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“Rush Limbaugh Is Finished”: With Or Without Cumulus, His Political Power Is Much Diminished

Cumulus Media, the second-largest broadcast radio station owner in the country, may drop Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity from its stations, according to Politico’s Dylan Byers. Limbaugh and Hannity are the two highest-rated right-wing talk radio hosts in the country. Byers says they currently air on “more than 40″ Cumulus-owned channels (in markets that include New York City). Limbaugh is highly rated but maybe not that profitable, especially since the boycott took off.

This would be something of a blow to Limbaugh, especially if it meant losing his “flagship” station, New York’s WABC. On the other hand, the show is syndicated by a company owned by the largest owner of radio stations in the country. They’ll likely be able to find a home for him in the most of the markets he’d lose if Cumulus ended his contract.

Of course, while Byers reports that Cumulus has decided not to renew Rush Limbaugh’s contract, reports today describe Limbaugh as ditching Cumulus for WOR, a company owned by Clear Channel.

Whether Limbaugh ends up parting ways with Cumulus or whether this entire Politico article is part of one side’s negotiating tactics almost makes no difference. Limbaugh will remain on the radio in most of the country, with millions of listeners. In a month he may still announce that his contract with Cumulus has been renewed. But however this shakes out, it will still be the case that the Limbaugh Era is over.

The Limbaugh Era spanned roughly Clinton’s inaugural through Bush’s reelection, with his powers peaking, obviously, at Clinton’s impeachment. This was when Limbaugh could create political stars, sink legislation and nearly take down a president. The mainstream press took notice of him and then became completely obsessed. At that time, his army of listeners was enough people to constitute a formidable electoral coalition.

He still has a lot of listeners. The Limbaugh problem, though, is simply a reflection of the GOP problem: His followers are an aging and, consequently, shrinking group of conservative white people, in a country that is rapidly getting less white. The Limbaugh people are still large in number, but their power is diminishing. (Their power has been diminishing for years, in fact, which is how Limbaugh and his less talented peers came to lead them in the first place.)

The first thing to remember is that no one actually has any clue how many people listen to Limbaugh with any regularity. Limbaugh’s audience certainly sounds massive at 14 million weekly listeners, but that supposedly represents any person who tunes into Limbaugh’s show for any period of time over the course of a week. At any given period in his show, though, an average of three million people are tuned to Limbaugh. That’s not nothing, but it’s close. It wouldn’t crack the top 25 broadcast TV shows. And radio ratings involve even more guesswork and estimation (and spin) than television ratings. Limbaugh said his audience was “20 million” 20 years ago and people have just been repeating that number ever since, but no one actually has any clue.

Regardless of its size, this audience is not being replenished with fresh blood. When the Obama people decided, early in his first term, to basically call as much attention to Limbaugh as possible, as part of an effort to make him seem like the unofficial leader of the modern Republican Party, that was because they knew that Limbaugh is among the least popular human beings in the country, especially with people below the age of 40. The strategy did briefly shove Limbaugh back into relevance, but what exactly did he accomplish with that relevance? After an election year in which he openly, depressingly begged for Hillary Clinton to win the Democratic nomination, simply so that he could relive his glory years of Clinton-hating, Limbaugh spent the first months of Obama’s presidency attempting to derail the stimulus for some reason, and he failed. The Tea Party freakout, and subsequently the 2010 elections, had nothing to do with Rush. He hated Romney during the 2012 primaries and his eventual awkward support for the Republican nominee was worth nothing.

Like Matt Drudge, who still drives traffic but not the news cycle itself, Limbaugh is a relic of the ’90s. He’s been finished for years. Unfortunately he and the dying conservative movement are going to do their best to destroy the country as it leaves them behind.


By: Alex Pareene, Salon, July 29, 2013

July 30, 2013 Posted by | Media | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Hatred Overwhelming Judgment”: The “Refuse To Enroll” Campaign Gets To Work Against Obamacare

When Reuters reported last week that Republicans and their allies “are mobilizing … to dissuade uninsured Americans from obtaining health coverage,” it caused a bit of a stir. After all, what kind of people would invest time and energy into convincing struggling families to turn down access to affordable health care? Who would be so callous as to put partisan spite over the basic health care needs of their community?

Well, now we know. The Dayton Daily News has hidden the story behind a paywall, but the paper reported yesterday on groups like the “Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom,” which is rallying behind the “Refuse to Enroll” campaign.

With time running out, opponents of the Affordable Care Act have taken to the airwaves in Ohio and elsewhere with ad campaigns not only attacking the bill’s merits but also actively encouraging uninsured Americans not to sign up for coverage under the health care law.

The Obama administration has acknowledged the success of the law, commonly referred to as Obamacare, depends in large part on broad-based participation in federal and state-run health exchanges that will begin selling government-subsidized health plans to the uninsured on Oct. 1.

The anti-enrollment campaigns reflect the resignation and desperation of many Obamacare opponents who have given up hope of a government repeal or court-ordered injunction to stop full implementation of the law beginning next year.

