On Thursday amid sequestration hysteria, the popular radio host caused a stir by announcing, "Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in my life, I am ashamed of my country."
He followed up on Friday:
"The purpose of this program has been to create as large a body of informed voting citizens as possible. While we've been largely and profoundly successful at that, the left has beaten us. "They have created far more low-information, unaware, uneducated people than we've been able to keep up with.
Although my initial political education came from his show, I'm almost loath to comment on anything related to Rush Limbaugh these days. But one theme I've picked up on, as the above quote suggests, is that the Republicans lost the election because of "low-information voters."
This does not explicitly mean "stupid." As he told it at least once, Limbaugh said "low-information voter" simply means voting based on trivial information, such as watching E! or TMZ. However, in several transcripts discussing the "low-information voter," a mock TIME magazine cover appears with Obama's face and the caption, "Low-Information Morons Re-Elect President Barack Obama," so you decide.
As far as partisan put-downs go, "low-information voter" has to be one of the vilest. The not-so-subtle message is this: If you're not voting for Republicans it's because you're stupid.
However, the problem is not that people vote based on trivial or "low-information" criteria.
Voting based on the rankest of economic interests (Medicare Part D, anyone?) and personality traits (Wouldn't you rather have a beer with George W. Bush?) are stops on the path of least resistance and reign supreme in American politics.
Needless to say, asserting that people vote for the other party because they're stupid isn't a winning electoral strategy.
No, the problem is that critiques like the "low-information voter" presupposes civic ignorance is confined to a particular party. Besides, it's not as if there's anything "low -information" about reflexively supporting the party's nominee every election or pledging to support the nominee "whoever he is."
I've long since abandoned Rush as a voice of reliable information. I typically only listen to him or read his transcripts today as a gauge of what many regular Republicans are thinking and believing. And while the "low-information voter" part of his monologue is not what had people talking, I found this was a useful occasion to address this grating expression.
It's a shame that all the attention has gone to the statement of being "ashamed" of the country, so there's still a chance "low-information voter" can haunt a politico like the "47%" haunted Romney. Let's wait and see what the political costs are when a vapid Republican office seeker is caught on hidden camera making a faux appeal to "low-information voters," but probably can't because they're too busy watching TMZ to vote for a Republican.
Rush Limbaugh is not himself the problem for Republicans, but neither is he the answer. His constant diatribes against the "low-information voter" are contemptible, and not only because there were reasons to vote against Romney that had little to do with the goings on of the Kardashian Klan. Yet, it is another symptom that the GOP has zero interest in reexamining itself.