The concept that there is even polling — he has a national approval rating — on Rush Limbaugh seems worth reflecting upon. He’s an unrivaled success in broadcasting and, thus, culture. That’s why they poll on him — wanting a low number (which media coverage of him over the years all but guarantees) to cite to scare people on the Right away from him. That’s why they demonize him. He’s effective — in his industry and, secondarily (though a close second), in getting a conservative message over the airwaves.
Rush Limbaugh doesn’t approach his three hours (and then some, when you start to try to keep track of the speeches and other contributions he makes of his time and talents) exactly as someone at the Heritage Foundation or Cato Institute would. But he also wouldn’t be the cultural phenomenon he is if he did. (Do Heritage and Cato have national approval ratings? Does National Review?)
I don’t have a problem with Jerry or anyone else criticizing points worth criticizing — no one is above criticism. But I do think that it is a mistake to dismiss Rush Limbaugh’s influence or to not appreciate that he is penetrating the culture in a way most of us toiling in various niches of the Right can only imagine. He’s an amazing success, a hard worker, a generous talent, and an ally to anyone who believes in things like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Rush Limbaugh is frequently dissected as if he were a candidate for political office — approval ratings, opposition research, fundraising off of his name, and all that. But he’s not a politician; he’s not a candidate. He is, first and foremost, an astounding success of a broadcaster who happens to share a heck of a lot of our values. Anyone who does listen and has been listening for awhile knows he does not take those values lightly. He knows what he’s talking about — and has been consistently reading and working to make sure of that for decades now — and he points listeners to where they can go for more. And a lot of us are grateful he does — which is why we listen. And, frequently, that show is a reason why some of us make our cases a little better at the watercooler and dinner table after three in the afternoon. And his positive influence, as stories Jerry and I have been reading over e-mail overnight, and I know full well, is a lot more long term then that.