This is clearly an important stage in the larger fight. Desperate right-wing activists know the law won’t be repealed; they know it can’t be stopped in the courts; and they know there’s a limit to Republican efforts to sabotage the federal health care system. So they’ve been reduced to one last-ditch effort: convince people with no health care coverage to voluntarily turn down affordable insurance so as to advance their ideological cause.

And why do conservative activists want this? It’s not altogether clear, exactly, but apparently their hatred for President Obama has overwhelmed their judgment and basic sense of morality to a degree that can only be considered alarming.

Twila Brase, for example, is putting the “Refuse to Enroll” campaign on her radio show, which is “broadcast on more than 350 stations nationwide, including the American Family Radio Network with stations throughout Ohio.” And she’ll have lots of company, including support from her Koch brothers allies.

The conservative group Americans for Prosperity, which has a chapter in Ohio, has launched another campaign attacking Obamacare with television and online ads that began airing in Ohio last week.

Joan McCarter summarized this nicely: conservatives “have to convince people that either paying through the nose for insurance or going without, all to make a political point, makes sense. Because ‘Freedom’ means never being able to go to the doctor. Seriously. They are spending millions of dollars to try to con people out of getting affordable health insurance.”

To reiterate what we discussed last week, I hope folks will pause to let this sink in for a moment. Unlike every other industrialized democracy on the planet, the United States — easily the wealthiest nation on earth — has tolerated a significant chunk of its population going without basic health care coverage. These Americans and their families can’t afford to see a doctor and are one serious illness from financial ruin. Many have died because they live in a country that allows people to go without access to basic care.

After nearly a century of politicians talking about the problem, President Obama actually signed the Affordable Care Act into law three years ago, giving working families a level of health-care security they’ve never had before, and throwing a life preserver to the uninsured. Now, Republicans aren’t just actively trying to sabotage the law, they’re telling struggling Americans it’s better to drown than accept the life preserver.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 30, 2013

July 30, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Uninsured | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“I See Egg People Everywhere”: Rand Paul’s Anti-Abortion Extremism Disqualifies Him as a Libertarian

These days, it’s very Washington-chic to debate Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul’s viability as a presidential candidate. But despite what Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says – and despite the near-constant use of the word by the media – Rand Paul isn’t a libertarian.

Rand Paul is against my civil liberties, and those of every woman in America. He believes big government should be making our most private, personal decisions for us. Rand Paul is not only anti-choice, he embraces “personhood,” the far end of the extremist spectrum on opposing reproductive rights.

I’m tired of (mostly male) reporters and pundits calling Paul a libertarian because women’s civil rights are somehow a second tier issue. If you believe that, perhaps you can have a chat with Ken Buck – or the guy who beat him, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, who’s now head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

As a senator, Paul has introduced the Life at Conception Act, which codifies the notion of “personhood” into federal law.

“Personhood” is a fringe movement that would give full legal and constitutional rights to fertilized eggs under the law. It would outlaw abortion in all cases, even for victims of rape or incest. It would outlaw many forms of hormonal contraception and IUDs, and limit emergency contraception and in vitro fertilization.

That’s not a limited-government libertarian. It’s the opposite in fact. It’s government both big enough and small enough to fit in your lady-parts and in the room with you and your doctor.

When he introduced the bill in March, Paul said in a statement, “The Life at Conception Act legislatively declares what most Americans believe and what science has long known – that human life begins at the moment of conception, and therefore is entitled to legal protection from that point forward. The right to life is guaranteed to all Americans in the Declaration of Independence and ensuring this is upheld is the Constitutional duty of all Members of Congress.”

Thanks to Rand Paul and his ilk, I see Egg People everywhere. But silliness aside, personhood is a toxic issue in swing states like Colorado for elected officials and those who aspire to be. As a veteran of the two personhood ballot measures – which both failed by landslide margins – I can tell you politicians embrace it at their peril and were running away from it in 2012. Colorado voters are inherently allergic to having government tell them what to do.

There’s nothing libertarian about Rand Paul. He’s a standard-issue right wing extremist with a few opinions outside the Republican platform on military issues. That doesn’t make him cute, and that doesn’t make him acceptable to women voters or any voter with a belief in civil rights and civil liberties.

Call Paul a non-interventionist if you like. Call him an anti-internationalist or opposed to defense spending. But do not call him a libertarian, because he’s not one.


By: Laura Chapin, U. S. News and World Report, July 29, 2013

July 30, 2013 Posted by | Libertarians | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fighting Back On Voting Rights”: First The Struggle Will Begin In Texas, Then The NC Omnibus Voter Suppression Act of 2013

Attorney General Eric Holder has opened what will be an epic battle over whether our country will remain committed to equal rights at the ballot box. In a display of egregious judicial activism in late June, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. Holder made clear last week he intends to fight back.

The struggle will begin in Texas, but it won’t end there. “We cannot allow the slow unraveling of the progress that so many, throughout history, have sacrificed so much to achieve,” Holder told the National Urban League’s annual conference.

