The Ethics Of Rush Limbaugh’s Fillibuster-Rape Analogy, And Why You Should Read Ann Althouse’s Blog

wolves-and-sheep…and also never, ever underestimate Rush Limbaugh.

Law prof-blogger Ann Althouse perfectly analyzes Rush Limbaugh’s virtuoso attack on the U.S. Senate Democratic majority’s much-criticized curtailing of the filibuster this week, to pave the way for President Obama’s stalled judicial nominations. Feminists and other knee-jerk Rush-bashers are furious, and, of course, knowing exactly what to say and how to say it to annoy the hell out of them is part of his mission in life, and one which he does very, very well. If you missed it, here’s what Rush said in response to a caller (though if he hadn’t planned on this, I will be shocked, as well as very impressed)…

“…Now, folks, the simple fact is, when the majority, in any group of people, when the majority can change the rules at any time, then there aren’t any rules.  This is a point that I’ve been making repeatedly all week long….Let’s forget the Senate for a minute.  Let’s say there are 10 people in a room and they’re a group, and the room is made up of six men and four women.  Okay?  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.  Every now and then some lunatic in the group proposes to change the rule to allow women to be raped.  But they never were able to get six votes for it.  There were always the four women voting against it, and they always found two guys.  Well, the guy that kept proposing that women be raped finally got tired of it and he was in the majority, he was one of the men, said, “You know what, we’re gonna change the rule. Now all we need is five.”  And the women said, “You can’t do that.”   “Yes, we are,” [say the men]. We’re the majority, we’re changing the rule.”  Then they vote.  Can the women be raped?  Well, all it would take then is half the room. You could change the rule to say three.  You could change the rule say three people want it, it’s gonna happen.  There’s no rule.  When the majority can change the rules, there aren’t any.”

After quoting some of the angry responses, Althouse writes,

“Come on. It’s a trap. Don’t you know your most basic famous aphorisms about democracy? “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.” Usually attributed, probably incorrectly, to Benjamin Franklin, it vividly drives home the problem with simple majority rule. I’m virtually 100% certain that on his Monday show, Rush Limbaugh will laugh at his critics for their ignorance of the famous aphorism. He can easily point out that he did not minimize the seriousness of rape. In the aphorism, the lamb is killed by the wolves. His analogy substitutes rape for killing, men for wolves, and women for the lamb. Really, it’s men who are getting the negative stereotype, so misogyny is exactly the wrong word. A lamb is the very symbol of innocence. And it is killed by those terrible, selfish wolves. Knowing Rush, I predict he’ll pivot to a discussion of abortion: Maybe women don’t realize that killing an innocent is terrible. Maybe that’s why they didn’t understand the workings of his analogy.”

Bingo. It is a trap, and the critics fell into it just as Rush intended, because they are blinded by cognitive dissonance, ideology and bias—as well as the peculiar fanaticisms of the Left, in which rape is deemed even worse than killing. It’s not a perfect analogy: as Althouse suggests later, it would only be accurate if the men knew that the majority could change later and then the women could vote to rape them….or eat them, if that makes you feel better. But it makes the proper point, and makes it in a way that lures the likes of Ana Marie Cox and the writers at Media Matters into exposing their foolishness, which is 1) brilliant, 2) Rush’s mission, and 3) what they richly deserve.

Oh, Rush isn’t completely right about the issue itself, not at all. He over-states the dire consequences, as usual; he falsely describes what the President’s nominations signify as an attempt to “pack” the D.C. Court of Appeals (the President is just filling three vacancies on the court—out of nine—which should be filled; it would be packing if Obama was seeking to expand the number of judges on the court to create a new liberal majority, which was what FDR tried to do with the Supreme Court). He’s also wrong about why this occurred, but his main point, that if a majority can change the rules of a body any time it chooses with out restraints of tradition, principle, fairness and long-term consequences, then no rule is safe, and in effect, the majority is only bound by the rules it wants to be bound by.


Sources: Ann Althouse, Rush Limbaugh

Graphic: Eternal vigilance

29 thoughts on “The Ethics Of Rush Limbaugh’s Fillibuster-Rape Analogy, And Why You Should Read Ann Althouse’s Blog

  1. Honestly, I see no difference in what you consider “packing” and what Rush considers to be packing, at least in this instance – there will now be three more ultra-liberal judgea, giving liberals a not insignificant majority in that circuit.

    And I believe he said it occurred because dems were tired of not getting their way… If that is the case, he isn’t wrong.

    Remember, opposition is only good when you are opposing things Democrats don’t like.

