“The Rush Limbaugh Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies” is not a real college. In fact, Rush Limbaugh does not even have a college degree, much less the credentials to teach a college-level course. The man who claims he does his show with “one half of my brain tied behind my back just to make it fair” dropped out of Southeast Missouri State University after only two semesters. The man who claims that “the institution of marriage is about raising children” has been married four times and has never been a father. Limbaugh has never held public office or any other career in the public policy arena. Almost his entire professional career has been in radio.
Despite his lack of education or experience, Rush Limbaugh has strong opinions. He constantly raises the tone of political discourse by using hateful rhetoric to define those who disagree with him. He not only dismisses the scientific evidence presented in arguments for climate change, he calls those who support the argument “environmentalist whackos”. Those who support advancement of women’s rights, in his words, are “feminazis”. Limbaugh encites his audience with his assertions that he understands the true motivation and mindset of liberals, and paints every political issue as a battle between good and evil. Furthermore, he presents his opinions as fact (Limbaugh opens his shows by claiming he is “right 99% of the time”).
Most recently, Limbaugh has come under fire for calling law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” for her support of the Obama Adminstration’s stance on contraception. Limbaugh attempted to make a logical connection between Fluke’s opinion that the government should require contraception coverage by insurance companies and the definition of prostitution. Limbaugh did not back down from his comments on the following day, but eventually apologized after his comments were widely condemned by both major parties, President Obama personally called Fluke to apologize, and (most importantly to Limbaugh) sponsors made national news by pulling out of his show in droves.
These outrageous, controversial statements are nothing new for Limbaugh. It became evident that he valued the success of the Republican Party over the entire country when he said he hoped that President Obama would fail on the eve of his inauguration. Limbaugh implied he would rather have dealt with four more years of a crippled economy, out-of-control unemployment, Americans losing their homes, and continued the bleak outlooks on the wars in Iraq an Afghanistan than to have Obama lead the country back to prosperity. He claimed to thoroughly understand Obama’s politics before he took office and knew how much worse it would be for the country to accept liberal policies if they proved effective. In his opinion, accepting liberalism would mean compromising freedom. In addition, he played a parody of “Puff the Magic Dragon” entitled “Barack the Magic Negro” on his show.
Limbaugh has also accused actor Michael J. Fox of exaggerating his Parkinson’s disease for political purposes, laughed about the irony of the “environmentalist” Japanese suffering one of the worst earthquakes in history, and called veterans who opposed the Iraq war to be “phony soldiers”.
Rush Limbaugh is entitled to his opinions and has the right to say most anything he wants, no matter how ridiculous. That is one of the fundamental freedoms that make America such a great nation. However, shows like Limbaugh’s are what have caused the heightened tensions between the two major parties. Polarizing figures like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill Maher, Keith Olbermann, Glen Beck, Ed Schultz, Al Sharpton, and Laura Ingraham all use their programs as platforms to rally their bases with the similar “good versus evil” rhetoric. This tone in political discourse has caused the majority of Americans, most of which are rational, political moderates, to become disinterested in the process. When moderate Americans become disinterested, candidates gear their messages to the extremists on the left and right, as they know those will be most likely to show up to the polls on Election Day. The most successful candidates have become more and more extreme and less willing to work with others who disagree. It now seems as it is nearly impossible for anything to get done in Washington. But instead of pointing the finger at those who polarize us, we have given them a bigger microphone.
Americans have had differences of opinion on the role of the federal government dating back to the foundation of the country when the Federalist and Anti-Federalist factions where formed. The simple truth is that there will always be logical, reasonable people on both sides of the debate. Since there is no method to prove an absolute right or wrong answer, the differences in opinion will never be resolved. The best we can ever do is to work together around those differences, but the rhetoric from Limbaugh and his peers will prohibit that from happening, as long as they remain relevant. The current Democratic Party is not wanting to gain absolute power, take away freedoms, and convert to a socialist society, as Limbaugh and other conservative talk radio hosts would have you believe. The actual Socialist Party finds that assertion laughable, and call the claim that Obama is a socialist “a fairy tale”, having asked for conservatives to stop trying to label him as such. But when those who make the socialism charge are legitimately discredited, they turn the argument around to say the “liberal media” is the problem. One would think after hundreds of years of debating the same topic, Americans would not fall for assertions that all of the sudden one side is trying to dominate the government and end liberty as we know it.
The truth is that just about every American – liberal, conservative, populist, and libertarian – wants prosperity for the country. Limbaugh and his peers are in the entertainment business. Their success is measured by ratings, not politcal progress. Rationality and compromise are not as entertaining as a constant struggle between good and evil. Therefore, these political shock jocks try to keep their audiences tuned in to hear what they say next. Unfortunately, Limbaugh’s name is often mentioned in national news and on Capitol Hill as if he were someone other than a man with a microphone and an audience. When people hear Limbaugh’s name on CNN or NPR, in the Washington Post, and on the House floor, they mistake him for a legitimate media figure. People then use The Rush Limbaugh Show to receive their news and form their opinions, instead of seeking objective news reporting and developing their own ideas. It is a vicious cycle.
When you break it all down, this is a man with no more than a high school education and no experience in the political arena, who purposely makes outlandish statements to gain and entertain an audience. Rush Limbaugh only has power because we, as Americans, pay attention to him. He does nothing to advance conservative ideas, but constantly insults and belittles liberals. It is unintelligent and uncivilized political discourse. To avoid being discredited, he has attempted to discredit just about every news source other than Fox News. The question most asked after Limbaugh’s most recent controversy was “Why did he say that?” What should be asked is “Who cares about Rush Limbaugh?!”