Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues

Rush to Judgment

When radio commentator Rush Limbaugh said, in early 2009,that he hoped  Obama “fails,” it set off a storm of criticism across America, along with staunch   defense from his “dittoheads”  (As a news column, these comments were  reprinted through much of the U.S. during February of that year)

When a certain Limbaugh said of president Obama, “I hope he fails,” he was but “Rush-ing” to save his radio audience and keep himself in the public eye. His long insistence that he is merely an “entertainer” is far too modest and, as such, so unlike him. Forget Al Franken, Limbaugh is the real comedian among publicly political voices or, in truth, a bad joke. I have hurt so many feelings in the hometown he and I share when I call him a “demagogue,” but for some reason it’s okay in those parts to wish doom on the president, and thereby on all of us.

Our families knew each other, a la all small towns, and theirs was nice (a trait lost on Rusty, as he was called) and, yes, conservative, whereas he is somewhere to the Right of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Men in the family tended to law as a profession (Rusty excepted). Granddad Rush, Sr. was a smallish man who practiced till his death at 102. Rush, Jr. was a fighter pilot who, after exiting the cockpit, burgeoned to considerable proportions, as has Rusty, who was one of the few in the family I didn’t know of: by the time I left our Mississippi River town, he was but seven years old.

Later, I could tell by that distinctive voice on radio that he was a Limbaugh but was appalled at the nonsense he spewed and assumed it would come to naught. Time proved me wrong and I wrote a feature on him that led to a phone call with his wonderful mom, a down-home gal originally from Dunklin County in Missouri’s Bootheel. I asked what she really thought when first hearing him on radio. “I was shocked and embarrassed,” she admitted, and said she called him right away to say that his daddy and granddaddy were conservative, but not  mean like Rusty.

In ancient times,demagogues were populists, but in these latter days have shrunk to Webster’s definition of those who use popular prejudices and false claims to gain power of sorts. That fits Rush, as it did one Father Charles Coughlin. If you know of or remember Coughlin, you are among the few and either alive in that era or have bothered to read a book once in a while. I wager that Rush’s fate, in time, will be that of Coughlin’s; meantime, he’ll take his money and run, since that’s the American Way, but there’s a lot to be lost if the political game changes enough to make him a dinosaur of the airwaves.

Father Coughlin led a Depression-era church  near Detroit called the Shrine of the Little Flower. Don’t let that harmless-sounding moniker fool you: like Rush, his Pentium-chip was out of whack, and he turned to schemes far from sweetness and light.

I suggest that Limbaugh is taking pages from Coughlin’s book during this economic crisis. Rush lived off the fat of the land–and fattened himself in the process–while the GOP ruled, money flowed, and Rush’s supporters imagined he made it all happen. Silly them. They’re called “ditto-heads” for their blind allegiance to his talking head; no one has told them that when two people think exactly alike, one of them isn’t thinking. Multiply that by their present number and you arrive at a scary sum of mindlessness.

Coughlin took it as his mission in life to spit unholy venom at a popular new president who was quickly raising hopes amid the Great Depression–none other than FDR–and please note familiar themes here, as history has an annoying tendency to repeat itself. The good Reverend demonized the New Deal and was expert at manipulating the rhetoric of hate and fear, thereby gaining the ear of those who most felt the economic pinch. Out of it sprang an infamous movement similar to Rush and his minions at present.

Whatever Limbaugh’s audience now, in 1936 Coughlin’s was ten million, absolutely huge for the time. Historians say that were it not for Roosevelt’s political mastery, Coughlin could have shaken the country off course in that election and left us in a sorry state to deal with Hitler and, later, Pearl Harbor. Instead, his party and movement fell apart and Coughlin shuffled off to history’s junk heap.

A final note: Coughlin’s slogan was, “Roosevelt or Ruin.” Sounds a lot like Rush’s slap at Obama: “I hope he fails.”

Are you listening, Rusty? Of course not; he’s rush-ing to judgment with both eyes on his ratings.

4 Responses to “Rush to Judgment”

  1. It’s so nice when a bit of color and background is provided to flesh out a public figure. Too bad he didn’t learn civility from his mother.

  2. As a feminist, one who is progressive theologically and rather liberal in my politics my friends find it unbelivable that I grew up in the same hometown as Rush, and even the same church. I too knew the family. It is refreshing to read your point of view. Thanks.

  3. Couldn’t have said it better myself, including the sharing of the home town. Rusty’s grampa was my father’s attorney, and Dad spoke well of him. I hadn’t made the connection with Coughlin, tho’ it’s dead on.
    So happy Rush and Sara are held by so many be the “NO” party spokespeople. Such appropriate and entertaining foot-shooters.

  4. I listened to Rush in his early days. Not because I agreed with him, but because he could be entertaining and thought-provoking. It didn’t take him long, though, to jump the shark.

    He has become such a caricature of himself of late that all that’s left for him are the lines from McBeth,: “…a poor player
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
    And then is heard no more. It is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.”

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