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A historian’s testament to Rush Limbaugh

It was very strange to me to hear yesterday’s sad announcement by Rush Limbaugh that he had been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. In the last six months or so my mind had actually been contemplating the fact that Limbaugh had been doing his show for more than three decades, was in his late sixties, and was not immortal. I had been trying to imagine what it would be like when he was no longer a fixture in the daily news reporting cycle, and I had been failing. I couldn’t imagine it.

Now it appears we might all be finally facing it. As they say, reality bites.

For those who have listened to him regularly these past three decades, the loss will be immeasurable. Without question Rush Limbaugh has been the best political analyst, from a conservative perspective, for the past half century. You might disagree with his opinions, but no one has been as correct and as pertinent and as thoughtful, consistently getting to the heart of every political battle, and doing it in an amazingly entertaining manner.

I first heard Rush Limbaugh back in 1988, when I lived in New York and was starving for a different and refreshing perpective on the news.

This was before the internet. Pretty much all news reporting and analysis was filtered through the three major networks (CBS, NBC, ABC), the public radio news outlet of NPR, and the cable network of CNN. All were liberal Democratic outlets, though in those days they actually did try to report news correctly, and in detail. Their problem was not that they were blatant operatives for the Democratic Party (which is what they are today) but that they were trapped in that liberal bubble. They had almost no one to talk to who could give them a different perspective, and thus all their analysis was written and reported from that liberal point of view. Even when they gave space for dissent, they could not help but portray it as a fringe view, because that was how they saw it from their daily experience.

For me, who liked to hear many points of view, I found this sameness of thought boring. I wanted more, and was having trouble finding it.

I was then very much a night owl, doing most of my writing in the afternoon and evening. As part of my slow waking-up process, I would get up about 9 am, go down to the corner newsstand, get a paper, come up and read it for an hour or so. Then I’d begin making lunch about 11 am. While I did so I would scan the talk radio dial for something to listen to.

The late 1980s was the moment when conservative talk radio was about to be born. The Reagan administration had quietly lifted the fairness doctrine so that radio and television no longer had to give time to both sides of every political argument. That rule, considering the liberal bent of all major news outlets, had essentially worked very well to stifle most conservative political analysis.

Now, however, open political discussion was finally possible on the public airways, and Rush Limbaugh’s show was the first to take advantage of this in a big way. Initially his show in New York was four hours long, with the first hour a local show for WABC-AM and the remaining three hours his national syndicated broadcast. He would open each of those four hours with a fifteen to twenty minute monologue, which in itself was refreshing as it allowed him to discuss his topic with some depth.

He was also decidedly not liberal. He looked at the news from a more conservative, traditional perspective. And he definitely did not treat the liberal Democratic point of view as the default. Instead, he questioned it, bluntly.

And finally, and most important, he was hilarious and entertaining. He was incredibly fun to listen to, whether or not you agreed with him.

It did not take long for his show to succeed, with its syndication soon spreading like wildfire. In only a few years there was not a city or town anywhere in the U.S. where you could not hear it.

It also did not take long for the liberal mainstream culture to see him as an enemy that must be taken down, by any means necessary. They tried slander. They tried boycotts. They tried threats.

Nothing worked. Since all the attacks were untrue, and his syndication was structured in such a way that no one could cancel him easily, he simply smiled, laughed the attacks off, and moved on.

Now, after more than thirty years, he may soon be leaving us. It will be a great loss. Possibly more than any other person, Rush Limbaugh changed the political and cultural landscape of the United States in the past three decades. Before him, there was only one perspective on the news. After him there were thousands. He gave this country its freedom from accepted wisdom, tightly held dogma, and a liberal mindset that has calcified our intellectual social order.

No longer were free-thinking Americans like myself condemned to listen to a chorus of liberal ideas, with no push back. Limbaugh showed that there was an audience for other perspectives, and that money could be made expressing them. The political debate would never be the same.

In the future there will be historians writing about the American political drama during these last few decades. For them to tell that story right, they will be required to include Limbaugh’s appearance on that scene, and how he changed it. To ignore his importance would be to write bad history.

