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It's great that advertisers are dropping Limbaugh and so are radio stations. Like a lot of people, I'm enjoying the possibility that this could be a serious blow to his reach and power to affect the national dialogue.

But it's too late. He and the Republicans have already won, because we're talking about Rush Limbaugh and his words, not the issue Sandra Fluke was trying to raise. The entire conversation has shifted and the actual issues at hand? Have vanished from the conversation with perfect effectiveness. Whatever the consequences to Limbaugh himself, he did exactly what he was supposed to do for the Republicans, and everyone has fallen for it. Again.

The entire discussion in the country has become about gendered slurs, decency, sexual activity and contraception. Despite the fact that sex never came up in Fluke's testimony, Rush's insults managed to do what needed to be done - shift the focus from what she actually talked about to sex. One thing the American media can't resist is sex. Gendered insults about sex are swift and easy; they grab attention and stoke flames. If you want to get people talking about you a lot, rather than some other person, pivoting the conversation to sex will usually do the trick (pardon the pun).

But Sandra Fluke's testimony wasn't about sex. It was about insurance. Her friend, who presumably paid a lot of money to Georgetown for health insurance (their website doesn't break out the insurance cost from "direct expenses" so I'm not sure how much it is precisely), was denied coverage for something her doctor deemed medically necessary, despite the fact that the policy is supposed to cover contraception for situations where it is needed for non-contraceptive activity. Georgetown, which is not a church but an educational institution, made a discriminatory decision to exclude birth control pills from the service it requires its students to pay for if women are using them for avoiding pregnancy. According to the testimony, despite the fact that her friend fell into this category, her claims were denied by the insurance company anyway. She had to go without the medication, because without insurance, she couldn't afford it. Don't forget that the EEOC and federal courts ruled in 2000 that refusing to cover birth control in a prescription plan violates women's civil rights and the Republicans who controlled the entire Congress and the White House didn't object at the time. There was no peep from any religious organization that I'm aware of either.  

Think about what the testimony said for a minute. This institution requires you to purchase health insurance, and then makes random decisions about excluding things from that insurance based on non-medical criteria. But you don't have any other options. There's not even a rider to purchase. You pay and then you don't actually get the health care you need anyway.

In this case, refusing to provide coverage for something deemed medically necessary ended in a way that should surprise no one - with permanent damage to this woman's health and her body.

And nobody's talking about this. Nobody's talking about the fact that the Republicans and a bunch of Democrats think this is A-OK and every employer should have the "right" to do this to all of us for any reason at all, at any time. Nobody's talking about how "religious freedom" is being used to cloak this, though at least this detour into woman-hating has exposed that entire rationale for the pile of manure it is. But even when a media figure talks about the story, they're rarely mentioning that Rush was lying about what Fluke said, much less pointing out the basic injustice she was trying to call attention to.

We are talking about the wrong thing, as usual. The right wins in the framing even when they lose on the issue, as usual.

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