Law in Contemporary Society
During today’s class discussion I thought of an article (linked below) that I read yesterday. The piece effectively captures the idea that politicians are empty vessels covered by blank wrapping which typically conceals hollow rhetoric and a lack of conviction. The Republican presidential candidates’ respective reactions to Rush Limbaugh’s vile attack on Sandra Fluke illustrates the concept of ‘empty vessel’ politician perfectly.

These candidates have spent months on the campaign trail, making speech after speech pontificating about their “courage”, their “leadership”. Yet their actual responses to Limbaugh’s venomous attack illustrate just the opposite.

Eugene Robinson, who wrote the article, points out that the Republican candidates, or at least the ones who think they have a chance at winning the nomination, cower before Limbaugh. The candidates are afraid of speaking out in defense of Sandra Fluke and certainly afraid of speaking out to condemn Limbaugh for fear of being labeled ‘insufficiently conservative’. In fact, the GOP candidates hardly even pointed out the insincerity of Limbaugh's "apology". Instead, Robinson contends, they have chosen to collectively ignore or excuse an “eruption of venom that some of Limbaugh’s advertisers — nine, at last count, have said they would no longer sponsor the show — find inexcusable”.

Ultimately I think that this manifestation of ‘politician as empty vessel’ illustrates clearly that political emptiness is really just synonymous with political cowardice. I found it interesting to reflect on these politicians' actions (or lack thereof) and Sandra Fluke's comparative courage, which Eben touched on in class today.

-- CourtneyDoak - 06 Mar 2012

It's also worth noting that the same cowardice applies to President Obama in this situation. Basically, the criticism here is that President Obama's phone call to Ms. Fluke simultaneously abandons his role in advocating for reproductive rights while reinforcing the idea that women alone are responsible for campaigning for their rights. Instead of publicly supporting birth control and women's health, Mr. Obama once again disavowed reproductive rights as part of a broader interest.

I'm sure much of the political cowardice is related to the upcoming election season. However, it's worth noting that cowardice exists across the political spectrum. And misogyny is not solely the territory of Rush Limbaugh (see: [Bill Maher, Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, etc.)

-- JacquelineRios - 06 Mar 2012

It's strange to me that we're even discussing support for contraception as a stand that requires courage. 99% of women use non-natural family planning at some point in their lives. This means that the vast majority of men who have sex with women also benefit from it. The voice of the vast majority, in this case, should be loud enough to drown out the minority. Contraceptive availability should also be supported by fiscal conservatives. If you scroll down to the bottom of this page, you can see statistics about the public cost of unintended pregnancies. I'm not denying that Sandra Fluke was brave to speak out on an apparently controversial issue and that she has handled herself remarkably gracefully amidst all this controversy. I guess I am just wondering why this is controversial at all.

I think Thurman Arnold's discussion of the thinking man and creeds is somewhat helpful in understanding what is going on. The thinking man is someone who prides himself on his rational appraisal of economic and social issues and his ability to discern right from wrong. His belief in his own rationality and free will is an illusion, however. What guides the thinking man in his decisions about what is right and wrong are the creeds of the organizations he belongs to, and though the thinking man thinks that he chooses these creeds, he does not. Men "become bound by loyalties and enthusiasms to existing organizations. If they successful in obtaining prestige and security from these organizations, they come to regard them as the ultimate in spiritual and moral perfection." This suggests that contraception is controversial not because there is actually any legitimate debate about whether it is good social policy but because the opposition to contraception comes from some organization (possibly political or religious, in this case) that has bound its members by providing them with prestige or security. I'm not sure what organization this would be, exactly, because Limbaugh's words go beyond what is espoused by the Republican party and most, though not all, mainstream religious groups.

-- KatherineMackey - 06 Mar 2012

Katherine, I think that's a really interesting point. While I do think that Sandra Fluke was brave for speaking out as she did, as the topic is in fact (perhaps wrongly) contentious, I agree with the broader question you raise around why this is controversial at all. When I was thinking about the GOP candidates' collective response to the 'controversy' I wondered why, even if they are 'empty vessel politicians', they would not have spoken out more adamantly in Sandra Fluke's defense given the ubiquity of contraception and the fact the Limbaugh's words did, as you point out, go beyond what's espoused by the Republican party and most mainstream religious groups. I understand that each of them likely made the decision that defending Sandra Fluke would cost them voter support but after reading your post I too am wondering who exactly these potential lost voters are, and moreover, what organization(s) they belong to and have become bound by. My perception, like yours, is that this really shouldn't be a 'controversial' issue - and after you shed light on that in your post I'm even more disheartened by the ways in which the Republican candidates (and arguably Obama as well) have responded to this situation.

-- CourtneyDoak - 07 Mar 2012


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r6 - 22 Jan 2013 - 18:09:54 - IanSullivan
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