The death of conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh this month has prompted exactly what he inspired in his life: praise and plaudits from conservatives; hate and rancor from liberals. Some of the comments from the left were so utterly tasteless and beyond the pale that it is hard to believe people with so large an ax to grind won’t simply stay silent instead of putting their ignorance and ignominy on public display.
Even in death, Rush continued to cause liberals to hyperventilate.
Take Hollywood liberal Bette Midler (please). Here’s her cogent comment on Rush’s death: “#Rush Limbaugh has gone to his reward. Bet it’s hot.”
Or how about this from “senior” Huffington Post reporter Christopher Mathias who sounds more like a junior high school student: “Rush Limbaugh was a bigot and a misogynist who saturated America’s airwaves with cruel lies and conspiracy theories for decades, transforming the GOP in the process.”
There are more, dozens more, as, even in death, Rush continued to cause liberals to hyperventilate. MSNBC anchor Joy Reid had the unbridled rudeness to suggest that Limbaugh employed black producer Bo Snerdly as a “sidekick” in order to peddle racist stereotypes on his show. The remark not only demonstrated a supreme gap in logic; it illustrated the intense antipathy felt by liberals for conservatives—even when they die from cancer.
It is a phenomenon that multiple conservative broadcasters have described. As Fox News host Mark Levin noted, “If you read The New York Times, The Washington Post and listen to all the hate-media, they never engaged Rush.” Levin continued, “They never debated Rush. They never understood Rush. They didn’t want to understand Rush. They tried to destroy him. They’re trying to do it today. Those people do not matter to us. Those people are in their own sick little bubble and sick little world. They do that to all of our greats, whether it’s Reagan or Rush or Trump or whomever it is.”
These are not reasoned voices of political opposition. Instead, they are emblematic of an evil desire to celebrate the death of a political opponent—something demonstrated by the current leftist agenda to bury Republicans and Trump supporters in a compost heap of lies and defamation. And regardless of the ill will, there was so much to both emphasize and celebrate in Rush Limbaugh’s career.
RIP to a legend and a patriot, Rush Limbaugh. Not many people can say they revolutionized and stayed at the top of an industry the way he did. My condolences to his family.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) February 17, 2021
Rush was unapologetic about his conservatism. It was touching (as much as it was reassuring) the way Limbaugh revealed his evangelical faith to long-time fans last November, as conservatives reeled from a devastating election loss that threatened to undo so much of Trump’s populist program. Commenting on that electoral defeat, as well as his own fight with cancer, he told Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt that “there’s good in everything that happens.”
“Yeah, yeah. I actually believe that. You mentioned God: God is a profound factor; Jesus Christ a profound factor. I have a personal relationship. I’ve not talked about it much publicly because I don’t proselytize these things,” he said. “I’m just trying to give thanks every day for all of the blessings,” Limbaugh continued. “I have had a blessed life. I have had so many great friends… and still do… there’s nothing negative for me. There’s nothing I have deep regrets about because I’ve been so blessed.”
Rush Limbaugh’s death should not just induce conservatives to cherish his memory and assess his impact on American political culture; it must also force us to recognize the ongoing need for conservative talk radio and conservative media in general. As the mainstream media and Big Tech continue to demonize and silence Republicans and supporters of former President Donald Trump, labeling them dangerous and disloyal insurrectionists, the need for conservative media is all the more urgent. The medium that Limbaugh mastered is one that must continue to nurture the conservative spirit, and provoke debate on those issues that liberals increasingly believe are settled and beyond dispute.
RALLYING REPUBLICANS WHEN THEY NEEDED IT MOST
As a conservative commentator, Limbaugh was unquestionably one of the most successful and effective spokesmen for a movement that clung to his every word.
“His honor, courage, strength, and loyalty will never be replaced. Rush was a patriot, a defender of Liberty, and someone who believed in all of the greatness our Country stands for. Rush was a friend to myself and millions of Americans—a guiding light with the ability to see the truth and paint vivid pictures over the airwaves. Melania and I express our deepest condolences to his wonderful wife, Kathryn, his family, and all of his dedicated fans. He will be missed greatly.”
