I've said it before: Rush Limbaugh inspired this column. Yes, that's right. Without Limbaugh, it's unlikely I would have spent the last 15 years offering my weekly opinion on these pages, or that I would have even considered doing so. And as to why it's worth saying again? Because I think that the only times we are aware of the persistence of history is when the past overlaps with the present so blatantly that we are forced to look backward to know how to respond.
So let us look back. Bill Clinton won in '92 and this reigning lardass of right-wing rot went to war not only with him and his administration, but with his family as well. Not even Chelsea was off-limits. Those of you who have paid attention long enough, and who don't have your pin heads buried in Limbaugh's flabby butt, will remember his "joke" that "There is a new dog in the White House," as he showed a picture of the president's 12-year-old daughter. That alone should have earned him a public thrashing.
On Hillary, he was merciless. To a man who is evidently incapable of holding onto a mate for long enough to father a child, it probably came natural to abuse women. To this observer, though, it seemed the most dishonorable thing a man who calls himself a man could do. Some might maintain Hillary opened herself to criticism with her outspokenness and involvement, in particular her failed attempt to fix the health-care system. But the mauling Limbaugh and his imitators gave her went far beyond a policy dispute. It became clear that he feared smart and independent women above all else, and that his life's relationship with the opposite sex might well have come from a lap dance gone sour. What, Rush? Do even strippers turn their backs on you in disgust?
None of this would have mattered much were Limbaugh just one more spittle-spewer in that chorus of spittle-spewers who keep disgruntled intellectophobes entertained with their talk shows. A tradition of such creeps goes back in the swampy fringes of American culture to, at least, the '50s. They were like self-ordained preachers, working the dimwit circuits of country bumpkin patches in places that, to this day, are like splotches of mange on a stray mutt. They supported themselves from the ignorance of the uneducated and ill-bred, and ranted about values to people who wouldn't know a value if it was floating in their toilet.
Had Limbaugh remained there with the rest of them, on the downhill side of America's septic tank, he would have remained ignorable. But in 1994, when that collection of Southern trash—Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey and Phil Gramm—orchestrated the upset in Congress with the "Contract with America" scam, Gingrich gave Limbaugh his due in the stupefaction of the nation and invited him to speak before Congress. What an outrage it was—the most despicable quivering mound of offensive grease in America, addressing the very embodiment of our democracy.
It was at that moment, as I date it, that liberals started fighting back. After decades of having inferior specimens like Limbaugh condition other inferior specimens to blame us for everything wrong under the sun, we took off the gloves and started slugging. This column is only one teeny, backwater part in that resurgence, but it is significant that the very first piece I wrote for BW (which was never published because I never submitted it) dealt with my commitment to painting Limbaugh for what, at heart, he is: a lying pig.
I didn't care then and I don't care now if you take offense at such a crude and uncivil manner of discourse, especially if you're a Republican. You could have said something the moment Limbaugh opened his mouth. But, of course, you didn't.
Sixteen years later and once more, Limbaugh's side has lost. And lost big. Not only is there again a smart person in the White House, but Congress is firmly in the hands of people who represent more than just the uneducated and ill-bred. The reality of it hasn't quite sunk into the collective right-wing consciousness yet, that they were swept out like a cat litter spill, but they were, and this time, there's not even a wife-deserting cad like Gingrich around to take control of his party. The closest thing the Republicans have to a future is that lipstick smear from Alaska who still doesn't know there's more to leading a nation than showing off her legs.
We could have predicted that Limbaugh would once more puke himself into the center of national attention. His sort always makes the biggest splash in a vacuum, and the conservative community is at present nothing if not a vacuum. But do we and our reborn liberal nation have anything to fear from a more noticeable Limbaugh? Does he actually carry any—ahem—weight?
Let us review his record of achievement and see if we have anything to worry about. In spite of two decades of Limbaugh's grunting and snorting, Hillary is secretary of state and could easily have been president. All the talented people in Hollywood are still progressives and all the respectable universities are still staffed with liberals. The issue of global warming is central to the new and future administration, intelligent and independent women are in leading roles, minority individuals are steering the ship of state, gays are closer than ever to full citizenship, we are heading for a health-care system for all Americans, abortion is still a matter of choice, and there is not a credible figure on the right who can even consider running for president the next time around without Democrats licking their chops in anticipation. Even Al Franken, one of those liberals who fought back most effectively with books like Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, is now a U.S. senator. Heck of a job, Rushy.
No, it shouldn't concern the left that he is speaking for the Republican Party. I am confident that Americans, by and large, have come to understand the inherently repulsive nature of Limbaugh, his imitators and his fans. He may never lose his appeal among the disgruntled, hunched over their radios like ape men looking for an omen in their own feces. But his greatest accomplishment is getting good people to doubt anything that passes through his sweaty lips.
What liberals started in '94 set the stage for Barack Obama. And what Limbaugh was, is and shall be, set the stage for what liberals started in '94. In that sense, just as he inspired me, Obama couldn't have done it without him.