He wasn’t exaggerating the stakes. From the moment the Supreme Court threw out Section 4 of the act, which subjected the voting laws in states and jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to Justice Department scrutiny, conservative legislators in those places gleefully signaled their intention to pass laws to make it harder to vote. In addition, Texas re-imposed a redistricting map that a federal court had already ruled was discriminatory.

These hasty moves were unseemly but entirely predictable, proving that Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion in the case will become a Magna Carta for voter suppression. Without having to worry about “preclearance” from the Justice Department, legislators can go about their business of making it more difficult for voters who would throw them out of office to reach the polls — and of drawing racially gerrymandered districts that prolong their tenure. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg understood a logic here that escaped Roberts. “A governing political coalition,” she wrote in her dissent, “has an incentive to prevent changes in the existing balance of voting power.”

This in turn means that when a political party fares badly with minority voters, it will try to turn them away from the polling booths. That’s what segregationist Southern Democrats did in the past. Many Republican-controlled legislatures are doing it now.

Holder announced he was using Section 3, a different part of the Voting Rights Act that was left standing, to ask a federal court to re-subject Texas to preclearance. It is a less efficient way to achieve what the pre-gutted act allowed automatically, but it is the best that can be done for now. It would be better still if Congress reinstated a revised version of Section 4. In the meantime, the hope is to limit the damage of the high court’s folly — and perhaps also give other states pause before they rush into new discriminatory schemes.

“This is the department’s first action to protect voting rights following the [Supreme Court] decision, but it will not be our last,” Holder declared. His department is likely to move this week against the Texas voter-identification law, and to go to court eventually against other states that pass comparable statutes.

To get a sense of how bad these laws are, consider the bill Republicans rushed through both houses of North Carolina’s Legislature that should be called the Omnibus Voter Suppression Act of 2013. It reads like a parody written for Stephen Colbert’s show with its cornucopia of provisions that would make it as hard as possible for African-Americans, Latinos and young people to vote.

As the Charlotte Observer reported, it shortens the early-voting period, eliminates the opportunity to register and vote on the same day during that time, and ends pre-registration for teenagers 16 to 17. The bill also prevents counties from extending voting hours when lines are long — which they will be with the cutback on early voting days. It not only requires photo identification, but also narrows the list of what’s acceptable, eliminating college IDs, for example.

Oh, yes, and remember the old civic tradition of using all avenues to encourage people to register to vote, a favorite cause of that famously revolutionary group, the League of Women Voters? This bill would ban paid voter registration drives.

Throughout the world, our country proclaims its commitment to equal rights and broad democratic participation. We seem to be abandoning those ideals at home. You have to wonder what this will do to our witness on behalf of democracy.

It won’t shock you to learn that after Holder made his announcement, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas condemned the Obama administration for showing an “utter contempt for our country’s system of checks and balances.”

Actually, what Holder’s move shows is an utter contempt for efforts to deprive our fellow Americans of their right to cast a meaningful ballot. It is a contempt that all of us should feel.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 29, 2013

July 30, 2013 Posted by | Voting Rights Act | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“You Can’t Gerrymander A Whole State”: The North Carolina GOP’s Extremism May Cost Their Party The U.S. Senate In 2014

Since the GOP took over both North Carolina’s state house and governorship for the first time in more than a century, the state has become a flashpoint, with extremist policies being put into place one after the other, almost as if conservatives were punishing the state for voting for President Obama in 2008.

The right-wing mania seems to have peaked, with abortion laws being injected into any legislation Republicans could get their hands on and the nation’s worst, most blatant voter suppression law.

Republican governor Pat McCrory has said he will sign the new women’s health restrictions — despite a campaign promise not to — and the voting law, though he hasn’t actually read it.

North Carolinians have been gathering every week for Moral Mondays at the state capitol, hoping their protests and the hundreds of resulting arrests will draw attention to the extremism coming out of the quintessential swing state.

But if people aren’t paying attention to North Carolina politics now, they will be, as the battle for the U.S. Senate in 2014 heats up and Democratic senator Kay Hagan defends her seat.

“North Carolina is the closest thing to the tipping point state in the Senate battle,” the New York TimesNate Silver recently wrote.

Silver added, “Although North Carolina is increasingly purple in presidential election years, the coalition of African-Americans and college-aged voters that Democrats depend upon to win races in the state is less likely to turn out for midterm elections.”

And Republicans are well aware of this.

“By all accounts, there is no path to having a Republican majority leader that doesn’t lead through North Carolina,” Thom Tillis, the state House speaker and leading Republican Senate candidate, told the Washington Examiner.

While laws designed to suppress Democratic votes will certainly help Republicans, the controversies invoked by their policies are drawing the attention of the state’s growing unaffiliated voters and the nation.

Some have called North Carolina the “new Wisconsin,” which sounds promising for Republicans who were able to help Governor Scott Walker survive a recall. However, Democrats successfully took back the Senate in those recalls for a brief time, and only lost it again in 2012 due to gerrymandering.

You can’t gerrymander a whole state, and if there is a backlash against the GOP in North Carolina, it could cost Republicans the U.S. Senate.


By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, July 29, 2013

July 30, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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