By Ariel Carlson
In life, there are only a few people whose opinion matters. A father, a best friend, a grandparent, a spouse. The question “What do you think?” is reserved for the people we consider intelligent, caring, or informed. But most importantly, “What do you think?” is exclusively asked of those we trust.
Born in 1990, I have experienced the fall of the Berlin Wall, a presidential sex scandal, a “hanging chad” election, 9/11, two wars, the housing boom and subsequent crash. I graduated college during the Great Recession and looked for work as the economy recovered. I attended health care town halls. I experienced the electric fervor of the Tea Party. My second child was born eight days before the most shocking election in American history. I’ve lived through three presidential impeachments. I’ve experienced massive economic growth that ended in a global pandemic, masks, social distancing, rioting, a highly contentious election and the storming of the U.S. Capitol.
For most of these experiences, I asked a question I could always get the answer to: “What does Rush think?” As a little girl, the bumper music – the “dum dum, da da da dum” – would float down the stairs and I knew: It was time for lunch with Dad. And Rush. In high school I’d listen with more probing questions for the humorous, enlightened voice on the radio.
In college, I’d receive my class schedule and be thrilled when I had a break between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. I’d tune in to my local station, always irritated at the commercial breaks. I’d hear, “OK, folks, I’ve gone long here, hang on, don’t go anywhere, we’ll be right back!” Over the last three years, I’d say to my three little daughters, “Shhh! Rush is on!” Rush never heard my “That’s exactly right!” or my “He’s got it!” commentary that left my children asking, “Mama? Who are you talking to? Oh, I know! Rush!”
What Rush had with me, a suburban mom, was what he had with all his listeners: connection. In our modern age, an ironic phenomenon exists: the more ways there are to communicate, the less connection we have. In the 24 hours after Rush’s passing, many spoke eloquently of his admirable characteristics: political genius, astute commentary, generosity, brilliance in utilizing the talk-radio medium and perseverance. But to me, these traits can all exist without being effective. Without connection, they may fall on deaf ears. Without trust, they don’t matter.
Rush connected the complex dots of his own political genius and talent, the landscape of the present and the concerns of his listeners. Even more than that, he earned the trust of millions through honesty and plain-speaking. Millions asked the question, “What do you think, Rush?” when they turned on the radio and settled in for a three-hour excursion into excellence.
In the last few months of Rush’s broadcasts, he lamented that he thought that he had failed for the last 30 years to properly convince his audience about the dangers of liberalism. I wanted to disabuse him of this reflection. “Rush! I’m here. You’ve taught me to think about what we face. Multiply me by millions and you’ve far exceeded a mere convincing of danger. You’ve created an army of men and women who know how to fight.” The Limbaugh School of Advanced Conservative Studies has many graduates – an Ivy League of its own.
In the wake of his passing, his detractors have been vile. They have only served to further the convincing Rush tried to do: liberalism is a mental disorder. Conservatism isn’t just the undergirding of a political platform. It’s not proprietary to the Republican Party. Conservatism is foundational to life – a well-lived, prosperous, generous, moral, ingenious, abundant and free life. Rush emanated a personal belief in this, and his enthusiasm, infectious optimism and love of country made the connection. The trust was rooted in the conservative belief that bound Rush to his listeners.
No man is perfect. Only one man was, and Rush said he had a personal relationship with Him. But we can be thankful for talent on loan from God. If I could call 1-800-282-2882, I’d express my deep gratitude for the hours he spent making the connection.
Someone asked me, “Who’ll replace him?” No one will. But what won’t quickly be replaced is informed, observant, grateful, inspired conservatives, who mourn in thankfulness for the fearless El Rushbo.
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Central time will never be the same. But neither will the American conservative movement.
Ariel Carlson resides in the greater Twin Cities metro area. She has degrees in English and History, and previously worked for The Center of The American Experiment and Intellectual Takeout. She is delighted to now be a homeschool mom of three girls.
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