struck down. The Judicial Branch: the most forgettable branch of government.

What seems especially funny to me is that it is apparently all on the shoulders of one guy: Justice Anthony Kennedy. It seems to me the Court will otherwise vote along political lines, which really takes the fun out of the whole guessing game, if you ask me.

When the Don Imus controversy happened five years ago, Leonard Pitts had a great column explaining why it was so offensive, which you can read in full here. Here’s an excerpt that shows the crux of his point:

While a coarse and irreverent people will tolerate and even celebrate breaches of decorum and the slaughter of sacred cows, one thing folks won’t put up with, one thing that riles something deep in human nature, is somebody who picks on someone smaller.

This is exactly the mistake Limbaugh made. And this what the people who complain that Limbaugh is being punished more than Ed Schultz was for calling Laura Ingraham the same thing, or why Bill Maher has never been punished for his various insults to Sarah Palin, don’t understand. Limbaugh is a successful radio host, and Sandra Fluke is a student. Limbaugh is the more powerful one in the equation, whereas Bill Maher is a successful comedian attacking a successful politician, and Ingraham and Schultz are both pundits.

I haven’t seen anyone else say this in so many words ever since Pitts did, but I think it’s a very important point.

UPDATE: Thought of another example. President Obama’s comments on the Henry Louis Gates arrest and the subsequent “Beer Summit”. That was basically the same deal. Although he might not have meant to, what it looked like was the President of the United States saying on national TV that some regular guy is “stupid”. That’s why Obama had to make amends.

I’m going to talk about Rush Limbaugh’s comments on Sandra Fluke here, but first, a reading from Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West:

The abundant proliferation of primitive people is a natural phenomenon, which is not even thought about, still less judged as to its utility or the reverse. When reasons have to be put forward at all in a question of life, life itself has become questionable. At that point begins prudent limitation of the number of births. The primary woman, the peasant woman, is mother. The whole vocation towards which she has yearned from childhood is included in that one word. But now emerges the Ibsen woman, the comrade, the heroine of a whole megalopolitan literature… Instead of children, she has soul conflicts; marriage is a craft-art for the achievement of “mutual understanding.” [Chapter 13, p. 245]

That part is from the chapter wherein Spengler is contrasting city people and rural people. It is kind of like “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse“, as written by a pessimistic, nationalistic German philosopher. Reading Spengler is very disturbing  to a cosmopolitan liberal such as myself, since I can’t help but sense a hostility on his part towards that type of person. And yet, the other types he liked so much are also those least likely to ever read the works of an obscure philosopher, so there it is.

But you are no doubt wondering: why did I drag a long-dead and half-forgotten German nationalist writer in today? Well, first I wanted to note that he is noting a difference in attitudes towards birth control between city people and rural people. This difference matches up nicely with the broader differences between cosmopolitan city-dwellers and nationalist farmers that we often see. (I talked about this a little in this post about why Sarah Palin likes “small town America” so much.)

Alright, enough of that. What are the nationalists in our own day and age up to? Well, as you all have heard, Rush Limbaugh has been calling Sandra Fluke various insults and making disgusting insinuations and suggestions. That is quite a reprehensible and loathsome thing to do–not to mention unchivalrous, if we use the language of Limbaugh’s longed-for days before feminism. His full comments are these:

Well, what would you call someone who wants us to pay for her to have sex? What would you call that woman? You’d call ’em a slut, a prostitute or whatever.

He is, in addition to being rude, completely wrong. These terms do not apply, and moreover this is not even what Ms. Fluke is asking for. She is actually asking for insurance companies to cover contraceptives. At best, Limbaugh could argue that people are paying indirectly by causing these companies to raise rates, but then one can just as easily argue that those who refuse to take steps to ameliorate the disastrous effects of changes in the climate are forcing me to pay for their reckless behavior, since increased storms mean increased insurance costs.

In any event, part of Limbaugh’s job is to shock people, and this he has certainly done, yet again. I am not optimistic about attempts to make companies pull advertising–though it’s certainly worth a try–because I fear that there are a great many people who agree with him. Whether they have come by their opinions honestly, or simply by dint of listening to Limbaugh is hard to say, but as long as he has a fanbase, he will continue to have advertisers.

On being accused of misogyny, Limbaugh quoted H.L. Mencken’s definition of a misogynist as “a man who hates women as much as women hate one another.” I am not sure why he mentioned this, or what it means, or how it is relevant, but there you have it. And then Limbaugh said the following amazing statement to explain why he is not “a Danger to the Women of America”:

They want to blame me as being the person they should fear, when in fact the people doing all these things I just said I have no power to do, the Democrat Party is doing. That’s who everybody’s afraid of in this country… They’re afraid of Democrat Party.  They’re afraid of the Obama administration.  The Obama administration will take away your birth control, and if you let ’em do that, they’ll tell you when you can and can’t take it. And then they’ll tell you when you can and can’t have sex, and then they will tell you when you can or cannot have an abortion!

You give them this power, that’s what they want.

Now, I think I kind of understand what he’s trying–and failing–to say here. It’s similar to the idea that Gerald Ford was expressing when he said “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.”

Except that has no relevance here. Fluke was asking for the government to make contraceptives cheaper. Now, it is certainly true that the power of the State is such that it could take this away, also. However, they would only take it away if the control of the state were handed to people who want to do so–the Rush Limbaughs of the world, in other words.

So, this last statement is a brilliant exercise in what Orwell called doublethink, but we have come to expect that from Limbaugh. But what’s worse is that I suspect he must have a sizeable number of listeners who agree with him. As Ferrerman mentioned, there are many others who think like Limbaugh. It would be a fine thing if he were punished for his remarks, but the truth is that the real problem with Limbaugh and his odious sentiments is not that he says them, but that when he says them, he is, alas, speaking for many others.

UPDATE 3/3/2012 7:41 PM: Limbaugh apologizes to Fluke. I have to say, I’m surprised. I would have expected his show to end before he would do that.