We all knew Rush Limbaugh was dying from Stage IV Lung Cancer, and each of us had been preparing for the inevitable day to come. That day arrived on Wednesday, Feb. 17, when his devoted wife sat behind the EIB golden microphone to share with the world that Rushton Hudson Limbaugh III had indeed passed – he was 70 years old. For so many, all the advanced processing Rush painstakingly imparted on us still could not avoid the overwhelming shock and sadness that swept over us. A palpable shift in the collective conservative conscience could be felt like a quake that rips the surface but runs core deep, leaving a void gaping open. Our Happy Warrior was no more.
Rush Limbaugh had a unique bond with his radio audience, 43 million and growing and spanning three decades, forged from consistency, trust, and respect. On Feb. 3rd, 2020, Rush made certain his “ditto heads ” were going to hear it from him – and he announced his cancer diagnosis. His last on-air appearance was Feb 2nd, 2021. There is no doubt the personal choices he made to buy time to stay a year longer with his family and loved ones, as well as, his listeners were difficult ones and a sacrifice. Rush exhibited such grace in the face of such an unyielding sentence. Mega dittos thank yous from us all, El Rushbo.
The Ditto-heads can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard Rush on air for the first time. And years from now, they will be able to tell you the same when they heard the news he had passed. Many are even termed ” Rush Babies,” those who came to know Rush’s tutelage while listening to their parent’s or grandparents three hours daily habit. They all share the library of Rush-isms as proud alumni now:
- “The Drive-by Media.”
- “Info babes.”
- “Talent on loan from God,” and” … with half my brain tied behind my back just to make it fair.”
- “My Formerly nicotine-stained fingers.”
- “All-knowing, all-caring, all-sensing, all-feeling, all-concerned Maha Rushie. “
- “The Rev’rennnd Jack’suhhnnnn.”
- “For those in Rio Linda.”
- And so many more …
There have been countless and deeply moving reflections about Rush printed over the last week, but please indulge me as I add just one more personal account. It was my twenty-fourth birthday weekend the first time I heard that voice. I wasn’t political in those days, but my boyfriend was, and he was driving. So as we made our way down to Destin Fl. with the sunroof open and the radio on full blast, that infamous musical intro began. That afternoon I soaked in the foreign policy and Federal Reserve discussion while thoroughly being entertained with the likes of ‘Gorbasm,” and the tune “ain’t got a home.” The hook was entertaining me while informing me, and from that day on, I became an official member of the “dittohead” family.
I had always considered myself a Republican voter, as my parents and grandparents were. But I did not become a Conservative until I started listening to Rush Limbaugh. Yes, there is a difference between a party apparatus and personal philosophy, ideology, you live your life by. No, I was not glued daily for three hours at a time, but I managed to get my doses of Rush as needed. Limbaugh was like no other person I had ever heard who could articulate what conservative ideology was and why its application to problems was preferred for positive outcomes. He was always most lucid, buoyant, and prescient as he would break down, with self-deprecating humor, the complex cultural and political matters of the day. Always passionate but never bitter, Rush was the consummate political analyst whose persuasive nature was good old fashion common sense.
We all take our own journey to evolve and establish a core self we depend upon to inform our choices. For me, Rush’s enthusiastic and unabashed love for the Constitution and our country served as a catalyst to become active, not passive as a citizen, and seek public service locally. I became active in the GOP at the local and state levels in my state, eventually getting on the radar for significant political placement as it were. As a Health Care Professional, my political ambitions aligned with my mission to fend off socialized medicine at all costs, and I became a natural fit within several activist circles that shared the same objective. After holding office locally in various capacities for over a decade, I was on the cusp of making a serious run for State office. Life has a way of imploding when you least expect it to, and unfortunately, a devastating and personal family tragedy sidelined me for the next few years.
