The genius of Rush Limbaugh: Redefined outmoded radio, defied convention

by WorldTribune Staff, February 14, 2020

Radio host Rush Limbaugh’s “army of one” inspired millions of Americans who’d long been ignored, and he changed the political landscape, historian and columnist Victor Davis Hanson noted.

“Genius is often defined in myriad ways. One trusted criterion is the ability to do something extraordinary in a field where others could not — and doing something that perhaps will never be done again by anyone else,” Hanson wrote for National Review on Feb. 11.

Rush Limbaugh was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by first lady Melania Trump at the State of the Union address.

“By that measure, Rush Limbaugh certainly is the genius of talk radio, a genre in which he not merely excelled but that he also singlehandedly reinvented as something entirely different — and entirely more powerful and instrumental in American life — from what was imaginable pre-Limbaugh.”

Limbaugh revealed on Feb. 3 that he is undergoing treatment for advanced lung cancer. On Feb. 4, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, during President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address.

The ascendance of Limbaugh on the airwaves “coincided with the presumed nadir of radio itself,” Hanson noted. “It was supposedly a has-been, one-dimensional medium, long overshadowed by television. Even in the late 1980s, radio was about to be sentenced as obsolete in the ascendant cyber age of what would become Internet blogs, podcasts, streaming, and smartphone television.”

Still, Limbaugh “has prospered through two generations and picked up millions of listeners who were not born when he first went national and who had no idea of why or how he had become a national presence,” Hanson wrote.

“He certainly did not capture new listeners by adjusting to the times. While tastes changed and the issues often metamorphosed, he did not. He remained conservative, commonsensical, and skeptical of Washington and those in it, as if he knew all the predictable thousand faces of the timeless progressive project, whose various manifestations reappear to mask a single ancient and predictable essence: the desire of a self-appointed group of elites to expand government in order to regiment the lives of ordinary people, allegedly to achieve greater mandated equality and social justice but more often to satisfy their own narcissistic will to power,” Hanson wrote.

“It was Limbaugh who most prominently warned that lax immigration enforcement would soon lead to open calls for open borders, that worry about ‘global warming’ would transform into calls to ban the internal combustion engine, and that the logical end of federal takeover of health care would be Medicare for All.”

Hanson continued: “The Left — and many too who would later become the Never Trump Right — thought that Limbaugh’s worst moment finally came after Obama’s 2008 victory, during the post-election euphoria and just days before the January 2009 inauguration. It was a heady time, when the media would go on to declare soon-to-be Nobel laureate President Obama as, variously, a living ‘god’ and ‘the smartest guy’ ever to assume the presidency. His supporters often compared him to iconic wartime presidents such as FDR and Lincoln. Americans had been lectured on Obama’s divinity even as a candidate, and the evidence had ranged from the mundane of Platonically perfect creases in his trousers, to the telepathic ability to prompt spontaneous electrical impulses in the legs of cable television anchors.”

In answer to Obama’s promise to fundamentally “transform America,” Hanson noted that Limbaugh “flat-out said he hoped that the new president would not succeed: ‘I hope Obama fails.’ Outrage followed. Was Limbaugh rooting for the failure of America itself? In fact, he was worrying about how America might survive the first unabashedly progressive president in over 60 years, now empowered by an obsequious media, a House majority, a veto-proof Senate, and Supreme Court picks on the near horizon.”

Limbaugh “was the first voice to warn that what would soon follow the election was not the agenda that Obama sometimes disingenuously voiced on the campaign trail — Obama’s ruse of occasionally sounding concerned about illegal immigration, gay marriage, the spiraling debt, a rapid pullout from Iraq, and identity politics — but rather a move to the progressive hard-left,” Hanson wrote.

“What would ensue instead lined up with Obama’s senatorial voting record, his prior associations with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, and Father Pfleger, and his occasional slips on the campaign trail: ‘I want you to argue with them and get in their face,’ ‘If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,’ and (in the pre-Netflix, pre–Martha Vineyard estate days), ‘I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.’ Once elected, Obama was unbound. He lectured the nation about the wages of the West’s sin: the Crusades, America’s prior role in the world, and its own domestic woes. He instructed Americans on when it was the time to profit and when it was not, the point at which people should concede they had made enough money. And he listed the various reasons that he could not, as some anti-constitutional ‘king,’ grant unconstitutional amnesties by fiat — before he went on to do just that.”

That’s what Limbaugh was onto in 2008.

Limbaugh was “the Midwestern college drop-out who had bounced around among jobs before he found his natural place,” Hanson noted. “Through that experience, he posed an ancient Euripidean question, ‘What is wisdom?’ The answer was found in many of his targets: academics, editorialists, celebrities, journalists, government functionaries, and politicos whose bromides Limbaugh made ridiculous, and he instructed millions on how and why their ideas made no sense in a real world beyond their enclaves. Rush was hated by the Left supposedly for his politically incorrect -isms and -ologies; in truth, it was because he so often made them look ridiculous.”

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