LIMBAUGH, HEALTH CARE, AND ‘REPARATIONS’…. Once in a while, the dog-whistle messages from the far-right are enough to make one’s ears bleed. Take Rush Limbaugh, for example, one of the most powerful and influential figures in modern Republican politics.

On his radio show yesterday, the right-wing host condemned health care reform as “a civil rights bill” and “reparations.” Seriously.

Limbaugh has spent plenty of time talking about President Obama and “reparations,” and has also had plenty to say about health care reform, but as far as I can tell, yesterday was one of those rare instances in which the host combined the two.

I’m going to go on a limb here and describe this as about the most racist thing a major American media personality has said in quite a while. This is about Limbaugh trying — with no subtlety at all — to stir up racial fears and anxiety in the hopes of blocking improvements to a dysfunctional health care system, which has repeatedly screwed over a fair amount of Limbaugh’s audience.

The racism isn’t even restrained. Limbaugh has trashed progressive efforts to improve America’s health care system for years, but notice he didn’t start talking about “reparations” and comparing reform to a “civil rights bill” until the President of the United States was African American. The nauseating message is about as subtle as a sledgehammer.

Ezra added, “It’s one of the odder elements of American politics that Democrats have routinely denounced ACORN and but Republicans feel no compunction to run from this hatemonger.”

Quite right. Dems keep fringe liberals at arm’s length, but Republicans can’t wait to associate themselves with a racist, drug-addled radio personality, who seems to have more influence in GOP politics than anyone. Indeed, when a Republican dares to disagree with Limbaugh in public, he/she invariably reverses course and begs Rush for forgiveness.

Now, I know how easy it is to say, “Democrats should make hay of this.” The DNC can’t chase after ever bouncing ball, and turn every stupid thing said on a radio show into a national controversy.

But it would be encouraging to see something come of this. Ideally, Republican leaders would be asked a simple question: “Rush Limbaugh sees the health care debate in racial terms, and considers the president’s plan ‘reparations.’ Do you agree?”

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.