Rush Limbaugh has died. We knew for many months that it was coming, but it was still a stunning blow. Many of us believed he would find a way to fight back against the deadly virus and perhaps even defeat it. But it was not to be. He joins the long list of victims and leaves us without the midday guidance that had become an irreplaceable part of our daily routine.
What can be done? Is there a remedy?
He was a political genius, able to see behind the smokescreens that routinely obscure our understanding of human motivation, and saw our leaders with a clarity that dazzled our minds. He was a Trump supporter, maybe his greatest supporter, and grasped the appeal of the former president to more than 75 million voters. He was not gulled by the East Coast elites, who were followers of the fashionable intellectuals who mostly supported Biden and opposed Trump.
I don’t know anyone with the same intuition and the same sense of humor, and certainly his skills–from face-to-face interviews to to his ability to grasp our leaders’ inner desires–were unique, as was his ability to understand the motives for media’s perverse revolt against the values that had made them crucial to the country’s success.
All of this suggests that Rush’s death is truly unique, and that it will not be easy to replace him. He had a great talent for spotting talented replacements, but none one of them was able to replace him, even for three hours, let alone on a permanent basis.
It’s not simply a matter of finding someone with similar skills, but rather with the rare combination of talents that Rush possessed; there’s a need for someone with the same unique sense of humor, the same ability to laugh at ourselves, and the ability to use the English language with the same common sense that Rush did. His ability to talk to us in the same terms we use in everyday speech gave him a credibility that nobody else possessed, and opened to us the world of professional politicians. That is what gave him his unprecedented outreach and unmatched appeal. His ability to communicate with normal Americans gave him a sense of friendship with his audience unmatched by anyone else in the business, and it is why his loss was so definitive.
That explains his amazing role in the revival of radio in American life. When he began his career, radio was largely washed up and television was the main medium. By the time of his death, there had been a dramatic expansion of radio, both AM and FM, and we now see that Rush’s role was central to its expansion. Whether or not radio will continue to play a central role in American public life remains to be seen. It is certainly essential for an entire generation of our citizens, and it will certainly play a major role in the future. All this change was essentially due to the genius of one man, and the joint efforts of a team that largely stayed intact for twenty years regardless of health and other such considerations. The key person in this development was James Golden, Rush’s black best friend and producer. He has successfully fought off cancer for many years, and his success gave many the hope that Rush would do the same. Few knew that Rush’s best friend and most trusted collaborator was black, nor would it have served to undermine the widespread conviction that Rush was a racist, a conviction that remained strong throughout his life, even though there was abundant evidence the notion was false.
But such evidence was rarely part of the great debate at the center of which Rush ruled supreme. He was on the other side of the debate, and was consequently presumed guilty of the sins that characterized the bad guys,
If the left wins the great debate of our time, such facts will be assumed to be the essence of our political world. In that imaginary world, Rush will play a major role, not the utterly race-free advocate of freedom and independent thought and action that was his true role in American life. I did several interviews with him, and one conversation for his newsletter. Each was a singular pleasure, and each reached a spectacularly enormous audience, far larger than the group reached by critics. His questions went to the heart of our fierce national debates, and made clear who and why they were opposed to the actual language of the Constitution.
How can such a person be replaced? Even if we could find a man or woman with the full array of brains and language skills, we would be hard-pressed to find someone with the personality, the sense of humor and the range of contacts with which Rush disposed.
It seems hopeless.
Perhaps that is the right answer. When someone as important as Rush leaves us, it is utterly predictable that he will prove irreplaceable. There is no reason to be surprised, and every reason to believe he will be unique.
That is our current fix. We need to await developments and hope for the best.