In a free society, politics is never simple or one-sided. It requires debate, and disagreement, and argument. Only then can that free society reach a wise decision on what to do.

Rush Limbaugh made such debate possible again in the United States. As a nation we must never forget this.

And while he is not yet gone from us, we must face up to the fact that he is human, and soon will be. His legacy however will live on, for generations, as many others have and will continue to take up his banner and force a debate on the issues of the day. No longer will one view dominate the airways.

Rush Limbaugh has set it free.

Thank you Rush. I give you my heartfelt dittos!


Conscious Choice cover

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  • Tim Kyger

    Ditto to *you* Mr. Zimmerman! Very well done; kudos.

  • Cotour

    Several years ago, 2009, if you remember Rush was in Hawaii playing golf, and the report came across that he was rushed to the hospital and nothing more. It turned out that he was OK.

    And all I could think was: “Uh, oh, with everything sooo screwed up, and Obama for some reason on the rise in America and the world, who is going to lead in Conservative media? This is a BIG problem.”. It seriously concerned me, he was really the only strong, sane American oriented political analyst that I agreed with for the most part, 80 percent anyway. He was no doubt thee Conservative leader in media in the world. Not everyone gets him, but he was the man, then and now.

    That is really one of the only times that I became concerned about where the country was going and how we were going to get there. And my fear was based in not knowing. At the time I was in the middle of retraining myself in politics and coming to understand what in reality was underway and what America and the forces in play was really about (The initial S.O.M. realization days).

    And not that I see Rush as actually being “All knowing”, but at any time when things were going down he was like a laser beam and had the best and strongest insights and analysis. And the most important element of Rush? He was and is unafraid to be himself and tell it like it was and as he saw it, pretty much no matter what. He could be goofy and hyperbolic, could get himself in hot water, but always fair and good natured with a focus on teaching related to his observations, interpretations and analysis. (It would crack me up when he would play the little girl with the squeaky little voice asking questions :)

    And now Rush has shared that he is gravely ill with cancer and that is an earth shaking revelation, and I as well as many reading this share our best wishes in the process he must now undergo. And we all are hoping for the best results, and the best results are only possible in todays reality in America because of the power of two things, appropriately: 1. The existence of the American Constitution and 2. Capitalism! Two things that Rush fundamentally understood and communicated every day that he was behind that microphone. Well done Rush.

    Today, thankfully there are many other people in media who are Conservative and are well educated in the subject of America and its Constitution, politics and the perversion and corruption that it fosters. They are for the most part all great communicators and they all for the most part stand on Rushes shoulders. And Rush stands on the shoulders of the likes of the great Bob Grant. (Who by the way took 4 plus minutes to read one of my first pieces abut the Constitution and Capitalism on his show. Surprised the hell out of me)

    Rush, I personally wish you the best possible results in your coming treatment and I am optimistic that you will have many more years of your radio show, you are still very much needed. And hopefully someone that knows you will transmit my words and my sentiments to you. All the best to you, your wife and family. JGL

    (And I have a further coincidental connection with Rush and his show, the Rush Limbaugh Show began on August 1st, my birthday :)

  • MDN

    Bob, I share your sentiments and have entertained similar anxiety wrt the prodigious John Batchelor as well of late. These two titans have given conservatives great voice with a charming demeanor and the sound logic of reason. When their stories finally end (hopefully not imminent, but as you say no one is immortal), we will be diminished.

    But their efforts will not have been in vain. They have educated 10s of millions who will still clamor for, appreciate, and reward voices such as theirs. And in our land of capitalistic liberty where there is a demand there will be supply, and eventually new voices will rise to replace them.

    But they are going to be hard acts to follow.

  • Adam

    Gentlemen it’s inappropriate to memorialize a live man.

  • Patrick Underwood

    It’s also inappropriate to express happiness at the prospect of a man’s death, as Leftists have been doing in droves since the news broke.

  • wayne

    President Awards Rush Limbaugh Medal of Freedom
    State of the Union address 2-4-2020

  • Ian C.

    Medal of Freedom was such a nice, appropriate thing. Really a moment.

  • Jeff

    Well said, Bob. And I have to say “mega dittos” for all the well wishes for Rush.

