John Nichols: Rush Limbaugh Owes Democracy an Apology
Rush Limbaugh Owes Democracy an Apology
John Nichols on March 2, 2012 - 2:35 PM ET
When political and media figures with national prominence use their positions to attack individual citizens who dare to speak up about controversial concerns, they do not just attack the citizens.
They attack the basic premises of a representative democracy in which citizens do not just have a right to freedom of speech. If the American experiment is to work, citizens have a responsibility to speak truth to power. It is not easy to do that. But it is necessary if we are to keep alive the founding principle, as articulated by Thomas Jefferson: “Whenever our affairs go obviously wrong, the good sense of the people will interpose and set them to rights.”
At a point when political players, most of them men, were going obviously wrong with regard to policies affecting women, Sandra Fluke spoke up.
She performed a necessary duty of citizenship.
Citizens need to challenge their political leaders—and the media echo chamber that amplifies the self-serving messages of those leaders. We have enough of a problem in this country with the media’s casual dismissal of the voices of the poor, of working people, of people of color, of trade unionists, of rural Americans and of the young. When the dismissals turn aggressive and unforgiving, as was the case with Limbaugh’s attack of Fluke, the promise of citizenship is assaulted.
And when elitists so powerful as Rush Limbaugh seeks to silence citizens so sincere and appropriately engaged as Sandra Fluke, with personal attacks, crude language and constant criticism, those elitists attack democracy itself.