At about this time next year, the legendary Rush Limbaugh will celebrate the 30th anniversary of his debut as a national influence in talk radio — an influence that is widely misunderstood, I would argue. History shows that El Rushbo's status as the king of his medium has not exactly made him a kingmaker […]
At about this time next year, the legendary Rush Limbaugh will celebrate the 30th anniversary of his debut as a national influence in talk radio — an influence that is widely misunderstood, I would argue.
History shows that El Rushbo's status as the king of his medium has not exactly made him a kingmaker when it comes to presidential politics.
There have been eight presidential elections since Limbaugh's national program was started in 1988. He was too new to the medium and the country at large to carry much sway in the first election, which offered incumbent Vice President George H.W. Bush as the Republican candidate against Democrat Michael Dukakis. But Rush was just warming up.
Four years later, Limbaugh was a superstar, and his right-wing style was the rage among like-minded radio blabbers at stations across the land. And the principal topic at the time among this crowd was the presidential election that year featuring the incumbent Republican Bush against Democratic Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas.
Limbaugh was no big fan of Bush, of course. But the alternative was unthinkable among conservatives. Then, too, Bush's quickie little war in Iraq in 1991 made him a big national hero for a short while.
So here was the situation: Yes, the tax hike Bush engineered and signed into law made him a fink among right-wingers. However, the alternative — Bill Clinton — was not something Limbaugh and his people wanted on their consciences.
But that's what they got.
In fact, all through Limbaugh's immensely successful — and supposedly influential — career, Democratic presidential candidates have carried the popular vote every time but once. In the elections of 1992, 1996, 2000, 2008, 2012 and 2016, pluralities of American voters marked their ballots for the Democratic presidential candidates.
Let's not forget that Republican candidates for state and federal legislative seats generally did well in those elections, and the influence of talk radio probably benefited the GOP candidates.
But why does that influence seem not to pertain in most presidential elections?
The answers to that question, it seems to me, are mired in various factors, including the fact that races for the presidency are afforded massive coverage in all media. Rush Limbaugh and others of his radio ilk simply don't wield enough weight to tip the scales on a topic of such universal interest.
Another question worthy of consideration is whether Limbaugh talked his regular listeners into bigotry — or were they that way to begin with and have only naturally become loyal to a man on the radio who agrees with them?