On Tuesday, Angela, a mother of five children from Prince William County, Virginia, called the Rush Limbaugh show. She no doubt represents millions of conservative voters in her viewpoint that moms with small children should stay at home. She said she won’t vote for Sarah Palin because she is not impressed with how Palin protected her young daughter during the 2008 campaign season, but it was obvious her bigger point was that mothers should be at home with their children (not fathers).
Talker Limbaugh did three things that, I think, could turn millions of Republican listeners similar to Angela away from Sarah Palin.
First, America’s Truth Detector, Rush Limbaugh, claimed she was a seminar caller (this is Rush’s term meaning a “fake caller” – a liberal pretending to be a nut-burger conservative).
“We gotta make a note to hire you again. You’re one of the best paid actors we’ve ever had on this program.”
This means Limbaugh essentially called her a liar, suggesting people like her don’t really exist. That would be a huge political miscalculation, I think. Here is what Limbaugh said after she hung up:
“All right, Angela, it was. That is Angela in Dumfries, Virginia. You do have her number, right? You got her number? Okay, call her agent.”
Second, he called her a sexist. And by modern feminist standards (those sadly now being embraced by many evangelicals and others on the right), she probably is “sexist”. But she represents millions of Christians, many of us politically active, who believe that it is God’s ordained order for mothers to stay at home with their children. But we are not a monolithic bunch. Some believe that it is fine if Sarah Palin runs for President, but don’t think it ought to be the norm for mothers. Others, like Angela, think she should not run.
Here is the key exchange on that point:
RUSH: You’re not disappointing me. You’re just a sexist.
CALLER: Am I? Well, that could be it, too.
RUSH: A little sexism going on here, but that’s fine, everybody has, you know, boundaries to allow some of that stuff to happen….
CALLER: Thanks for allowing me to talk.
RUSH: Who would you vote for in the Republican field?
CALLER: Say it again?
RUSH: In the current Republican field, who would you vote for?
CALLER: Mitch Daniels.
RUSH: He’s got kids.
CALLER: Well, his kids have a mother.
RUSH: Okay. So it’s okay for a father to have all kinds of kids and abandon ’em and leave them —
CALLER: No, he wouldn’t be abandoning them.
RUSH: — with the mother.
CALLER: That’s right. I’m a traditionalist, Rush, and I think a lot of conservatives are.
RUSH: Well, Sarah Palin’s kids have a father.
CALLER: That’s a father, what’s that have to do with being a mother? Because he’s a father?
Limbaugh has bought into the paradigm that fathers and mothers have an equal responsibility to raise the children at home, that there is no distinctive role for mothers. Or if he ever held the view at one time, he has abandoned it in order to justify criticizing non-Palin voters.
Third, he assumes that voters like us are worthless and should be ignored or insulted. But that is a political loser. Though many Mitt Romney supporters have accused evangelicals of being bigots for opposing him because of his Mormonism, Romney never stooped so low as to articulate that view himself, even if he believed it. He is a smart guy. He needs to win those folks over, not alienate them. Many moderates have mocked Mike Huckabee for being a creationist, and for denying the essentials of evolution, but he is not putting it in the faces of these opponents. He is trying to win them. John McCain stumbled badly in 2000 by insulting evangelicals and it may have cost himself the nomination. It took him eight years to mend those fences, but having done so, he was able to win the GOP primaries by getting lots of evangelical voters to forgive him. Sarah Palin has twice called those who think mothers should stay at home “Neanderthals”. This is no way to influence people who probably think Margaret Thatcher an equal to Ronald Reagan.
I believe Limbaugh exhibited a rare goof with his last line:
RUSH: It seems to me all this hating going on on Sarah Palin, for whatever reason, there are a lot of people who just don’t like the idea of a strong woman. Well, isn’t that what we heard in explaining the criticism of Hillary? We did.
Rush, who said that? Who said Hillary was opposed because she was a strong woman? The women you call Feminazis. Now you are saying the same thing about opponents of Sarah Palin that they oppose her because she is a strong woman. What does that say about you, Rush? Of course, everyone knows you are not a feminazi.