chapter  6
10 Pages

Triumph of the Idol—Rush Limbaugh and a Hot Medium

WithTom Lewis

Many conservatives contend that it's Rush Limbaugh's political message that accounts for his popularity, but that is clearly not the case; other conservatives—G. Gordon Liddy and David Duke for example—articulate conservative themes but are comparatively unloved. Limbaugh's success speaks more to the power of radio and his ability to use the medium; he is a creature of the medium in which he has long worked. Consciously or not, Limbaugh draws upon a tradition that includes figures as diverse as Dr. Brinkley, Huey Long, Father Coughlin, Jack Benny, Fred Allen and even the Great Gildersleeve. Limbaugh's instincts are more benign than Long's or Coughlin's, but he has gone one step beyond those predecessors to tap another new reservoir of civic unhappiness. Often college-educated, they are the "extremely well-read" members of the Limbaugh audience. Across the nation, scores of Limbaugh wannabes sit in radio studios, answer the phones and dream of the big time.