Rush Limbaugh, Donald Trump & the Coarsening of American Politics
You can't overestimate Rush Limbaugh's influence on the Republican Party over the last 30 years. He helped to transform it from a Party of starched shirt, good government technocrats into the white Christian nationalist, antigovernment, QAnon infected mess it is today.
Those of you who have read my articles over the last few years might be surprised, but in the 1980s I served as a public official in central Pennsylvania, appointed by Republican office-holders. I also ran numerous Republican campaigns in the state. The GOP message in those days was fairly simple and consistent; we can provide important governmental services to the public more efficiently and economically. Republican candidates ran on platforms focused on honesty, expertise, and experience. Yes, there were bigots, misogynists, and homophobes in the Party but they generally kept their prejudices to themselves because it didn't have anything to do with winning elections and governing.
All that started to change in the late 1980s and Rush Limbaugh had quite a bit to do with it. Conservative Washington Post columnist Max Boot wrote an insightful piece this week discussing Rush's lasting influence on the GOP. And he is exactly right; there would be no Donald Trump without Limbaugh.
Boot, Washington Post: "Limbaugh was one of the most important political figures of the past 30 years — arguably the most important — because of how he transformed the conservative movement and the Republican Party for the worse."
Boot, like most commentators this week, combed through Rush's long list of controversies and conspiracy theories [Vince Foster, Obama's birth certificate, election fraud, etc.], but then gets to the central point about Limbaugh that ushered in the Trump era. Rush never felt the need to convince dittoheads with research or science or facts; those were the tools of pointy-headed academics and the cultural elite. Rush's audience wanted raw meat and returned each day to wallow in their disdain for liberal values and cultural norms.
Boot, Post: What really distinguished Limbaugh, and what made him such a success in radioland, was his gleeful hurling of insults and his mockery of liberals. “In the Limbaugh lexicon,” the New York Times noted, “advocates for the homeless were ‘compassion fascists,’ women who defended abortion rights were ‘feminazis,’ environmentalists were ‘tree-hugging wackos.’ ”
Donald Trump fully embraced Rush's style when he ran in 2016 and it carried over to his science-denying, fact-free presidency.
Boot, Post: "Like Limbaugh, Trump cannot make policy arguments (he couldn’t care less) or marshal facts (he doesn’t know many). But, also like Limbaugh, he is perfectly capable of ranting for hours about his resentments and entertaining listeners with insults against their shared objects of antipathy."
In the end, of course, facts and science catch up with even the most gifted con man, and Trump couldn't BS his way through the Covid crisis. But right up to his last day on the airwaves, Rush was singing Trump's praises, encouraging his acolyte to keep a tight fist on the GOP. Limbaugh understood that Trump is his legacy, his parting gift to America.
By: Don Lam & Curated Content