I first heard the name Rush Limbaugh when a friend of mine told me I should listen to him because, "he sounds like you." That piqued my interest. I found Rush on the AM dial. This was during the George Herbert Walker Bush presidency. This was before my nephew, who graduates high school this month, was born.
What a breath of fresh air Rush was! I had never heard anyone on the radio praise free markets and liberty. I had never heard a broadcaster expose liberals as the socialists they are. After getting the liberal point of view from the mainstream media all my life, Rush felt like a long overdue voice of justice. Finally, someone rose up to point out the emperor wore no clothes. It is only a slight exaggeration to mark my reaction as, "You can say this stuff on the radio?"
And this was not "Crossfire" or some other cable TV argument show in which pundits have 10 seconds to condense an argument into a sound bite. As Bill Clinton would later complain, Rush had three hours unopposed every weekday.
Rush has never been perfect. He is just a conservative. He believes in God. Once he attempted to prove the existence of God by asking, "Where is the universe?" Stick to liberals, Rush. Don't do metaphysics.
Rush's conservatism has always undermined his message of freedom and individualism. He is incapable of defending his politics with a moral argument, as the altruist morality of his religion contradicts the individualism of his politics. In the end, conservatism keeps him rather shallow. You will never hear philosophical depth from Rush Limbaugh (except the occasional embarrassing foray into religious metaphysics as noted above).
I remember when Clinton was elected a liberal caller taunted Rush, saying that Rush's show was finished now and Rush would have nothing to talk about. Quite the contrary, Bill Clinton was the greatest gift right-wing talk radio ever got. Bill Clinton was a President who thrilled in trying to get away with minor corruptions. Right-wing radio was a medium dedicated to not letting Clinton get away with anything. The conflict was some of the best radio in history. The circus of politics was the best show in America.
Rush Limbaugh was hurt, not by the election of Clinton, but by the election of George W. Bush. As Bush led the Republicans in the embrace of big government and liberalism, Rush lost his edge. As he admitted after the 2006 election, he was carrying the water of Republicans who didn't deserve it. Just today on his show he brought up that statement about carrying water as he talked about his not supporting John McCain.
If his support for Republicans is now guarded, his attacks on Democrats continues unfazed. But isn't this a contradiction? What is the point of attacking one faction when those attacks help another faction that you no longer support?
What was the point of Operation Chaos? Rush urged voters to vote for Hillary Clinton in order to draw out the Democrats' agony of not having a presidential nominee. The Democrats were hurt by Operation Chaos, but who was helped? John McCain, the Republican that Rush refuses to endorse. Rush was helping a big government Republican with whom he disagrees.
We're not talking about a purely ideological attack on liberals in the name of conservatism. There was nothing ideological about it. Operation Chaos was all about partisan politics. It was about Democrats vs. Republicans. Despite his protests to the contrary, Rush carried John McCain's water.
This is not the first time Rush has been caught in a contradiction. Usually, he wiggles out by playing the satirist card -- the "I was just joking" move beloved by weasels everywhere. Whether or not Operation Chaos was a big joke that no one got, it hurt the Democrats and helped the Republicans.
Conservatives like Rush don't seem to understand the way welfare state politics play out. The welfare state turns the two parties into coalitions of pressure groups. Neither party fights for liberty; both parties fight over the loot stolen from the producers of wealth.
Rush's commentary has ossified into shtick; he still attacks the Democrats as if they were the greater threat to freedom. Meanwhile, Bush has bloated the government to a $3 trillion budget and expanded regulations in countless ways. He increased steel tariffs, bloated the Department of Education (that conservatives once advocated eliminating), passed the Prescription Drug bill that is the biggest advance in the welfare state since LBJ and outlawed the incandescent light bulb. The inflation we will suffer for years to come is all Bush's fault.
One might object that a show about expanding government and diminishing freedom would lead a host into wonk territory. It would be boring radio. I think it can be made interesting, but it would take someone who can first show listeners why individual rights are important and why government intervention in the economy violates those rights.
It would take a lot more work than skimming the internet to amass a stack of stuff about the Democrats' latest absurdities. It would take an understanding of philosophy and economics that Rush Limbaugh, who learned what he knows from National Review, never had. It would take a host who can show what lovers of liberty are fighting for, not just the idiocy they are against.
Philosophic and economic education are desperately needed in an America whose government schools indoctrinate children in New Leftist morality and acceptance of the welfare state. Specifically, America needs the spread of Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand. It would be nice if the powerful medium of syndicated radio were tapped for that purpose. We're waiting for the genius to come along who can put it all together.