The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has started an online petition against Rush Limbaugh to chastise him for comments he made last week about hoping for Obama’s failure. His words, as usual, were taken out of context – at the time, he was making the point that if it was Obama’s goal to institute socialist policies, then he would want those policies, and by extension Obama, fail. Not out of hateful spite, but out of political principle.
This is not a fringe group making this attempt – this is an official Congressional operation of the Democratic party seeking to publicly chastise a public figure and private citizen who disagrees with them. It echoes Obama’s exhortations to Republicans to not listen to Rush Limbaugh and join up in bipartisan awesomeness, and it echoes the official letter Senate Democrats sent to Clear Channel denouncing him for “phony soldier” remarks, again taken out of context. It matches Obama himself calling out Sean Hannity by name several times on the campaign trail, which has made its way into the opening montage for the conservative talk show host.
The point here is you have Democratic party leaders verbally castigating and organizing campaigns against pundits that disagree with them. Other pundits should be the ones denouncing and criticizing the hosts, not the politicians themselves, and certainly not in an official capacity. It gives another dimension to the debate over the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which would seek to offer equal time to political viewpoints on talk radio as it did in the past.
The problem with such a doctrine is in who decides what is equal and what is political speech. Are you going to have a committee listen to every hour of talk radio to ensure compliance? And who decides what speech belongs to which political category? And more importantly, why is the standard only levied at talk radio, a medium dominated by conservatives? Sen. Charles Schumer recently mused that the government monitors pornography, so why not talk radio? The equation of conservative political discourse to pornography by a sitting Senator is nothing short of shameful.
The truth is that the Fairness Doctrine is less about fairness and more about power. The left dislikes that talk radio garners such a wide audience, and despite the disparaging of its content as lying propaganda and of its listeners as ignorant and backward, its listeners are generally more aware of political matters than non-listeners. It seems to me that the opposition to talk radio is that it simply provides, on the whole, a conservative point of view, one that apparently cannot be tolerated to flourish for fear of threatening the power of the left.
What is intriguing is that despite the imagined threat of talk radio, Democrats were still able to win the House, Senate, and Presidency. Talking heads rubbed their hands with glee when John McCain won the GOP nomination against the protestations of prominent talk hosts. I think those talk hosts won some vindication when the moderate McCain lost the election, giving some credence to the notion that he wasn’t the ideal Republican candidate after all. So talk radio doesn’t necessarily threaten the electoral ambitions of Democrats, it merely provides a point of view that people can either choose to listen to or ignore.
We were told over the last eight years how patriotic dissent was, except, apparently, when the nation is under Democratic leadership. With all the media slobbering over our new President, it is now, just as it was before, important to have reasonable voices of opposition be heard. Political speech is one of the most important factors in a functioning democracy, and the government ought not to be in the business of monitoring and regulating it. It’s worth noting that many fair-minded liberals oppose such efforts as well. It bothers me when political parties make official efforts, like the petition against Limbaugh, to push an agenda of marginalizing the hosts and their views. Don’t like Limbaugh, Hannity, and others? Don’t listen, or call in to respectfully dispute their arguments, or refute them elsewhere. Don’t pass laws restricting the expression of their views, and don’t attack them in an official manner. If this nation goes down the road of regulating talk radio and political speech, the result may be advantageous to the left, but it will be the political integrity of the country that will suffer.
Update: On a much more humorous note, IMAO has a different theory for the reason behind the petition.
Update: Michelle Malkin takes a look at Rush Derangement Syndrome.