I kind of figured this was where things were going after he missed about three weeks straight. He was there on a Wednesday, but absent Thu and Fri; and then never came back.
Well, his contribution to the right-wing movement was utterly invaluable, and he did something that no one had ever done before, and he did it while having an enormous amount of fun. "Having more fun than a human being should be allowed to have," he'd say, and "Half my brain tied behind my back, just to make it fair!"
But his perennial tag line was, "Talent on loan from God!" And today, that talent went back.
And I'm really sad about it.
I've told the tale before. My first exposure to Limbaugh was on an afternoon in 1992 or 1993. I was at work, just getting back to the office from a trip to a client site, and there was a guy sitting in the parking lot with some radio station on, pretty loud, just sitting in his car and eating lunch or something. I remember being surprised that the guy on the radio was saying bad things about feminists, things that echoed my own opinions...and so I spent a few minutes flipping through radio stations until the sound from my car stereo was the same as the sound from that guy's...and that was the first time in my life I heard the sweet sounds of right-wing commentary from a mass media outlet.
This came at a time in my life when I was going to school and my politics were beginning to moderate. I was angry at George HW Bush for raising taxes after "read my lips" and I was highly protectionist and was thinking of voting Democrat in the upcoming primaries, because Paul Tsongas (YES! I KNOW!!!) was sounding reasonable to me.
Limbaugh pulled me back from the brink of that abyss.
What he did, in fact, was to challenge me to examine my opinions and to figure out why I had them. That summer was when I began to create the Dan Quayle Presidential Library, a collection of conservative and right-wing opinion books which I devoured in my need to understand the political issues, both of the day, and the larger ones of society and economics in general. I read both of Limbaugh's books as soon as they came out. I read a bunch of other stuff, things I can't even remember now since it was going on thirty years ago, but stuff that I needed to read, because they provided reason and shape and texture to the conservative values with which I'd been raised.
It's always been obvious that the left did not understand what Limbaugh was. He wasn't an opinion maker; he didn't get on the radio and tell his listeners what to think. What he did was to validate the opinions they already had, and I know this is true because that's exactly what he did for me. "Here is this guy on the radio," he'd say, "who's saying what I think!" And that's what he was: the guy on the radio who looked at life and society the same way I did.
Why was I moderating? Well, not for any good reason, and listening to Limbaugh's show and reading those books showed me that. I learned, very rapidly, that the left wing lies, distorts, conceals, and misstates just about everything, because it cannot tell the truth about itself. For example--Paul Tsongas was not going to save American manufacturing; he was going to save unions. Those two things are absolutely 100% not the same thing, and after educating myself I understood why.
Although my re-education was far from complete, come November of 1992 I proudly voted for Bush. First election I'd voted in, too.
By the time we got to 1994, I understood the issues and knew why I believed what I believed, and from then on my opinions were unshakable. Not only had I learned that, but I'd also learned how to check things out for myself so I was no longer beholden to any of the mainstream media.
Limbaugh's audience was huge. How many tens of millions--and if just half of them went through the same process I did, then he helped to create a new and stronger right-wing in this country.
He outlasted his doctors' prognosis by five months, and he was broadcasting up until something like two weeks before he passed away. More or less. But although his time to rest has come, we have others who can take up the torch and carry the light onward, and who will.
But man, it sure is hard to take.