August 1988 saw a phenomenal event occur on the political stage within this country. It would be a month which saw conventional wisdom turned upside down with regard to politics in our nation. Love him or hate him, you have to agree Rush Limbaugh was a force to be reckoned with and one who certainly made his mark on the political landscape, right up to his death on Wednesday, February 17.
Many of his most stalwart fans believed deep in their hearts he would beat the battle with the disease that has taken so many of our friends and neighbors during my lifetime. It just wasn’t to be, no matter how he tried and how fervently the millions of his fans prayed for him.
Born on January 12, 1951, in Cape Girardeau, MO, Limbaugh was a member of a family that saw service to their country and their communities as important. Limbaugh showed little interest in college, leaving after only two years. The only interest he did show in his early years was in radio, but constant disagreements with management over what could or could not be said at several stations would prove his downfall.
He eventually would go to work full time with the Kansas City Royals in St. Louis for a number of years until returning to radio in Kansas City and then moving on to Sacramento, CA. Many feel that it may have been the decision by the FCC to repeal the “Fairness Doctrine,” which had required stations to provide equal airtime to respond to editorial content, that gave Limbaugh’s career a big boost.
Limbaugh was now able to express himself freely and there would be no looking back. The Limbaugh phenomenon then moved to WABC AM in New York. The growth in his popularity eventually saw him broadcasting on both the AM and FM radio frequencies, as well as launching a TV program for national daytime consumption. By 2019, nearly half of the Limbaugh affiliates would be on the FM dial.
During his busy schedule on radio and television, Limbaugh also found time to pen several books and delve into other enterprises, including launching a line of popular men’s ties.
Although some very well-known entertainers and liberal voices from the “left” attempted to provide a voice to compete with the soaring success of Limbaugh, none could duplicate the success which was part of the Limbaugh phenomenon.
To say that Limbaugh was a man without faults would be a lie, and he would be first to admit that. This alone would be a big part of what made him successful and what would infuriate his detractors. He didn’t hide from those faults, and shared many of them with his listeners who might be suffering similar issues.
It wasn’t hard to find topics that resonated with his listeners. Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, understood what those issues were and used them to propel himself to eight years in the White House. Their joint dislike for big government, big media elites and the emerging big tech companies made for easy targets, as both Reagan and Limbaugh saw those as a great threat to the millions of forgotten Americans in the middle class who they believed to be the backbone of the nation they both loved.
Limbaugh would use his weekly radio program to speak to his audience in a language and a tone that resonated with that ever growing and expanding audience of “ditto heads,” resuscitating what was seen as a dying AM radio, while breaking into the coveted FM airways, and a still wider audience of listeners.
Limbaugh was the “real deal,” and that was another reason his audience adored him. He never wavered from his message or his belief that America had nothing to apologize for. Greatness as a nation should not be something to be ashamed of or to hide from. It was through our nation’s strength that we had become that “Shining City on a Hill” that Ronald Reagan had often spoken of during his speeches. It was through that strength that our nation had defeated tyranny in WWII and won the Cold War.
No doubt that Limbaugh stepped on toes, infuriated his detractors, embraced some relatively controversial opinions, but in fairness to him, he never really took himself too seriously. He would cause his listeners to actually “think” about some of those issues of the day. He would cause men and women alike to actually take the time to think about what he was saying and actually at times challenge his premises on issues he might speak about during his weekly three-hour shows.
Those shows would be about what Limbaugh wanted them to be about and would leave audiences wanting more the next day. Be at peace, Rush, and thank you for keeping us entertained over these last several decades.