If Ronald Reagan brought large swaths of our nation home to traditionalist America First values after he was elected president in 1980, it was Rush Limbaugh who consolidated and upheld contemporary conservatism and those same values after Reagan left office.
George H. W. Bush had ascended to the highest office by the time Limbaugh hit the airwaves, and while 41 was due significant respect for his heroic military service and his administration’s mostly-adroit performance after having to follow a stellar figure like Reagan into office, his tenure was ultimately anticlimactic. For reasons too lengthy to address here, he was not reelected.
Into that conservative void came The Rush Limbaugh Show. Limbaugh’s targets on the day I first (by sheer chance) tuned in were President of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Mikhail Gorbachev and the soon-to-be-collapsed Russian Politburo. Drawn in by one of Limbaugh’s favorite musical bumpers at the time, the Star Wars “Imperial March,” it was refreshing to hear, after so much happy talk about a new era of reconciliation with the Soviets, an authoritative voice still possessed of healthy skepticism about the wiles and wherefores of what Reagan had called an “evil empire.”
I became a regular listener after that. I was also interested enough in Limbaugh’s message at the time to become a charter subscriber to The Limbaugh Letter, a twenty-eight-year subscription I hold to this day.
Looking through those old issues in the wake of Limbaugh’s announcement of his advanced lung cancer diagnosis, I’m returned via a printed time warp back to an informative and entertaining era of pioneering conservative analysis.
First published in 1992, the earliest pages of the Limbaugh Letter incisively took to task newly-elected President Bill Clinton. So effective was Limbaugh’s commentary that political observers credited him with an able assist that facilitated the Republican Revolution and sweeping House takeover in 1994.
Bill was fair game, but if it seemed at times that the premiere American radio talk show host was especially hard on Hillary, her “vast right-wing conspiracy” comment and health care schemes, subsequent events too numerous to reference here show that scrutiny of the Clinton first lady was wholly warranted.
Later, content in the glossy, 16-page newsletter became all about Bill’s scandals, and his resultant impeachment and acquittal in the Senate.
Here’s a newsletter back page headline from the last year of Clinton’s term (Dec. 1999), which featured Limbaugh’s accurate prediction that Republicans would control the White House, House, and Senate after the 2000 election: “Warning: Out-Of-Power Liberals Are Going to Go Nuts”
(Footnote: Vermont Senator “Jumpin’” Jim Jeffords would usurp Republican control in June, changing his affiliation to Democrat.)
The early focus on George W. Bush’s eventual eight year-administration was on the controversial 2000 election, the “hanging chads,” and Vice President Al Gore’s ultimate defeat. Things took a dark turn after the September 11 attacks, when Limbaugh’s periodical begins to focus on the threat of Islamic terror and W’s war on terror.
Here’s the newsletter’s cover story headline from November 2001, published while fires in the ruins of the World Trade Center were still burning: “The Rebirth of American Resolve.”
Another theme Limbaugh expanded upon with incisive wit and condemnation during the Bush 43 years was the dangerous creep of progressivism and leftist ideology.
When Barack Obama defeated John McCain in 2008, Limbaugh stirred up a hornet’s nest with his “I hope he fails” comment. If it seemed a bit harsh at the time, as if Limbaugh was unwilling even to give the new president a fair chance, subsequent events that have filled volumes confirm that Limbaugh was right to suspect Obama’s “transformation” from the very beginning.
Newsletter cover story from the Obama Era (Dec. 2013): “Why do you think they wear Che T-shirts? Ideology.”
Limbaugh kept his eagle eye and Golden EIB Microphone trained hard on all that transpired during the 2016 campaign; when Trump became destined for the nomination, Limbaugh became destined to be one of the president’s most influential supporters. As Newt Gingrich in 1994 and the ever-expanding roster of Republican representatives and senators during Obama’s term can attest, you couldn’t ask for a better man to have in your corner.
Here’s the newsletter cover story from the January 2017 issue, put together in December of 2016, when Trump was president-elect: “Buckle Up for The Trump Boom.”
While re-distributionist naysayers like New York Times crybaby Paul Krugman were glumly predicting a catastrophic downturn as a result of Trump’s victory, Limbaugh saw a different scenario playing out. Again, as things turned out, so many, many times, Rush was right.
On a personal note, I got my fifteen minutes on The Rush Limbaugh Show in January 2017 when El Rushbo discussed an article I’d written for PJ Media.
Rush Limbaugh’s announcement of his cancer diagnosis and President Trump’s magnificent bestowal upon him of the Presidential Medal of Freedom moved me to bring out my trove of Limbaugh Letters.
While reviewing the issues full of top-shelf illustrations, interviews that provide trenchant viewpoints from conservatism’s leading lights, and Limbaugh’s own positive, uplifting cover stories, I also looked at the 2019 Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation that periodicals must post each year. From the statement: “The average number of copies of each issue during the preceding 12 months: 87,664, of which 81,566 were … paid subscriptions.”
It was always thus. 80,000-plus is a lot of readers, but that number represents a mere fraction of the millions upon millions of listeners Limbaugh reaches on the radio.
One of President Trump’s favorite humorous asides is when he says that “we”– as in conservatives, Republicans, and his legions of Trump Country supporters — are the “real elite.” It’s a well-deserved zing at the pointy-headed, doom-and-gloom, America-last bi-coastal liberals who consider themselves the elite.
I’ll run with it. By virtue of my almost three-decade subscription to the Limbaugh Letter, I’m going to go ahead and consider myself part of Rush’s print-only elite.
Mark Ellis is the author of A Death on the Horizon, a novel of political upheaval and cultural intrigue. He came aboard at PJ Media in 2015. His literary hangout is Liberty Island. Follow Mark on Twitter.