    • Huh? Appointing judges that the President likes is how it’s done, Democrat OR Republican. There are 9 seats, there have always been nine seats. There are three vacancies, and filling them isn’t packing. FDR tried to increase the number of SCOTUS judges from 9 to 15 to create an artificial liberal majority. THAT’S packing.

      • The need for 60 votes has always caused at least some moderation – no one appoints flaming liberals or die-hard conservatives because they need 60 votes…

        The rules change allows the vacancies to be filled with the most flaming of liberals if they so choose, and I absolutely consider that to be “packing”.

        • That’s your privilege, but it simply is not what “court packing” has meant since the term was first used 75 years ago. If that’s packing, then the GOP packed the court by adding Roberts and Alito.

            • Fuck it.

              If you want real panic mode:

              Obama has relieved over 200 flag officers of the military and replaced them with left sympathetic or at least quietly compliant Generals and Admirals, acheiving a quiet purge typical of any radical regime?

              I’m no freak out, but having been in the military, that concerns me.

              • (And got it, I know democrat presidents appoint democrat generals and republicans the same)

                Only with the radical extremist in the White House, the same concern with appointing radical extremist judges governs the same concern with apponting military leaders who would quietly turn a blind eye or be complicit.

        • Wrong. Historically, this fillibuster was used sparingly. Both parties started to use this has a tactic to stall the process under Bush Jr and now Obama. This change is good for everyone – and I will stand by that statement even if power shifts in the next election.

          • Not sure how your statement that “historically, this filibuster was used sparingly” has proven ablative’s comment that a 60 vote majority moderates the nominations wrong.

            It really doesn’t.

            Ablative is correct: a supermajority compels the Senate to debate and discuss and ensures that the minority party can effectively fight against extremist nominations.

            The Founders intended the senate to be the slower more deliberative body by design. One should welcome extended debate, it only secures the nation further against wild and passionate decisions that only serve to radicalize politics. (A problem we should be desperately hoping will reverse).

            Ablative is probably wrong, as per Jack, by calling it court packing since “court packing” has a distinctly developed meaning. However, the combined effect of the Senate rule change to rubber stamp what our petty despot in the white house wants is the same as court packing. Perhaps a different term can be used.

            • If this is what the Founders intended, it would have been used throughout our history. It really wasn’t — it was an exception to the normal political process. It only has been over the last 2 presidents that both parties used it as a weapon. And keep in mind — this benefit applies to both political parties.

                • Indeed, one cannot deny that the Democrats shattered that tradition as well, and opened the floodgates. Before Bork, it was generally accepted that as long as a nominated judge was qualified—placing a responsibility on the President to be competent and fair—then the Senate would approve his choice. This process was undermined by the progressive politicization of the ABA, which had been given the job of objectively assessing “judicial temperment” and ability, and the association thoroughly disgraced itself by being neither objective nor non-partisan in the cases of Bork and others—now, they are out of the process, and rightly so.

                  The GOP had rejected the appointment of an LBJ crony (though a talented one) in Abe Fortas–the rejection was defensible on the merits; as was the Democratic rejection of Harold Carswell, who was just a terrible choice by Nixon, and a spiteful one, arguably. But nobody thought Bork was unqualified—he was spectacularly qualified, yet he was smeared, notably by Ted Kennedy, as a racist and sexist, which he was not. He was just scary smart and persuasive, and the Democrats feared his influence on the Court.

                  That Democratic obliteration of a bipartisan consensus regarding nominations has had long-term harmful consequences that led directly to last week’s events, and this one will have such consequences as well.

              • I don’t think we’ve had to seriously worry about extremely radical appointments either, because we haven’t had a hyper-partisan, vitriolic, radical in the white house before.

  2. Also, it has been suggested that to relatiate Rs should filibuster everything in the Senate, but that could be easily sidestepped by Dems just making whatever they want a mere rider on a budget bill of some kind (because you can’t filibuster those).

    What I want to see is what happens the second Dems lose the majority in the Senate… I wager the next working day they would vote to change the rule back…

    • That wouldn’t matter. If they changed the rule back the GOP could just change any other rule they wanted to when they took power.

      The rules have been made meaningless.

      • THANK you. This is what I’ve been saying the whole time- even though this particular change is fairly limited in scope, there’s no reason that every single time one party has a 51-seat lead they can’t just say “well, now you only need 51 ovtes to do whatever it is we want.”

  3. I was driving when Rush said this and so I was listening. I had the exact same thoughts. Rush is masterful at getting libs to foam at the mouth.

  4. Reason #8910 I don’t identify with modern progressivism, despite my center-left utilitarian tendencies. What would Gompers and the like have made of their supposed descendents?

