Though widely anticipated, the death of Rush Limbaugh after a long battle with cancer is a major blow to conservatives. His witty, often acerbic commentary had been a daily anchor to reality for many Americans, tired of the mainstream media’s lies, bias and prevarications. But with his death, Limbaugh leaves a hole in the conservative movement that is impossible to fill.
The center-right media firmament has many bright stars. Unfortunately, none shine as brightly as Rush did. As the numerous accounts of his death and life point out, he was the most listened to radio show host in history.
He was a master of the medium, and used his three-hour daily radio platform both wisely and well. With 20 million listeners at his peak, Limbaugh singlehandedly turned more liberals and moderates into conservatives than perhaps anyone outside of Ronald Reagan. He was a cultural phenomenon.
That gave him unprecedented political clout for a radio personality. Frankly, we’re not sure who picks up the torch from here. Dennis Prager? Ben Shapiro? Mark Levin? Laura Ingraham? Dan Bongino? Sean Hannity? Andrew Klavan? John Batchelor? Michael Knowles? There are many possible candidates, each excellent and brilliant in his or her own way.
But none is likely to ever match Limbaugh’s raw muscle, reach and influence.
National Review’s description of Limbaugh’s media legacy is on target: “His lashing critiques of the Left, comic riffs, and combative ebullience spawned many imitators, but none of them came close to being his equal.”
Unfortunately, it might be that no one can really replace Limbaugh, whose excellence and ability to make sense of confusing news events on the fly had no peer. People who knew that something didn’t jibe with common sense but couldn’t quite articulate why found a home on Rush’s show. He verbally picked apart the affairs of the day with a lapidarian precision and humor.
It’s no accident that the modern rebirth of conservatism during the Reagan years more or less coincided with the rise of Limbaugh, who, with the media’s omnipresent left-wing filter removed, taught people that being a conservative is about understanding what’s going on every day.
He gave those tired of the press’ relentless bias a place to go, and regularly showed that conservatives were not crude, Bible-thumping, un-nuanced reactionaries. Or, as the media call them today, “domestic terrorists.”
Limbaugh was, in a sense, both the glue that kept the movement together in recent decades and a big reason for its growth. Politicians aplenty, right and left, learned quickly that to run afoul of Limbaugh’s well-articulated views was to court political disaster. His audience doesn’t forget.
Limbaugh’s end after his heroic battle with cancer will be tough for the conservative movement, especially if the radio king’s loyal and widespread audience lose interest, scatter or drift away, avoiding the coming political battles altogether. That would be a shame.
It may be a cliche, but it’s nonetheless true: America is today at a crossroads, and those of us who dearly love this country, as Rush did, will find themselves sorely tested by the trials and battles to come. He was more than just a voice on the radio.
Oh, how he’ll be missed.
So, RIP, Rush Limbaugh. You did yeoman’s duty in keeping the conservative fire burning. As for the rest of us, perhaps our best tribute of all to Limbaugh would be to make sure that flame never goes out.
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board