Rush Limbaugh lost his battle with lung cancer on Feb. 17, his wife Kathryn Adams Limbaugh announced on his radio show that morning. Soon after, “Rush Limbaugh” and “Good Riddance” were trending on Twitter.
If you’ve heard of the controversial conservative radio host, it’s likely that you have a strong opinion of him, good or bad. And that opinion is probably well deserved.
Limbaugh rose to prominence in the late 1980s and early 1990s via his conservative radio show and has been the pinnacle of conservative media and the alt-right movement, commentating from the sidelines.
His broadcast of the Rush Limbaugh Show regularly garnered an audience of 15 million listeners, overwhelmingly older white men, according to an article in Forbes.
Limbaugh’s power and popularity among conservatives came from his ability to empower and persuade his audience. Dr. Aaron Dusso Ph.D., Chair of Political Science at the IUPUI School of Liberal Arts, believes Limbaugh had the ability to “teach” his audience.
“Limbaugh’s ability to teach his listeners how to think about issues so that they could understand the logic of it was empowering to them,” Dusso said.
He gave a voice to a demographic that now commonly believes they are the oppressed population, the white man.
“One could tune-in to Limbaugh’s show and be entertained, while feeling like one is gaining knowledge of current events and gaining the skills necessary to understand it,” Dusso said. “That is powerful.”
Empowering and tapping into the anger of white people has become the blueprint of the Republican party, and no one showcased it better than Limbaugh. And like ducklings waddling behind their mother, conservative media fell into line.
“The dozens of right-wing radio programs that followed his lead and even Fox News owes, at least in part, its existence to Limbaugh,” Dusso said.
Limbaugh showed that one could outwardly and proudly espouse hate speech and a sizable chunk of Americans would applaud and defend you to the very end. Dr. Chris Lamb Ph.D., professor of journalism in the department of journalism and public relations at IUPUI, would likely agree with this sentiment.
“His followers – ‘dittoheads,’ as they were called — found in Limbaugh an inspirational voice who entertained them and they cheered him in return,” Lamb said.
Twice-impeached former President Donald Trump also owes his success, in part, to Limbaugh.
“To his critics, he was a bigot, a misogynist, and a callous SOB who taunted blacks and feminists and danced on the graves of gays dying of AIDS,” Lamb said.
And this glass slipper of hatred seems to also fit Princess Trump, and was a key to Trump’s road to kinghood.
In a world without Limbaugh, perhaps there wouldn’t be a Sean Hannity, a Tucker Carlson, an Alex Jones, or a President Trump. And perhaps a better world.
Hours after Limbaugh’s death was announced, and twitter champagne bottles began to pop off, conservatives, and even some liberals, bit back at the celebration. Articles in the Atlantic and USA Today argued that liberals should be better than Limbaugh and avoid the gleeful grave dancing.
These cries reek of nostalgia for civility in politics, civility of which Limbaugh championed the degradation.
How can you ask a gay person to be civil to a man who had a segment on his show called the “AIDS Update” where he would read off the names of gay people who had died of AIDS and mock them?
How can you ask a black person to be civil to a man who once said “I think it’s time to get rid of this whole National Basketball Association. Call it the TBA, the Thug Basketball Association, and stop calling them teams. Call ’em gangs.”
How can you ask a woman to be civil to a man who once said, “I love women. I don’t know where all this got started. I love the women’s movement, especially when walking behind it.”
Civility was not a tool Limbaugh used. Fighting fire with fire only burns down the world, but the world is already in ashes, so fire away.
I can only imagine the field day Limbaugh would have today with the Potato Head story. I can hear his crass and condescending voice aggressively arguing gender is under attack because his favorite vegetable toy has been castrated, and I take a sigh of relief that his broadcasting days are over.