Former President Trump wasn’t the only one to recognize Limbaugh’s importance to American conservatives. “Now that I’ve retired from active politics. I don’t mind that you have become the Number One voice for conservatism in our Country,” Former President Ronald Reagan wrote after the 1992 election, as remembered by the Washington Post. “I know the liberals call you the most dangerous man in America, but don’t worry about it, they used to say the same thing about me. Keep up the good work. America needs to hear ‘the way things ought to be.'” Reagan added, invoking the title of one of Limbaugh’s books.
“Limbaugh was never more effective than when he was rallying conservatives during times of crisis…”
The nationally syndicated Rush Limbaugh Show premiered in 1988, during a time of strong conservative conviction and Republican hegemony. President Ronald Reagan was wrapping up his eighth year in the Oval Office, and his vice president, George H.W. Bush, was poised to win the November election against Michael Dukakis (who was pilloried by the media as a weak and dangerous liberal who allowed convicted killers out of prison on day parole so they could murder again).
But Limbaugh was never more effective than when he was rallying conservatives during times of crisis—when Democratic political fortunes were on the rise. The first Bush presidency did not inspire the Republican base, and our 41st President failed to win a second term (a consequence not only of the political success of Bill Clinton, but also of Texas billionaire Ross Perot, who arguably split the right-of-center vote in 1992 and 1996). It was during those years that Limbaugh’s value to conservative politics became clear as he took to the airwaves to encourage conservatives to fight back. Tellingly, the Senior Bush was so anxious to get Limbaugh’s endorsement that he invited the radio host to the White House in the summer of 1992.
No doubt his inspiring radio presence, one that continued to grow and capture a larger and larger audience, was a prime reason for the success of the “Contract with America” 1994 Midterm Elections, when Republicans’ promise to reduce the size of government, cut taxes and unleash the entrepreneurial spirit in America led to a sweep. Limbaugh’s voice certainly contributed to the GOP’s capture of the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as 12 governorships and regaining control in 20 state legislatures.
At least former House Speaker Newt Gingrich thought so.
“Without Rush, I doubt if we would have won control of the House in 1994, because he clarified the issues,” Gingrich told Fox News’ The Story. “He gave our candidates arguments to run on. He created a huge number of people—his impact was more than the 20 million listeners a week, it was all of the people they would go talk to. My guess is that the ripple effect of Rush was 80-90 million people every single week because people would go out and say, ‘Did you hear what Rush said today?’”
It was that ability to inspire action that made Limbaugh even more of a lynchpin to the conservative movement during the years of President Barack Obama, a time when the liberal ascendancy seemed to have become a fact of life in the Washington swamp. He rightly saw the danger posed by Obama, and even going as far as to urge Republicans to join the Democratic Party in order to support Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primaries, a gimmick he dubbed that “Operation Chaos.”
He always left you wanting to hear more because he was as inspiring as he was funny.
During the Obama administration, he was vital in keeping the focus on Obama’s supreme reluctance to recognize Islamic extremism as a profound danger. “This man considers a domestic political party, the Republicans, a greater threat to him and to America than he considers terrorism,” Limbaugh said on November 19th, 2015, (a sentiment that proved eerily prescient given the Democratic Party’s new war on Republicans). “I don’t care if it’s Al-Qaeda or ISIS, the man [President Obama] really comes alive. As I said, he doesn’t need a teleprompter; he doesn’t need cue cards; he doesn’t need to rehearse. When it comes time to bash Republicans and blame Republicans, it’s right there in his heart. It’s at the forefront of his mind.”
Limbaugh also kept the focus on Obama’s Affordable Care Act, saying on June 13th, 2013, that “there’s nothing affordable about the Affordable Care Act. It’s gonna cost $20,000 for your average family of four. And for people making $30,000 a year, affordable is now 10% of what they earn… Man, it just isn’t fair, is it? It’s so bad, members of Congress are quitting because they can’t afford it on what they earn, which is six figures.”
