After battling cancer, Rush Limbaugh has died. He was more than an icon to those on the right; he was a god-like figure similar to those in Greek mythology. Before Alex Jones and Sean Hannity, before Jeanine Pirro and Tucker Carlson, there was Rush, spouting his right wing rhetoric during his daily three hour talk radio show.
Since they were both brash loud-mouths from New York City, it’s not surprising that Donald Trump and Limbaugh formed a mutual admiration society. It’s almost certain that they followed each other’s careers; Trump from his lofty perch in Trump Towers and Limbaugh from his media “pulpit” which also overlooked the city that never sleeps. While this wasn’t the only connection, it was certainly one that helped to cement their relationship.
Limbaugh wasn’t always on Trump’s side, insisting Trump wasn’t a true conservative, and therefore not a positive influence on the Republican Party. Limbaugh had the same issue with 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney even though he deeply despised his opponent, Barack Obama, and even supported the “birther” lie. It’s one of many areas where Trump and Limbaugh agreed. And both used this to attempt to discredit the Obama administration and to vault Trump to political prominence.
There are some who claim, Limbaugh created Donald Trump, or at least Trump the political figure. Years before Trump entered the political fray, Limbaugh had already made a career belittling those who disagreed with him. Name-calling and humiliation was what drew so many to his radio program as listeners awaited the next round of bombast, wondering who Rush would attack next. Invariably it was those on the left, and like the rest of right wing media, it was facts be damned!
Trump adopted this rabid-dog approach when it came to his political opponents. Trump reveled in the nicknames he invented to belittle those he saw as not showing proper loyalty. Again, this was something he heard often in Limbaugh’s rants.
Another common area of disgust is the shared racism of both Trump and Limbaugh. Limbaugh’s listeners delighted at the many racist remarks he would make in the course of his radio programs. Even prior to his trip down the “golden escalator” , Trump had already made a number of racist comments, most notably his call for the death penalty for the Central Park Five.
Where their racism was most obvious was in their hatred for the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. Aside from the birther lie, neither has been able to hide their abhorrence for Obama. Trump detested that he never achieved the popularity that Obama enjoyed. One thing he truly hated was that Obama received the Nobel Prize, which is something Trump has repeatedly claimed he rightfully deserves.
Limbaugh’s history of hatred of the 44th president led him to make multiple racist comments, including calling Obama a “halfrican American” and, despite Obama’s graduating magna cum laude from Harvard law school, “an affirmative action candidate”. Limbaugh would also repeatedly play a parody titled “Barack the Magic Negro”.
Both Limbaugh and Trump downplayed the severity of the coronavirus, even as thousands died. Trump repeatedly called it a hoax, and even after he contracted the virus, made numerous claims that it would "magically disappear" . Limbaugh claimed the virus was “the common cold”. Still, thousands continue to die as the nation attempts to recover from the failure to enact a federal response to the pandemic and misinformation about its severity. As of today, 490,000 have perished in the U.S. from this "hoax".
Racism, religious bigotry, homophobia, xenophobia and a steady stream of misinformation regarding the 2020 election are the many things that Trump and Limbaugh shared. It was this shared ignorance that resulted in Trump awarding his compatriot the Presidential Medal of Freedom, forever dishonoring the significance of this heretofore prestigious award.
It came as no surprise when Trump called into his favorite media outlet to praise Limbaugh, as well as to continue the “stolen election” lie. If Trump were still in office he would no doubt order flags to be flown at half staff; an honor typically reserved for prominent political or military figures. He might have even demanded that Limbaugh’s body lie in state in the Capitol rotunda.
The political right is mourning the loss of this purveyor of prevarication. They are devoting hours of programming to heap praise on their hero of hypocrisy. They are reacting as if they have lost a member of royalty or even a messianic figure.
The political left is breathing a sigh of relief, but knows another Rush is waiting in the wings to fill the void of misinformation and hatred. Perhaps it could even be Trump himself?
The thought is frightening.