A familiar voice in the American media and politics has fallen silent. The most-heard radio host in America for 30 years, Rush Limbaugh died Wednesday at the age of 70.
We remember how exciting the Rush Limbaugh Show was in its early days. For decades, air waves were regulated by the Fairness Doctrine, a federal ordinance that requires stations to reconcile “controversial” claims with “opposing points of view”. The rule gave the incumbent candidates and mainstream news agencies an almost monopoly relationship with the public discourse. Ronald Reagan scrapped the Fairness Doctrine in 1987. During the presidential campaign in 1992, the first name of the radio star was known in the United States
Limbaugh, whose show ran east coast time from 12 noon to 3 p.m. weekdays, was invaluable to the conservative movement in the 1990s. He would spend an hour explaining supply-side tax policy or advocating deregulation. Millions of Americans have never had a conclusive argument against the welfare state or Roe v. Wade heard until they adjusted to Limbaugh’s show. He played a tremendous role in popularizing conservative ideas and strategies.
His critics called him a racist and above all, whatever was unfair. His real offense was to attract millions of weekly listeners by making fun of the piety of the left. He dissected environmental fear campaigns and ridiculed the news media for finding epidemics of homelessness only during the Republican government. In 1994, Bill Clinton called a St. Louis radio from Air Force One to complain about Limbaugh’s criticism – not for the last time, blaming seedy radio hosts for his own political problems.
In recent years, with the advent of tougher competition and a general deterioration in public discourse, Limbaugh has taken on an angry tone. He also switched to Trumpian law on issues such as trade, immigration, and foreign policy.