I’ve always been a procrastinator, but this is different. I’ve been trying to find the words for several days, with little success. Just because you know something is happening in advance doesn’t mean it’s any easier when it actually happens. Such is the case with my man Rush Limbaugh, whose talent on loan from God was called on Ash Wednesday.
The Doctor of Democracy, our Maha Rushie, had been diagnosed with lung cancer a year ago, but continued with his radio show, albeit with frequent days off (I assume for treatment, appointments, etc). Then in October he made the devastating announcement that the treatments weren’t working. Around Christmastime he stated that doctors hadn’t expected him to be alive to see the holiday season so he was thankful for “extra innings”. His last radio broadcast came on February 2, and just over two weeks later he was gone.
I was introduced to Rush Limbaugh by my friend Greg in 1991, just in time for the 1992 election season. His books The Way Things Ought to Be (1992) and See, I Told You So (1993) were eye openers. I’ve seen Rush called many things this past week, but to my surprise I haven’t seen anyone refer to him the way I would…as a teacher. Everyone always likes to ask “Who was your favorite teacher??” or “Name a teacher who changed your life”, and of course most have atleast one from high school or college they hold in high regard, but my favorite teacher of all time just might be Rush Limbaugh. Certainly I learned more from him than what I rote memorized in high school, and I barely remember anything I heard in a college classroom (the social aspect of those years were much more meaningful to me, and I don’t feel bad about that).
Rush taught me about self-reliance. Rugged individualism. American exceptionalism. The brilliance of our Founding Fathers. He helped me understand media bias, and was a trailblazer in railing against political correctness. I learned more about economics from Rush Limbaugh than all the college professors I had combined. He had…unique…perspectives on race relations, feminism, environmentalism, and any other hot button issue one can imagine. His opinions angered a whole lot of people, but in my opinion he was usually spot on in his assessment. He had an uncanny ability to see thru the…ummm…poppycock…and tell us what was really going on. Hint: most of the time things aren’t what they seem…politicians lie, “journalists” lie, and all those celebrities who like to show off their alleged intellect usually have no idea what they’re talking about. That’s why so many of those kinds of people hated him…he understood their dishonesty, ignorance, & hypocrisy and wasn’t afraid to call them on it.
One of my father’s Dadisms has always been “I love you & will do anything I can to help you, but I will NOT defend you when you are wrong”. It is not my intention to put Rush Limbaugh on a pedestal. He had failures & made mistakes. He was married four times. He had a much publicized addiction to pain killers. He pushed the envelope on the radio and in doing so stepped over the line more than once. Sadly those shortcomings were constantly seized upon by those who disagreed with his sociopolitical opinions, and he was portrayed by some as an evil minion of Satan.
The odd thing is, those that know him best have always painted a far different picture. They will tell you that off the air he was shy, respectful, and quite generous. I never met Rush in person, but in listening to him I wasn’t offended or felt like he was all that shocking. Over the years I have found that many people who “hate” him never actually listened to his show. At best they may have heard a sound byte that left a bad impression, but if one is being intellectually honest we all know that the media often manipulates such things to further their chosen narrative. Rush Limbaugh became The Boogeyman who represented everything leftists despise about conservatism, and he willingly took the bullet. He always said that to really understand him you had to listen to the show consistently for a few weeks, and I found that to be true. He used humor like a surgeon wields a scalpel, and oftentimes intentionally tweaked the media just to get a reaction (and they rarely failed to live down to expectations).
Over the years I would occasionally play a game with myself. I’d hear a story, form an opinion, then try to think about it thru the prism of what Rush might say about it. Inevitably, once I was able to catch up with his show (made so much easier thru modern technology) I would realize that I had been on the right track with my thoughts, although he had an uncanny ability to point out things that I’d missed. The point though, is that thru the course of three decades I learned so much that I wouldn’t have if I’d never become a Dittohead. I suppose some will assume that makes me a misogynistic bigot, but when those accusations start flying I know immediately that I’m dealing with an uninformed ignoramus who never actually listened to the man I enjoyed & admired. I am in regular contact with people who spew obtuse MSNBC & CNN talking points almost daily, so I know the type. Thru trial & error and a lot of missteps along the way I’ve learned to accept those folks and appreciate their more positive contributions.
Sadly there are a fair number of people out there whose unhappiness & anger are too much to overlook. Such was the case in the immediate aftermath of Rush’s departure from this mortal coil. The comments on social media, while completely predictable, were no less infuriating. There have been liberals who passed (Supreme Court Justice RBG for example) and I never felt compelled to post something like “Thank God for cancer” or “Rest in Piss”, and that’s thanks to parents who raised me better. I guess everyone isn’t as fortunate as me. Isn’t it funny that “fact” checkers & community standards (whatever that is 🤷🏻♂️) are nowhere to be found in that scenario??
I listened to & read a lot of coverage of Rush’s death for a couple of days, with much of it being unsurprisingly disrespectful. However, one viewpoint in particular stood out. My apologies for not being able to give that person proper credit because I cannot remember who said it, but someone opined that Rush Limbaugh “made a huge difference”. One of the things he used to say when he was still the only game in town on conservative talk radio and The Internet was in its infancy is “I AM equal time”. I believe it was in response to certain entities calling for the return of The Fairness Doctrine (you might want to study it a bit…there will soon be a renewed push to revive it). Mr. Limbaugh was very clear in his opinion that the media, entertainment, public education, and other powerful parts of our daily lives have long been controlled by The Left and the populace indoctrinated without us even realizing it was happening. That indoctrination has only gotten more bold & pervasive, but many of us are no longer ignorant of it and occasionally even fight back. Rush Limbaugh deserves nearly all the credit for that. He almost singlehandedly saved talk radio, and in the process awakened millions of people to malevolent machinations that had been occurring for decades. Without Rush there is no Bush Dynasty, Fox News, Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America, or Donald Trump. I shudder to think what Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, & a likely Hillary Clinton Administration would have done to our country if Rush hadn’t been around to hold their feet to the fire. Certainly our Supreme Court would look far different and be way more radical. The next wave of conservative pundits wouldn’t be enjoying the level of success they’ve achieved without Rush as a forefather. Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Candace Owens, Ben Shapiro, Steven Crowder, Tomi Lahren…they all owe him a significant debt of gratitude, and I think they know that. I’ll even go so far as to ponder what the 2020 Election might have looked like if Rush had been at full strength this past year, although I don’t think even he could’ve stopped the theft that occurred (that’s a rabbit hole I won’t dive into right now).
“He made a huge difference”. I don’t think I’m venturing too far out on a limb when I say that most of us would love to have that said about our life. I’ve had way too much time to think about my own legacy this past year, and without going too far astray I’ll just say that I don’t think I’ve made much of a difference to anyone or anything. When I am gone it will be as if I was never here. Rush Limbaugh?? Well, he is deeply missed already, but thankfully he spent thirty years changing the world three hours at a time.
What’s next?? I have no idea. No one can replace El Rushbo, America’s Truth Detector. I saw someone compare him to Johnny Carson, and that seems like an appropriate analogy. A bunch of late night hosts have come & gone since Carson left the stage, and while most have adequately entertained us none have equaled The King of Late Night. Such will be the case with conservative talk radio & punditry. There will be shows. Someone (probably multiple people) will even sit behind the golden EIB microphone for the foreseeable future, but there will never be another Rush Limbaugh…a teacher/entertainer/communicator who expertly balanced humor, wisdom, righteous indignation, mischievous rabblerousing, connecting with an audience, & accessible analysis of complex issues. And he made it look easy.