It is a regular occurrence – elevating someone in death beyond what they were in life. In the case of Rush Limbaugh, who succumbed to cancer at age 70, the temptation is the opposite – to actually understate what this giant of a man meant to the movement he nurtured, grew, and sustained for more than three decades.
But in the end, many will say he was just a talk radio host, right? Wrong. After arriving as a national figure just as his hero, Ronald Reagan, was departing – and as the establishment moderate George H.W. Bush was about to take over – he quickly grew into the conscience and custodian of the conservative movement. He became – and remained for lo these many years – true north, the standard against which conservative arguments were judged for tens of millions of incredibly loyal listeners.
In fact, the conservative movement writ large might have shriveled up and died had Rush Limbaugh not been there to pick up the mantle from Ronaldus Magnus, as Rush called his hero. The Reagan revolution was complete, but ready to be deconstructed by the kinder, gentler Bush 41, who then gave way to Bill Clinton. Rush minded the store and kept the fires burning in the days leading up to the 1994 Gingrich revolution which he helped to stoke, just as William F. Buckley had done in the early days when Reagan was just a distant hope.
He defended George W. Bush throughout his candidacy and increasingly unpopular presidency. And it is even fair to argue that, were it not for Rush, Donald Trump would never have reached the Oval Office. He was the one who identified early on the unique opportunity for genuine structural reform represented by this bombastic billionaire who defied the longest of odds and made it all the way to the White House. Conversely, if Rush had sent forth the word to his twenty million-plus listeners, per so many other conservative talk show hosts at the time, that Trump was not a real conservative and should be viewed with, at best, deep suspicion, Hillary Clinton would likely have won the election on that fact alone.
That is the influence, the power, the respect this man commanded – and why he was for many years the man most reviled by the left. He was feared because, like Trump, he pulled no punches in calling them out with brutal honesty – and humor to beat the band.
From a deeply personal standpoint, shows like Liberty Nation Radio would not even exist were it not for this pioneer of conservative talk radio, the man from humble roots in Missouri who rose to genuine greatness. As host of LN Radio since 2012, allow me to admit that the presence of Rush created a consistent challenge: to not simply repeat or regurgitate what he said, because it was usually impossible to top. But of course, the alternative was to not listen to him, which was not a real alternative.
Rush singlehandedly created and dominated an industry that now stands as a staple of the conservative movement. His career was fittingly capped when he was stunningly awarded the highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by then-President Trump in his final State of the Union address, shortly after being diagnosed with end-stage cancer.
Relentless, unswerving, uncompromising – those were the very qualities in Rush which he saw in the man he championed like no other, Donald Trump. Listeners could not help but note the more forlorn tone of his show after the last election, which was no doubt a blow to his solar plexus, if not his heart. He passes on some 100 days after an outcome which he disputed to his dying day.
Many men have greatness in them; far fewer become great. Fewest of all become great and irreplaceable. No one can replace Rush Limbaugh, any more than anyone could replace William F. Buckley, Ronald Reagan, or Donald Trump. To say we shall miss him when he’s gone is more than just the usual rosy phrase spoken of the dearly departed. In the case of Rush Limbaugh, it is an understatement.
Read more from Tim Donner.