During those years, Rush could sustain a monologue for hours without ever having to resort to telephone calls or guests. He was truly astounding, just talking about the salient issues of the day and telling his listeners that America was still worth believing in and fighting for. I vividly remember listening to him in the Obama days before satellite radio on long road trips, when you had to keep moving the radio dial to tune into another station as the signal faded from the one you were listening to. He always left you wanting to hear more because he was as inspiring as he was funny.
Like Donald Trump, Limbaugh was fond of devising nicknames for all the major political players. He always referred to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) as “Dingy Harry.” (He told a listener that he couldn’t remember what event or statement from Reid triggered the reference, but that he didn’t want to steal the name “Dirty Harry” from the Clint Eastwood movies.)
Then there were the parody songs that he used to poke fun at liberal—and sometimes, when they deserved it, conservative—politicians. Working with satirist Paul Shankin, Limbaugh spoofed Obama with “Every Cent You Make (I’ll Be Taxing You)”—that just about everyone would have recognized as The Police’s “Every Breath You Take.” He even went after the late Sen. John McCain and his bombastic foreign policy with “Bomb Iran,” which could be sung to the tune of the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann.”
It wasn’t as if Limbaugh thought he could jettison the talk radio career and make a living as a standup comedian. But his willingness to be light-hearted about the heavy issue of politics added a vital ingredient to conservative voices that were dominated by people like George Will, who may have mastered the art of sarcasm, but rarely brings a smile to one’s face, especially as he raged against Donald Trump for the past four years.
“THE BRIDGE FROM REAGAN”
If there is a triumvirate of 20th-century conservatives, whose influence continued to define the political composition in the 21st, Limbaugh would be there, along with Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley, Jr. (two other conservatives who always remained positive and consistently infused their political opinions with humor). It was a connection that Newt Gingrich saw clearly: “He created much of modern conservatism and was really the bridge from Reagan to where we are today,” he said.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who was inspired by Limbaugh to do talk radio in Indiana, recently wrote:
“The debt that conservative Americans owe to Rush Limbaugh can only be repaid by relentless imitation of his example. Every day, his optimism, his humor and his insights gave courage to conservatives to stand up for what we believe in; to stand firm for a strong national defense, limited government, life and liberty. Now it’s our turn. For all of us who came after him, who were inspired by his love for this country and the American people, our debt to him is to fight on.”
So, where are we without Rush in 2021? A dangerous place.
These are dark days, far worse than those we endured during Clinton or Obama. It’s not just conservatism under direct attack today; the left is attempting to destroy the very right to free speech. Cancel culture is so prevalent and pervasive that literally no American historical figure is safe from having his name removed from a school, and anyone daring to buck the left-wing agenda is no safer. (Something Trump impeachment defense attorney Michael van der Veen discovered when he returned to his Philadelphia home to find the word “traitor” spray-painted on his driveway.)
These are dire times for America-First Republicans.
President Joe Biden is at best a wild card, one who, despite his centrist past, is all-too compliant with the Democratic socialism that is eroding his party and will just as surely erode America. Although Donald Trump remains a popular figure for conservatives who saw in him a man, like Limbaugh, who refused to speak in political talking points, he remains a man encircled by feverish enemies who want to not only destroy his political legacy, but his life itself.
There was a famous political ad used in Ronald Reagan’s 1984 reelection campaign that encapsulated the Gipper’s political success, a return to “Morning in America.” Under President Biden, the opposite feels true: it feels more like Midnight in America. These are dire times for America-First Republicans.
But this is no time for retreat. Conservatives must continue to reach all of those Americans who treasure talk radio as a shining exhibition of free speech. They must continue to support other forms of conservative media, from cable news to internet magazines like Human Events. Limbaugh could not have left us at a worse time, but we need to remember his example, continue to build upon his success, and cultivate his audience.
Rush repeatedly showed us to never give up on hope or the American determination to live in freedom. Let’s never forget that lesson, even as we remember Limbaugh as a truly transformative force in American political life.