Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Evolution of Paying Attention: How Rush Limbaugh Changed America

There’s this comic strip I like a little bit. The guy who writes it tries to cast his perspective as a Christian, and that’s pretty cool. Unfortunately, he sometimes is a bit simplistic, a little off the mark for people who have seen evil face to face, and so he sometimes can’t manage to convey a realistic message. And that is never more true than when he drifts off into politics. You see, this cartoonist is very much a liberal, and seems to believe the very worst lies told by the likes of Moore, Dean, or Wilson. And he plugs those falsehoods into his storyline, venturing farther and farther into the land of the unreal. By itself, this is no big deal, except that it is getting harder and harder to find a person of liberal center who can discuss politics with anything like civility, and this cartoonist is a sad example of the otherwise-reasonable fellow who simply ignores reality because he prefers the lie.

Don’t misunderstand me, please. There are still some liberal proponents who are courteous, even thoughtful, but when they debate their politics, most Liberals seem to fall back on the talking points we see used as flame-throwers by the likes of the DNC and Daily Kos. Conservatives, to be sure, have their own share of rabid dogs, but they seem to be far fewer in number, and in any case they do not get quoted by leading Republicans the way that slander gets issued almost daily by the Democrats. Some people call it “Bush Derangement Syndrome”, and certainly Dubya’s success has been aggravating to the Left for years, but the process started before Dubs came to the White House, and no one thinks it will end when the Great Texan heads home to Crawford. I think it is because the Liberals made a sucker bet, and have been trying to deny the scale of their loss ever since. Liberals have always sought out the intellectual position, which is why they so often send out professors, writers, and individuals they perceive as superior in Academia, to champion their positions. Conservatives, on the other hand, have made a better effort to determine what the people really want, albeit a sporadic and inconstant effort. But it has led to a condition where the regular guy gets to feeling that the Liberal is talking at him, while the Conservative is more open to talking with him. Look at Bush, for instance. The Democrats, frankly, could have beaten him in either 2000 or 2004, but they chose self-righteous prigs for their nominees. Remember the first debate in 2000, how the so-much-smarter Al Gore was supposed to wipe the floor with Governor Bush? Remember the aggravated sighs and eye rolls from Gore? Gore lost the election right there, and even all these years later he still has not realized it. As for John Forbes Kerry, choosing an elitist so aristocratic that his socks are probably embroidered with his initials wasn’t a good plan, if the goal was to resonate with the average American. Bush might come from a wealthy family, but he did his time working oil fields and making his way on his own effort. Dubs never married his money.

But the change started almost a generation ago. One thing which people wanted but felt they had lost, was the ability to be heard by government. Television did a good job of giving information out, but it was always whatever the Network wanted to say, not the regular guy. They needed a way to speak out, and that way was Talk Radio. People could and did call up their radio stations and speak their mind, and whole shows were created around the simple notion of asking people what they thought.

But for a long time, talk radio was only a local phenomenon, although a few state issues might catch on. National politicians had to speak through the mainstream media, and it seemed that the average American had no champion to make sure he was heard in D.C. Enter Rush Limbaugh and the Excellence In Broadcasting network.

Rush began his national show in 1988, and frankly it was slow going at first. Limbaugh was bombastic, irreverent, and newcomers to the show were not sure what to make of the man. But he listened to everyone who called in, and made a point of getting a broad range of callers – Limbaugh did not restrict his calls to people who agreed with him, and so he got a lot of debates started simply by letting ordinary people speak to a national audience. The ratings grew, and by the time Bill Clinton was elected, several million people a day listened to, and talked to, Rush Limbaugh.

The Clinton years were a perfect breeding ground for talk radio, with the MSM’s draconian policies suppressing any effective criticism of the Congress or Clinton. But talk radio, led by Limbaugh’s show, reflected a deep and burning anger, which foretold the 1994 ‘revolution’ in the House Majority, and which all politicians have – however grudgingly – learned they must heed.

Limbaugh is by no means perfect, especially on his policy positions. He has, at times done harm to the Right as much as he has to the Left. But he is scrupulously honest about his opinion, and allows anyone to speak their mind on the issues of the day. It seems so natural in this world of blogs and new Populism, but it really started because one man got folks the chance to be heard.


The Macker said...

Gore & Kerry- "self-righteous prigs"
Never said better!

Big V said...

Much as Gettysburg was the turning point in the Civil War, August 1st, 1988 will be known as the turning point in the 'Uncivil War' being foisted on he American public as the evening news every night.

Rush broke the stranglehold of liberal broadcasting and gave haven and hope to those of us who knew something was wrong with the viewpoint we were being fed. While I disagree with the man several times a week, he nearly singlehandedly began to correct the lies being told as 'news' each evening.

Rush appeared in my area radio station in late 1990 and within a month of listening to him, I stopped listening to the alphabet networks for 'news.' My then 13 year old daughter listened to him and said, 'Geez Dad, he sounds just like you when you listen to the news!'

They can say they hate him but anytime a president (and with Clinton, I use that term loosely) acknowledges him in a public speech, you know he got to them.

Thanks Rush!