Democracy and John Stuart Mill's marketplace of ideas are often shrill, and almost always messy, in practice. And clearly people of good faith--and the rest too--disagree on aspects of the Detroit bailouts put together by the Obama Administration.
But now right-wing radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh has advised his listeners of a boycott of GM products, taking direct aim at the dwindling paychecks and job prospects of tens of thousands of remaining General Motors workers.
Here at High Gear Media, we like to think we've explored many aspects of the debate. We've both criticized the president and the Automotive Task Force--here, here, here, here, and here--and punched back with a spirited defense of Obama's actions.
Certainly criticism of GM management, product decisions, and United Auto Workers pay levels, benefits, and perks has been justified in the debate. (How many workers do you know who still get a paid holiday on the first day of their state's hunting season, hmmm?)
That said, Limbaugh avoided targeting the GM workers who would suffer most from the company's failure. He skirted open support for the boycott pushed by other, more extreme right-wing pundits.
Instead, Limbaugh went after President Barack Obama using the same "Government Motors" line of reasoning that has resonated with the audiences of angry, ranting, right-wing talk radio (as well as several commenters on the articles linked above).
Limbaugh said he "understood" why his audience wouldn't want to buy GM vehicles: "They don't want to do anything to make Obama's policies work."
Then he cited data that, by our math, indicates the opposite conclusion. Limbaugh discussed a poll in which 17 percent of respondents backed a GM boycott. We think that means that more than four out of five Americans don't support a boycott, but what do we know?
In any case, we'd be very curious to know how GM's remaining employees feel about Limbaugh's rant.
We might recommend to Limbaugh's audience a 2004 book by Thomas Frank titled, What's the Matter With Kansas? It lays out Frank's thesis that the most fervent working-class supporters of right-wing populism have often been those whose economic interests are hurt the most by the policies they advocate.
But as we said, democracy is a messy process. Thankfully.
[UPDATE: At the request of a reader, we dug into what Rush drives. The answer is apparently a 2008 Maybach 57S, although he's also said to have a Cadillac Escalade EXT. We wonder if he knows that's built by General Motors?]