  5. First, read this:

    Now, I do not believe Rush Limbaugh has the moral authority to be criticizing anybody over the nuclear option. He supported the use of the nuclear option back in 2005 when people he agreed with politically was presenting the possibility of using it. Rush was repeating many of the false argument about the use of the filibuster against judicial nominees (that many liberals who hypocritically opposed those comments back then are making now).

    One cannot be an apologist for the use of the nuclear option when your guys would do it and then cry when the other side does it and be taken seriously on the issue.

    The bottom line is this, the use of the nuclear option is based on a lie. It is cheating. It is trying to eliminate a rule by circumventing the rules. I am highly disappointed with my party for using it.

    And other places I have pretty much said the same .thing that Jack has said: ” if a majority can change the rules of a body any time it chooses with out restraints of tradition, principle, fairness and long-term consequences, then no rule is safe, and in effect, the majority is only bound by the rules it wants to be bound by.”. But the only caveat I would add is that certain rules cannot be changed by the majority. Those written in the Constitution (requirements for quorum, overriding veto, etc) cannot be done away with using the nuclear option. Everything else has now been made fair game by this horrible move by the Democrats. And that is a shame.

    • I don’t know what moral authority has to do with anything in the post. In fact, I’ve never heard Rush make any claim to moral authority on any issue. Who has moral authority on ANY issue? In ethics, nothing is determined by moral authority. Morals are edicts—ethics is reason.

      Everyone involved has either done a U-turn, like Rush (but you are not a hypocrite if you change your mind 8 years later), or a hypocrite, which I think describes many of the Democrats involved, like Reid, Obama, and others, who had strenuously declared in the recent past that they either would never do this or believed it was foolhardy. Whatever the Republicans may have said, as bluffs or to appeal to the red-meaters in their constituency, the fact is they never did it when they had the votes, and Reid did.

      I think your assessment is pretty much correct, though.

      • By moral authority I mean he lacks any sort of standing to be critical of the Democrats for doing what he supported years back when the GOP was in charge. I do not believe Rush’s change of stance on the issue is a simple “u turn”. Rush would likely change his tune if the roles were reversed.

        The GOP made the threat to use the nuclear option to get their way back in 2005. This means that they acknowledged back then that this was a valid tactic to use (even though it should never be considered a valid tactic). Even if they never did use it, they still wrongly endorsed its potential use. Yes, the Democrats pulled the trigger so that makes them “worse” on this issue but I do not believe it makes them drastically worse. Reverse the roles and the hypocrisy would continue on both sides.

        Anyway, I am disgusted. I am so frustrated that they pulled that trigger. Wrong should be wrong regardless of who is in power.

        • Well, that isn’t what moral authority means, so you need to be careful with your terms. Other unprincipled reversals on the issue include the new York Timed editorial board and the President, and they, unlike Rush, are not at least 40% entertainers. Rush’s job, part of it, is to play to his audience. He’s not a journalist, nor a public servant. It’s pretty weird to single him out and hold him to standards like theirs, when they don’t even meet them.

  6. “In the history of the Republic, there have been 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominees. Half of them have occurred during the Obama administration — during the last four and a half years,”

    That’s prima facie evidence that the process is being abused, and has been for years. The social compact was arguably broken by the Democrats in the Bush years – but this goes beyond breaking it.

    This has caused the DNC to recognise that the next time the GOP holds the Senate, they’ll go nuclear, not just on judicial nominations, but on everything. And would do no matter what the DNC did or didn’t do.

    There is zero Goodwill, zero ability to come to a reasonable compromise.

    • That’s prima facie evidence that the process is being abused somewhere. If X occurs traditionally when Y is present, and suddenly the frequency of X increases dramatically, there are three possible conclusions: 1. X is being used like it has never been used before; 2. Y is occurring more often than ever before, resulting in more X, and 3) a combination of the two.

    • I don’t buy your argument. You seem to be giving the Dems a huge pass here- they broke the social compact but the Reps have broken it worse somehow, so the Dems are better by comparison. Then you excuse this terrible end-around the rules with a hand-waving “Those mean old Reps will do it worse, so we have to do it first.”

      Isn’t is just as reasonable to say, that what the Republicans are doing now is because the Dems ALREADY have shown a willingness to stonewall? That if the Reps don’t play hardball right back the balance of power will be hugely shifted?

      For what it’s worth I think both sides’ overuse of the [threatened] filibuster is improper, but the Dems have crossed a huge line with this one. I don’t think it’s legit to give them a pass for their bad actions based on the assumption that the Reps would be bad actors too, especially when it’s only an assumption.

  7. “the majority is only bound by the rules it wants to be bound by.”

    How true of this administration and it’s cronies in Congress and it’s cronies elsewhere and it’s constituency and the treacherous Media.

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