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Rush Limbaugh, the nationally syndicated right-wing radio broadcaster who died Wednesday of advanced lung cancer, was eulogized also for paving the way for the political environment which allowed for Donald Trump’s ascension to the White House, according to a variety of political commentators.
Limbaugh succumbed to his cancer at the age of 70, after a career on the airwaves promoting sexist and racist rhetoric, as well as a variety of right-wing ideas and conspiracy-mongering.
“It does seem like in so many ways, Rush Limbaugh sort of laid the groundwork for this moment that we’ve been living through,” CNN host Anderson Cooper said on-air.
“There is just no doubt about it. I mean, there is a direct line really from Limbaugh to Trump,” replied media analyst Bill Carter. “You listen to that litany of views that he had, and how different is that from what we’ve heard so much from Trump supporters in recent years? You know, he really is the guy who sort of created Fox News and Newsmax and all the other right-wing news organizations. They are just feeding off his template. He created what is now really the conservative voice of media in America.”
Trump, himself, embraced Limbaugh — taking the unusual step of having the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded to Limbaugh last year during Trump’s final State of the Union address.
“In a sense, he was the original deplorable,” said Fox News host Laura Ingraham, using a term 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton used to refer to many of Trump supporters. “He was a force of nature, ridiculed by the elites in Washington and also, of course, all of them in the Acela Corridor to New York, but he was loved by the people who make America work. With his intellect, with his insight, with good sheer determination, Rush paved the way for the rest of us who hoped to somehow follow in his footsteps. Of course, we tried, but there was only Rush Limbaugh, that was ridiculous to even try. But when talk radio was written off, Rush saved it.
“When the Republican Party lost its way, Rush helped it get back on track. In 1992, when Bill Clinton defeated Bush, Republicans were divided and forlorn, and as Mary Matalin put it, all we had to hold us together was Rush Limbaugh,” Ingraham added. “When old establishment Republicans rejected Donald Trump, Rush dug in to support him and the America First agenda. He realized the conservative movement had to shake off globalism and open borders in order to attract working-class voters. It’s hard to see how Trump would’ve won in 2016 without Rush Limbaugh support.”
It’s not only Trump supporters who felt that way. Even a “Never Trumper” Republican like Charlie Sykes saw the direct line from Limbaugh, to Trump — for ill but not good.
“But you can’t overstate Rush Limbaugh’s role in basically building up the entertainment wing of the GOP to be absolutely dominant,” Sykes said. “So it’s a little bit painful, you know, talking about it the day on the that he dies, because I’ve been working on a piece for Dana’s newspaper in which I argue that right now we are all living in the world of Rush Limbaugh made in his own image, when you think about what he did and the influence that he had. He was an entertainer. He was not a deep thinker. He was not a thought leader. But he shaped so much of the way the right wing transformed itself over the last few years.
“You know, he popularized conservative ideas, but he also played a very central role in the derangement of it. So his legacy is a conservative movement that is, in fact, more dishonest, more open to dishonesty, crueler, dumber than it was before,” Sykes added. “And you can’t understand Donald Trump without understanding that Rush Limbaugh was in many ways not just the guy that laid the groundwork for him, but in many ways a role model in the way that you could twist truth, the way that you could use insults and ad hominem attacks instead of actually dealing with ideas. Because, you know, the bottom line, dirty secret about Rush Limbaugh is he was utterly uninterested in ideas.”
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