One of the bigger surprises of election night were the polls which revealed that the number one issue voters were concerned with was "corruption." But as Sidney Blumenthal argues, that word may have sybolized something more broad to voters than just Hot Tub Tom and his Scottish golfing trips:
This revulsion at "corruption" was more than the sordid wheeling and dealing of the Republican congressional barons. It was disgust at the moral hypocrisy and false sanctimony of the cultural warriors and the transparent fakery of Bush's imagery. The fate of the Senate turned on many contests, including crucial ones in Missouri and Virginia. In Missouri, an initiative that would authorize embryonic stem cell research that could lead to cures of many diseases divided the candidates. Actor Michael J. Fox made a TV commercial for the Democrat, Claire McCaskill. Looking straight into the camera, with no imagery other than his constantly swaying body, racked with the effects of his medication for Parkinson's disease, Fox made a simple appeal wholly on the basis of the stem cell research issue. Fox was a promising young actor whose his career came to a halt when his disease seized control of him. Now he plays only himself. Immediately, Rush Limbaugh was thrown into the breach against the new enemy. Earlier this year, he had declared, "What's good for al-Qaida is good for the Democratic Party in this country today." Mocking Fox by spastically wriggling in his chair as he spoke on his syndicated radio show, Limbaugh told listeners that Fox's jerky movements were "purely an act" and that he'd whack him "if you'd just quit bobbing your head." In the ensuing uproar, Limbaugh steadfastly refused to apologize. He depicted his mockery and physical threats as expressions of conservative conviction: "I stand by what I said. I take back none of what I said. I wouldn't rephrase it any differently. It is what I believe. It is what I think. It is what I have found to be true." As the criticism built, he acknowledged: "So I will bigly, hugely admit that I was wrong and I will apologize to Michael J. Fox, if I am wrong in characterizing his behavior on this commercial as an act."
Missouri native Rush will (probably) always have his constituency — he is so tribally tied to white rage cultural conservatives that there is literally nothing he could do that could compromise his high priesthood. But if Sidney is correct, and I believe that he very well may be, the electoral rejection of "conservatism" had much to do with the perceived corruption of its symbols and its prophets as the deportment of its political representatives. The Mighty Wurlitzer and the PR Presidency may have been powerful transmitters of message and iconography, but the steady drip, drip drip of scandal seems to have tainted the messengers to the point of public revulsion. I really don't know anyone who isn't mainlining pure kool-aid who can watch Rush's ridicule of Michael J. Fox without palpable disgust, and Claire McCaskill may very well owe her victory in Missouri to the "show me" state's recoil from his repugnant specter.