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Why Is Everyone Paying So Much Attention to Rush Limbaugh?

NOVI, MI - MAY 3: Radio talk show host and conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh speaks at
Photo: Bill Pugliano/2007 Getty Images

Earlier this week, Rush Limbaugh accomplished the remarkable feat of lowering the bar for the discourse around contraception — a seemingly impossible feat after Foster “Asprin Between the Knees” Friess had his media moment. Limbaugh’s labeling of a (gay) Georgetown University law student as a “slut” and a “prostitute” for testifying about her medical need for birth control and the high costs of paying for it out of pocket at a Jesuit university was not just a deeply hateful response, it was a deeply weird one. He added: “If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex. We want something for it. We want you post the videos online so we can all watch.” Limbaugh’s lunatic ravings have drawn a mainstream response: Kirsten Gillibrand issued a statement condeming him. Seventy-five Democratic Congressmen have asked John Boehner to repudiate the remarks. I’m writing about it. Why?

I suspect it’s because it almost feels like a relief to have the bile out in the open, instead of in a coded subtext as it has been in the recent debate surrounding women’s contraception.

Whether religious institutions should be required to provide birth control coverage is a nuanced constitutional issue, and yet somewhere along the line, it devolved into a referendum on whether women should be able to have sex for purposes unrelated to procreation. It’s a debate that most people thought was settled, well, decades if not centuries ago. And yet we have a major presidential candidate making the issue a centerpiece of his campaign in the year 2012. (Never mind that most people aren’t particularly interested.) It’s a fear-driven reaction to the fact that family structures are undeniably evolving, and more women are having kids out of wedlock. Never mind that trying to preserve traditional family structures by limiting access to birth control is almost hilariously illogical.

It’s hard to grapple with shifting socioeconomic trends and mores and figure out actual policy solutions; it’s much easier to call someone a slut.

Yep, I just called him easy.

Why Is Everyone Paying So Much Attention to Rush Limbaugh?