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Rush Limbaugh: End of an Era

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It was only last November that I wrote about Rush as the most outstanding political commentator in America today. With his death yesterday at age 70, nothing in that analysis has changed.

When Kathryn Limbaugh came on air yesterday morning at the top of the show—as far as I can tell, the only time she has ever been on air, it was evident the news was not good. Everyone knew the moment would come, yet even after Rush lasted a year longer than expected, her voice announcing his death came as a jolt. How she remained composed for the opening 10 minutes is beyond me. It warrants a great measure of recognition in and of itself.

Rush’s passing, though, ends more than the magnificent career of a great man. It is easy to point to how Rush changed the political world. His 3-hour-a-day show, right in the middle of “dead time” that drew 20 million listeners a week and up to four million an hour, changed all of radio AM broadcasting. The genre changed quickly from music and oldies to political commentary, virtually all of it from the right. Time and again, as Rush gleefully pointed out, the Left seemed utterly incompetent in the medium. Much of this came from the fact—though Rush never said this directly—that the Left never connected with the ordinary people they supposedly represented. Thus, as one wag on Twitter put it, Air America was gone before the water even got hot.

The success of Rush’s network of affiliated stations, the EIB, brought opportunities to dozens of smaller-venue hosts. One of Rush’s most successful early guest hosts, Sean Hannity probably developed the most enduring presence both on AM radio then later on Fox,

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