Monday, 25 November 2013

Fourteen Million Reasons To Despair

(Trigger warning: sexual assault is mentioned, though not discussed, below)

One of the most strange truths about the growth of the ludicrous far-right bigot smorgasbord that constitutes the bedrock of the modern Republican Party in the United States is how blase everyone seems to be about it.  I can't count the number of times I've had a conversation about the horrific state of American news media in which someone has said: "Yes, but aside from FOX News".

The suggestion seems to be that FOX is so outrageously and openly biased that it has a disproportionate effect on the overall shape of American journalism.  Which is true, but not in the way these people mean.  FOX doesn't make the whole shebang seem like it's more slanted and mendacious than it is, it demonstrates the full value of slant and mendacity to everyone else. Arguing the most successful and influential example of a given group must also be an outlier strikes me as a damn hard sell.

The radio equivalent of FOX News has to be Rush Limbaugh.  This is a man nobody with the brains nature assigned to his least-favourite lungfish would take seriously for the length f time it takes to boil an egg in molten rock. This is the man who spent days calling Sandra Fluke a slut because she has sex with people for money testified before Congress that access to birth control was a genuine health concern for women.  If Limbaugh were an ice-cream flavour, he'd be Rocky Salmonella. If he were a Doctor Who villain, he'd be Davros' speech-writer.

Rush Limbaugh has over fourteen million weekly listeners.

I mention him today because this hideous man, this addled mess, this capering fool with the unique talent for making Howard Stern look like Cicero, has decided to weigh in on the question of whether the Senate is better off now the filibuster is partially gone:
Let’s say, let’s take 10 people in a room and they’re a group,” he said on his radio show. “And the room is made up of six men and four women. OK? The group has a rule that the men cannot rape the women. The group also has a rule that says any rule that will be changed must require six votes, of the 10, to change the rule.
How is any rational human being with an ounce of empathy in their souls supposed to process this? The forty-five millionaires who make up the Republican aisle of the Senate (88.9% of which are white men, of course) are kind of like women held hostage voting for themselves not to be assaulted?  Because they can't stop Democratic candidates from becoming judges?  Are we not to be concerned - and revolted - about a mind that jumps straight from restoring majority rule to one half of the legislative branch to the idea of gang-raping women trapped in a room.

And does the sweatiest mouthpiece the Republican Party has yet created really want to be using comparisons like this whilst his cronies in government are trying to crank out as many laws as possible forcing vaginal ultrasounds on any woman wanting to have an abortion?

In its own despicable way, of course, this hideous piece of non-think demonstrates just how absurd the thinking behind the Republican freak-out has really gotten.  It's not just that Rush has his sums wrong - in a Senate with ten people six people get their way even with the filibuster; he'd have been better off saying "in a Senate with twenty people the filibuster needs twelve of them to agree" - it's that the sheer horrific nature of the analogy is essential to hide what's really happened.  To switch the metaphor to something that doesn't make want to be ill, let's say twenty people are in a room.  Eleven of them want capital punishment to be mandatory for all crimes, and the other nine are sane.  Under this new system, it is not the case that capital punishment could then be voted in.  Even if the insane death-hungry party controlled the White House and the House of Representatives, the ability to directly vote for such a lunatic policy is still covered by the filibuster.

What our blood-crazed frothing madmen (in their white shirts, blue suits, and red ties) could do is vote for a judge that was similarly divorced from reality, and hope that judge eventually came across a case involving capital punishment so they could announce leaving any given criminal alive was contrary to the constitution.  Then you'd need for the Supreme Court to agree with so utterly insane a reading of what constitutes unconstitutional.

So, to sum up: Limbaugh's nightmare scenario is that eleven out of twenty senators could nominate a judge with views almost no American voter would find even close to tolerable, who might get lucky and get a case on which they can work their utterly insane thinking, which might then not get reversed by the Supreme Court despite its self-evidently lunacy. Limbaugh believes the correct number of those twenty senators to obliterate their electoral chances in the off-chance of acting contrary to overwhelming public opinion should be twelve. [1]

Fourteen million weekly listeners.  It took twice as long as usual to type this because my hands kept balling up into fists.

[1] On the other hand, the Democrats have a genuine reason to fear some of this coming true, since the current Supreme Court is both extremely conservative, and contains at a bare minimum three judges who have repeatedly contradicted not only clear precedent but their own clear precedents in order to achieve the result Republicans want.  Amongst other things, this is why Al Gore was never president, it is now illegal to limit campaign contributions, states are now able to refuse to accept money for improving their healthcare systems, and there is no longer any effective way to take Southern states to task for minting laws blatantly aimed at preventing non-white people from exercising their right to vote.  This would be a major concern for me, except that the current status quo favours Republicans to a major extent, and I don't believe the filibuster would survive the next Republican Congress in any case.

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