RIP Rush Limbaugh, who pulled millions to the right. Plus: Learning respect; covid, & jobs, fade

By Gary Abernathy

Rush Limbaugh brought millions to the conservative cause

While working on today’s newsletter, word came that Rush Limbaugh had died. Everyone knew how seriously ill he was, but his passing still brings a shock.

Limbaugh was among the conservative giants of the last half century, rising to prominence at the end of the Reagan years and giving voice to millions of those on the political right in a way that they never had enjoyed before.

Like most, I didn’t always agree with Limbaugh, but I always admired what he had achieved. It’s hard to remember how scarce voices from the right were back in the 1980s. The left dominated the airways by its control of newsrooms, even then. Limbaugh took advantage of the end of what was called the “fairness doctrine” – which had required over-the-air broadcast and radio stations to devote “equal time” to political viewpoints – to carve out a unique niche for himself. He is responsible for generations of Americans embracing conservatism and becoming active in politics.

I had a personal taste of his influence in August of 2019 when he read one of my columns about Donald Trump on the air, from start to finish, and commented on it (favorably, fortunately). I’ve been a guest many times over the years on cable and broadcast television, but my phone never blew up before or since like it did when Rush read that column. To conservatives, being mentioned by Rush Limbaugh meant something.

His opinions carried enormous weight. His brashness and occasional outrageousness sometimes outshone what was often overlooked – his impressive talent as a broadcaster to hold the listeners’ interest, painting pictures and shaping ideas with his words. He will be sincerely mourned by millions, almost like a member of the family for many. Rest in peace, Rush.

For progress, anti-Trumpers must stop finger pointing and start respecting

It’s hard to think of anything more condescending than the endless parade of arrogant, belittling sermons being aimed almost daily at Republicans, including the senators who voted to acquit Donald Trump in the impeachment trial, and any Republican who continues to support Trump.

While Trump lost me over his failure to personally cooperate with, and facilitate, the peaceful transfer of power, and his incendiary remarks to a fired-up crowd of thousands in Washington on Jan. 6, I respect the right of millions of Americans to continue to support the former president if that’s what they choose.

But when I read columns with headlines like, “Why Are Republicans Still This Loyal to a Mar-a-Lago Exile? If they don’t disown Trump, he will continue to own them,” it’s a reminder that half of America looks down its nose at the other half, failing – or not caring – to understand the many factors that draw people to Trump. They prefer to paint Trump as a cult leader and his supporters as, of course, mindless followers.

Don’t they understand that the half of America they feel superior to could just as easily write columns disparaging and dismissing everything they believe and everyone they support? It would be easy to do, but to accomplish what?

Until we learn to disagree with respect for each other’s political beliefs, this endless cycle of animosity and division will continue unabated.

Covid-19 continues to fade, but jobs won’t all come back

The latest stats show that the number of new covid-19 cases in the United States has fallen by a whopping 23.7 percent in the past week. Political cynics might conclude that the covid threat is disappearing right on schedule, following close on the heels of driving Trump from office.

Of course, the price to rid the White House of Trump was crashing the biggest thing he had going for him – the economy – and a new report in the Washington Post says that “millions of jobs that have been shortchanged or wiped out entirely by the coronavirus pandemic are unlikely to come back,” not a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. I always remind people that our economy was not destroyed by the pandemic; it was destroyed by how we chose to respond to the pandemic.

When the dust settles and the fever of Trump hatred subsides, an examination of how badly so many of our states botched their response to this coronavirus -- with broad-based edicts, shutdowns and lockdowns instead of targeted adjustments only where necessary -- it will not bring flattering conclusions.

I noted back in March that our overreaction to covid-19 amounted to a giant, tragic leap into socialism: “But the snowball started rolling, state by state. One directive led to the next. Millions were ordered home, where they wait for their government to tell them it’s okay to come out… We have crossed the Rubicon. When historians record the moment that the U.S. economy transitioned from free-market capitalism to democratic socialism, they will point to this week. Watching it all unfold has been like witnessing a plane crash in slow motion. When the smoke clears, what’s left will be a feeble relic of the United States we once knew.”

And we watch now while President Biden pushes for another $2 trillion, on top of the trillions already spent – because we shut down the country. But what are trillions when it’s fake money anyway?

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