The Wonder of Rush
Rush Limbaugh has just signed the largest contract in radio history, renewing his deal with Clear Channel Communications. His new deal runs eight years, and is worth four hundred million dollars, with an incredible signing bonus of one hundred million. Rush wasn’t doing so badly before—according to the New York Times, he has been raking in about $38 million a year. But his new contract is off the charts—to give a little perspective, Sean Hannity’s last contract provided him with a five million dollar salary. (Hannity has since signed a new contract, so his salary is higher now). According to Drudge, Rush’s salary is higher than that of Katie Couric, Brian Williams, Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer — combined. It is $150 million dollars more than Alex Rodriguez’s mega-deal with the Yankees.
Rush deserves it. His contributions to the conservative movement have been incalculable, and he provides intelligent political commentary in a climate where such commentary is becoming increasingly rare. He is one of the few pundits who is listened to by both intellectuals (the folks at National Review all seem to listen to him) and ordinary people (he has an audience of over twenty million).
The conservative movement has been fortunate in its leadership choices. The man who founded the movement as we know it today was William F. Buckley, as it is impossible to imagine a better choice. He was conservative, intelligent, and articulate, and was very good at getting his message out. He also knew which movements to support, such as the social conservative movement, and which ones to throw under the bus, such as the John Birch Society and Ayn Randists.
Rush Limbaugh is a worthy heir to Buckley. In a way, his task is harder than Buckley’s—Buckley had to found a movement; Limbaugh has to try to keep it on track. It is due in large part to Limbaugh’s influence that the Right has not drifted towards a European style Christian Democrat type of movement (concentrating on social issues while accepting big government) or towards strict libertarianism (rejecting the social conservative movement completely), or towards neo-conservatism (focusing on a hyper-aggressive foreign policy. Rush been vocal in his support for the Iraq War, but as fortunately refrained, for the most part, from advocating the sort of “world’s policeman” hawkishness of, say, Bill Kristol). Rush Limbaugh’s authority has helped insure that the Right is, mostly, a cohesive political philosophy, in a way that the Left is not.
In addition to leading the conservative movement, Limbaugh also created a whole new media format—political talk radio. To be sure, there was talk radio before Limbaugh, but only a small portion of it focused on political issues, and there was no such thing as a nationwide talk radio program. (Radio convention wisdom was that only local programming would sell). Due to the success the Rush Limbaugh Show, there are now dozens of nationally syndicated talk show hosts, providing a wide range of perspective from conservative to very conservative.
Perhaps this post seems a bit over adulatory of Rush Limbaugh, and maybe it is. But Rush has had a significant influence on me—it was his show that got me interested in the conservative movement. There were other influences before Rush (I believe that Ann Coulter was the first conservative author I read), but I never really grasped what it was to be a conservative before listening to his program. For better or worse (depending on how you feel about what I write), this blog exists, in large part, because of the influence of Rush Limbaugh.
I doubt that I am the only person who can say this—it seems that many of the brightest stars on the Right, and many rank and file conservatives, got their start by listening to Rush Limbaugh. There have been many great conservative leaders—Bill Buckley, Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater. But it is possible to make a case that Rush Limbaugh has had the greatest positive influence on the movement, and conservatives should be grateful to have him.