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How Rush Limbaugh Created Donald Trump

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Nine months later, Rush Limbaugh aired his first nationally broadcast radio show.

The careers of the two evolved in parallel over the next three decades, both becoming national (and international) celebrities – hated by some, loved by others, but still able to do most of the American things: create a strong reaction.

“He was a fantastic man, fantastic talent, and people whether they liked him or not respected him, they really did,” Trump said Wednesday on Fox News after Limbaugh’s death.

Limbaugh’s effect on Trump – as the billionaire businessman honed a political figure built around American exceptionalism, sticking him to elites and militant racial animosity – is profound. Trump was a follower of the Limbaugh radio show and a staunch supporter of the deeply controversial Tory talkhead.

It’s not too much to say that without Rush Limbaugh, there might never have been President Donald Trump. Limbaugh did not create Trump. But he did provide some sort of broad ideological framework for Trump to incorporate his own ideas into. And more importantly, Limbaugh has spent decades sowing mistrust of the media and angering Democrats in deeply personal terms – steps that provided fertile ground for the calls Trump ultimately led to the White House.

Listening to Limbaugh in the 1990s and 2000s is to hear clear indicators of themes Trump picked up on in his presidential bid. In a 2009 speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Limbaugh set out his take on what it means to be a Tory. Here’s the key bit:

“Let me tell you who we Conservatives are: we love people. When we look at the United States of America, when we are anywhere, when we see a group of people, like this or somewhere else, we see Americans. We see human beings. We don’t see any groups. We don’t see any casualties. We don’t see the people we want to exploit. What we see – what we see is potential.… We do not view this person with contempt. We don’t think this person doesn’t have what it takes. We believe that this person can be the best they want to be if certain things are simply taken out of their way, like onerous taxes, regulations and too much government. “

These words could easily have come out of Donald Trump’s mouth. Like so many other lines from Limbaugh just in this speech:

* On race: “We don’t hate anyone. We don’t – I mean, racism in this country, if you ask me, I know a lot of people in this audience – let me deal with it head-on. You know what the cliché, a conservative: racist, sexist, bigot, homophobic. Excuse me ladies and gentlemen of America, if you were careful, I know you were, the racism in our culture was exclusively and fully exposed in Primary Democrat last year. “

* On Democratic Interest Groups: “Take a look at all the constituency groups that for 50 years have depended on the Democratic Party to improve their living conditions. And tell me if you can find any. They are still complaining, always complain about the same problems. “

* On the media: “Also, for those of you who watch Drive-By Media, I didn’t need a teleprompter for everything I said. And none of us need a teleprompter. ‘a teleprompter, because our beliefs are not the result of calculations and artifices. “

It is as if Trump took that speech and made it a presidential campaign.

But Limbaugh’s influence on Trump – and the Republican Party that would eventually choose him as their presidential candidate in 2016 – was more than words and policies. There was also a bubbling resentment and anger, often expressed in Limbaugh’s case via biting sarcasm, aimed at elites, whether in politics, the media, or whatever.

Yes, Limbaugh would have politicians on his show every now and then, including the Republican establishment’s first family: The Bush. But Limbaugh’s Bread and Butter weren’t talks with members of the elected leadership. It was his one-sided whining in the ears of his voracious “Dittoheads” – brutal attacks on politicians (from both parties) he believed too cowardly to stand up and do what was right.

Limbaugh introduced himself as the voice of the ordinary man, the guy who said what everyone – or at least some people – were thinking. The guy isn’t afraid of being ashamed or shunned. The guy who directly charged the elites time and time again to show them they don’t represent the real America.

(Seems familiar?)

What Limbaugh understood was that his power lay with his loyal followers. That as long as he could command them, politicians would fear him. And that would make him powerful.

(Seems familiar?)

He also understood that he could make controversy work for him. That the most important thing wasn’t right, it was relevant. And so, while Limbaugh took beatings for racist comments about African-American quarterback Donovan McNabb in the early 2000s and sexist comments about a Georgetown law student named Sandra Fluke in 2012, these incidents didn’t l ‘have never destroyed. And in some circles, they made it even more powerful.

(Seems familiar?)

Perhaps the best example of how Trump and Trumpism borrowed from Limbaugh’s playbook came during Barack Obama’s presidency, when the two men became the leaders of the “birther” movement – the notion over and over again. denies that Obama was not really born in the United States. and, therefore, was not eligible to be president.

As early as the summer of 2009, Limbaugh told his listeners that Obama “had yet to prove that he was a citizen.” Trump, who had sought a path in politics for much of the previous decade, echoed birther’s nonsense as a way to bolster his credibility with people Limbaugh spoke to. In 2011, Trump told “The View” that “there is something about this birth certificate that [Obama] do not like. The following year, Trump tweeted: ‘An’ extremely credible source ‘called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate was a fraud. “And, once Obama produced documents showing that he was, in fact, born in the United States, Trump claimed victory;” I was the one who got Obama to publish his birth certificate. , or whatever, ”he tweeted in 2014.

The point here is simple: Donald Trump was the living, breathing embodiment of the politics of grievance that Limbaugh spent decades peddling. While Limbaugh militarized race and misogyny for ratings, Trump did so for votes. Where Limbaugh has spoken of the need to exclude the Republican Party from moderates and “crushes,” Trump has used his office and his power within the party to cleanse it of anyone who disagrees with him. Limbaugh has spoken. Trump did.

Trump was Limbaugh’s Frankenstein monster. And he proudly supported him until the very end.

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