    Medal of Freedom is well deserved.

  • DaveD

    Your title is an error. The term is ‘testimonial’ not ‘memorial’ in the present context.

  • Brendan

    We did memorials for my mom and dad before they passed. How much better it would have been had we done a celebration of their life while they were still alive and where they could have seen and enjoyed their well wishers!

    I have no problem celebrating Rush, who I’ve also listened to for 30 years. May God grant him many more years!

  • wayne

    I was called upon to write 3 obituaries last year, and while I think I did a fairly good job, nobody is going to tell your Story, like you can tell your own story.–Personally, I recommend everybody keeps a rough draft in a handy place.

    Love me some Bob Grant!

  • Cotour

    Yes, Bob Grant was both entertaining and informative, classic, what a character.

    If I can find the clip of him reading my piece I will post it here.

    In 2008 I wrote something I called “America, Your Constitution And Capitalism” in my desperate attempt to communicate to people what I saw in someone like Obama and how he was becoming popular and became president and the dangers that I saw in him and the trend. “What are these people thinking” I thought. And of course everything for me comes down to properly understanding our foundation and better educating ones self.

    I wrote and designed an expensive, glossy three fold pamphlet and had 500 printed and sent it out to many high profile and many not so high profile people and received many interesting and supportive responses.

    Bob Grant thought it relevant enough to read the piece on his show, and I almost missed the entire thing because I chose to walk my dog. The Bob Grant show was about to start and the dog wanted go for a walk and so I took her out. Coming back the radio was on and Grant had just begun the process of reading my piece and I was hearing my words come out of the radio. That was a surreal experience for me.

  • wayne

    Good stuff, ma’ man!

  • Lee enfield

    If this causes Rush to exit I would suggest Dennis Prager.
    There’s a reason why PragerU is over a billion views a year and they don’t use cat videos to do it.

  • Cotour

    Denis Prager is without doubt a man of substance and communicates his philosophies very well, but he already has his well established radio show and will probably stay there.

    If Rush were to retire then I would assume that one of his stand ins would be a better or more likely choice seeing that they are already vetted by Rush himself. Today its Mark Steyn and he is a strong performer. Maybe a Sebastion Gorka would be on that list? More new to the radio but also a strong performer and a committed American / Conservative with a very interesting back story that causes that commitment. Or maybe even a stronger candidate is Mark Levin, but he is also not in the greatest of health.

    I think we would have to just accept that there is only one Rush and that’s it, we move on. There will never be a true replacement for Rush, he stands alone on a very high peak.

  • Lee enfield

    Oh I wasn’t inferring that Prager would leave from where he is at. I was just suggesting that Rush listeners owe it to themselves to give Prager a listen for a month or so if Rush has to exit. Mark Steyn and Gorka all also fill-ins for Prager and they do a great job but I kind of grow weary of Steyn/Gorka after a week or so. There is a VERY short list of people that you can put up hearing for 3 hours every day.

  • Cotour


    I do not know how they do it, and Rush is a master.

  • Mike Marchand

    As I’ve said to my friends who dislike Rush, the man has, what? Four or five Marconi Awards?

    Those began in 1989.

    Rush’s show began in 1988.

    Talk radio as we know it didn’t exist before then.

    Rush was by no means the inventor of it, but he was unquestionably the biggest star in the radio universe. And everything we know about radio now — from good old AM all the way to internet radio and podcasts — was accelerated by Rush Limbaugh.

  • Marcia A. Mulcahy

    Gentlemen: My first job out of law school was with the Limbaugh Firm ran by Rush’s Grandfather-1987. We remodeling this old firm in early 90’s. Ten Attorneys were in the firm. It was thought by the oldest member, that we should get a new portrait made of Rush Sr. when our waiting room was finished. We all picted in. It was indeed a great portrait.
    Mr. Rush entered waiting room from elevator-immediately saw the portrait-quietly said-get it down-I’m not dead yet”.
    We were just ignorant. We bowed our heads and quickly complied.

  • Marcia A. Mulcahy: You are the second person to complain about the title of my essay. You’ve convinced me that I need to change it. Done.

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