Limbaugh's Show Prefaced the Trump Presidency

Whether that's good or bad depends on your political stripes
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 18, 2021 8:56 AM CST
Without Limbaugh, There May Have Been No Trump
Rush Limbaugh in 2001. He died this week of complications from lung cancer.   (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

The death of Rush Limbaugh has prompted a deluge of assessments about his impact on American politics and culture. Not surprisingly, the split between left and right is more pronounced than usual. Some examples:

  • At Vox, Zack Beauchamp thinks obituaries calling him a "conservative provocateur" are sugar-coating things because Limbaugh's "stock in trade was bigotry and offense." (He ticks off lots of examples.) Limbaugh, he adds, had more sway over the American right than most political leaders, and "it is not a stretch to say that Trump’s presidency may not have happened without him." Limbaugh's mix of politics, insults, conspiracies, entertainment, and anger served pretty much as a template for Trump. Limbaugh may be dead, but "his brand of poisonous politics will not be laid to rest with him."

  • Limbaugh is the greatest of all time in political talk radio, writes Joe Concha at the Hill. He proved there was a "huge appetite" for conservative views in America, perhaps even paving the way for Fox News itself. He did three hours a day, largely on his own, thanks to exhaustive prepping. "More importantly, he made you look at the same story everyone else was discussing from an angle you hadn't considered," writes Concha. "That made The Rush Limbaugh Show appointment listening, the kind that made you sit in a parking lot long after reaching your destination to hear Rush finish his point."
  • For the polar opposite view of the above point, see Jonathan Chait at New York. Limbaugh "could blather for hours without going from a premise to a conclusion," writes Chait. "His only tools for processing opposing points of view were assertion, mockery, and resentment." The host's "racism was obsessive, not incidental," adds Chait, recalling a "telling" moment two decades ago when Limbaugh lost his job as an ESPN analyst for asserting that star QB Donovan McNab was getting so much praise mostly because he was Black. Chait finds it odd that the praise of Limbaugh seems unanimous on the right, given the current intra-party split over Donald Trump, because "the line from Limbaugh to Trump is about an inch long."
  • "For millions of decent people, Rush Limbaugh was their political lifeline," writes Michael Brendan Dougherty at the National Review. His "program, beamed into cars sitting in traffic across the nation, was a beacon telling millions of people, 'You are not alone.'" Dougherty personally wasn't a big fan of Limbaugh's through the years, though he found the criticism of Limbaugh on the left to be over the top. "I haven’t met anyone who didn’t say dumber or meaner things than normal when filling up the demanding content maw of broadcast media for hours a week." For those on the right, the best assessment of Limbaugh might be "to realize that conservatism has been late to develop a voice that cuts in somewhere between its aloof intellectuals and aggro broadcasters," writes Dougherty. "Conservatism is still searching for a middlebrow voice."
(More Rush Limbaugh stories.)

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