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Mount Rushmore

Dear readers,

Terrible news. The world has lost a great man, a gifted orator, a sensational personality, an inimitable broadcaster, and harmless lovable fuzzball, all rolled into one. I’m speaking, of course, about the death of Rush Limbaugh.

Now, some of you may be too young to fully appreciate what Rush achieved in his lifetime or quite what he meant to us older folk. Allow me to explain. Back when I was still working, I used to listen to Rush each day during my lunch break. I used to crank up the volume in my office, so the whole department was forced to listen to the dulcet tones of his sweet melodious voice - which (much to my pleasure) regularly drove my colleagues hog-wild with fury.

It wasn’t so much anything he said that bothered them, it was the fact he existed in the first place. You see, with Rush Limbaugh on the airwaves, my left-leaning friends were forced to confront the single most intolerable thing to the progressive mind: An immense portion of the country simply wasn’t impressed with what they had to say.

That was the impact of Rush Limbaugh, boiled down to its essence. He was the fly in the soup, the spot on the fender, the lone counterweight to the media-academia-complex on the scales of public opinion. They couldn’t ignore him. They couldn’t shake him. They had only one recourse: to try to destroy him. And try they did. As such, some of you youngsters may have only heard about Rush from the several controversies he endured over the years. And it is true that he did, at times, have a way of putting his foot in his mouth, but that is very far from the full story.

Well-to-do suburban housewives, sitting in their immaculate domiciles, sipping a glass of wine at two o'clock in the afternoon, had the occasion to sniff condescendingly at whatever mean, nasty, hurtful things Rush was supposed to have said that day. But those of us who WORKED for a living, those millions of us welders, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, cooks, mechanics, waitresses, seamstresses, bakers, farmers, ranchers – and yes, even high school history teachers – those of us who ensured the lights stay on, and grocery shelves stay stocked, and roads are kept in good repair, WE loved Rush in a way his egg-headed critics can never (and will never) understand.

WE, who sat through miles of rush-hour traffic, to sweat at jobs we hated, for bosses we despised, with scarcely any acknowledgement of our views from the traditional media monopoly, we saw Rush as some kind of folk hero. A fearless giant-killer, who gleefully cut media darlings down to size and exposed them for the mendacious bloated windbags they were. Of course, Rush himself was nothing if not a windbag, but he was OUR windbag – and we adored him for it.

For years, he was quite simply one-of-a-kind. There was nobody like him to be heard anyplace else. A decade before Fox News exploded onto the scene, this relatively obscure disc jockey blazed a trail through the forgotten wilds of AM radio. He almost single-handedly resurrected a dying format with a curious mix of sharp wit, mischievous humor, and bold willingness to speak his mind on any issue, no matter how delicate. He blended homespun aphorisms with an expansive vocabulary. He minted new words with remarkable frequency, many of which persist to this day: Feminazi, Drive-by Media, Club Gitmo, the Norks, the NAGS, and so on.

And he did all this while putting a smile on the faces of people who badly needed one that day. Somehow, the man never spoke down to you, or at you, or toward you. He always seemed to speak alongside you. You could almost feel him nudging you in the ribs when he cracked a joke, or could imagine him throwing his hands into the air as he ragged on and on about the latest boondoggle.

He understood that laughter has a mysterious communicative power of its own. His nicknames were hysterical: The Forehead (Paul Begala), Plugs (Joe Biden), Sheets (Robert Byrd), Dingy Harry (Harry Reid), Calypso Louie (Louis Farrakhan) , and more. His Bill Clinton impersonation made the sliver-tongued President seem more like a glad-handing, buffoonish mayor of some inconsequential town. His trademark Mmm-mmm-mmm! after Barack Obama's name seemed to take out all the air the media had puffed into him. And that was what Rush did best. He ridiculed our supposed betters with impish delight. He was the solitary brave man who dared to shout, “The emperor has no clothes!” when no-one else would.

Politically speaking, Rush was too conservative for some populists, and too populist for some conservatives, but for many of us, he was just right. He straddled the bridge between the high-minded intellectual conservatism of, say, the National Review, and the folksy workaday sort of conservatism of, say, Tucker Carlson. He managed to explain complex matters - with half his brain tied behind his back (just to make things fair) - in a way that was neither condescending nor oversimplified. He was a marvelous speaker, as even his worst critics will begrudgingly admit.

Now the marketplace is swamped with imitators – your Sean Hannity’s, your Alex Jones's, your Ben Shapiro’s – but in my view, there is only one Rush on the Mount Rushmore of conservative commentators. He is all of it. He is the whole damn thing. No one else comes remotely close. For ten years, he stood alone – almost completely alone – against the left-wing narratives advanced by an impenetrable media ecosystem. He alone found the chink in the armor. He pried open the door through which all have followed him.

All it took was a man with a microphone, and talent… ON LOAN… FROM GOD…

But alas, the man and his talent are gone. Presumably he's returned his talent to the Almighty, who will distribute it as He sees fit across ethereal airwaves man knows not. It is not for me to say. All I know is Rush's voice will never again be heard by mortal ears. We have lost our vox populi - that means "voice of the people" for those of you in Rio Linda - and he will be greatly missed.


James O’Flannery


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