The news is spreading that Rush Limbaugh has died this morning. He had stage four lung cancer and this was not unexpected. He will be greatly missed.
I was a conservative even before I could vote. My first vote for President was for Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan was an inspiration, a truly great president, but even at the time, if you had conservative leanings, you sort of knew that you were outside the mainstream of thought as it existed in those years. Of course conservativism was the conservatism of Buckley and Will, serios criticism of the progressive programs and trying to resist them. As the 1980’s drew to a close, I read a Reader’s Digest article about a radio host that was conservative and supposedly very good at poking the libs where it hurt. In those all too serious times, a little humor was desperately needed and so I tuned the radio to 770 WABC in New York.
What I got was eye opening. I had never been a radio listener and hadn’t known that talk radio existed. That changed quickly. I started with Rush at noon, then there was Bob Grant, insulting Mario Cuomo. There was even Ed Koch and Curtis Sliwa as well as a rather humorless Joy Behar. Above all, there was Rush. Rush never held back the craziness on his show and never hesitated to poke liberal sensibilities where it hurt them. The term feminazi was a point. He saw the screaming harpies of the then feminist movement for what they were and rather than some high toned criticism, made a montage of the screaming, tied it to some music and made their screaches an update theme for the next nonsense idea segment. The feminists HATED him for that. There were a bunch of those update themes all poking some thing that the progressives took very seriously right in the eye.
The rest of the program was like that. This was something completely unlike the Buckley-Will conservativism and its high tones and snobbish behavior. This was conservatism for the rest of us. It was also distributed all over the country. The secret to Rush’s success was that he wasn’t tied to one market. Through satellite broadcasting, he could be in all the markets and thus everywhere. Being able to do that, he could reach places and compete directly with the progressives in places that they had previously had monopolies on the ideas. No other radio host had that kind of reach before Rush came along.
Rush was aided by the fact that AM radio was in trouble when he started. AM radio had been driven out of music radio because FM stations had better clarity. So the stations that had been top 40 needed another format and Talk was perfect as talk doesn’t require the precision that music require. Rush took full advantage of that.
I hadn’t listened to talk radio for some time for various reason, mostly because my couldn’t pick it up and I didn’t feel like listening. So for the last few years, I haven’t listened to Rush. Frankly, the greater size of the program and sophistication made things a bit boring the last few years that I did listen. Still he will be missed and as the last year has shown us, the dark never sleeps. We will miss you, Rush.
Update: Mark Steyn’s commentary.
Update, Rush’s adversaries are as classless as always.
Update: A column from David Limbaugh.