2009 was a pivotal year for both the Republican Party, Conservatives, and me. Barack Obama, who ran on upending our healthcare system and transitioning to a socialized medicine paradigm, had been elected president, and his party had won both the House and the Senate. Democrat James Carville summarized the mood this way, “Democrats will rule for generations, and Republicans will be in the wilderness.” I had just tipped my toes back in the GOP state-level waters again in the run-up to the 2008 election and was once again fielding “those discussions” in political gatherings. So fast forward, it is February which means CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) was on my schedule as it was almost every year the last decade or so. But this year will be different – this year, a chance meeting with Rush Limbaugh changes my life.
The energy level was on the ceiling as attendees were fired up to address an effective strategy to thwart the new administration’s leftist agenda, plus Rush Limbaugh would be giving the Keynote Address. As these events are apt to unfold, one gathers in working groups, and familiar compatriots make it all feel like Old Home Week. The most intimate of the crew knew my climb back from the sad events years prior, as well as the dilemma I was facing about throwing my hat back in the ring back home. You see, my family’s trauma was well known in my local community however, if I were to run for State office, the visibility could mean my family would be seeing the worst moments of our lives be rehashed by my opponents in the public sphere but on a bigger stage. My family had been criminally victimized. Politics can be vicious, and as a mother, this was a daunting struggle to choose the best course.
It was a few moments strung together, sentences floating above my head, and two hands firmly laid upon my shoulders for focus- but moments still, I will never forget. There was a small area where some of us who were granted special access were huddled just before Mr. Limbaugh was to take the stage to deliver his speech. The VIP concept was the preferred viewing location, not special access to the speaker. Then came a booming voice from behind me, “ I have heard an earful today about you, young lady ” just as I turned to face an imposing figure with soft brown eyes, he squared me off instantly with his fatherly grip. Throughout the brief conversation, we formally introduced ourselves, and he alluded to our mutual friend, who was a newly elected Governor,” he thinks the world of you, and I think the world of him,” Rush said. Suddenly his smile faded, and he leaned in and spoke these words ( best recollection):
“We both know life is not fair, but I must say to you that what you have overcome is a testimony to the capacity of a human being’s will to survive and persevere. Now, this is an admirable thing indeed, but I must also say to you it is what is expected. I think you understand this more than most. ( My name),we need you in this protracted fight for the hearts and minds of Americans, and I agree with the Governor your talent stack is stellar. I know your concerns, and they are valid but don’t get lost along the way and play their game. Always make them play your game. There are no victims here except the ones who choose to be. (my name) , I know these things. You need no ribbon on your chest as you are no victim. There are many ways you can serve the Conservative movement and effect meaningful change, and if you decide to prioritize your duty to protect your children over a campaign at this time, then I cannot fathom a more exemplary act of conservatism than that.”
Then his hands released, and he indicated he needed to get to the stage, and with a broad smile, he quipped,” that is unless you care to stand in for me?” we both blushed, and I sufficiently balked and awkwardly thanked him for his stopping to converse. Still, in shock and stunned, I stood the next hour watching this man give an iconic speech. I invite all to revisit that speech, and if you are not a Conservative, I implore you to listen to Rush explain what it is to be one.
Maybe it was his sheer kindness to seek me out after hearing about my story to give me encouragement. Maybe it was his patriarchal tenor giving me instructions that felt like a pressure valve release. Or maybe it was the way he was so confident in what he was saying and his choice to say those things to me that it made me feel worth his efforts. Perhaps all of the above and more. Ultimately, I opted to serve the Governor in an appointed advisory role on Health Care Reform rather than put my family and myself through a highly visible campaign. I gained insight and clarity into many things from my little talk with Rush, but none more important than this- what we think is who we become, and surviving does not earn you special points nor grant you victimhood to justify how your thinking failed you. I left CPAC thinking I was a mother first, then a patriot, and I needed to hear Rush Limbaugh’s succinct and common sense advice to elucidate that point.
Years ago, Rush had a Television show, and this segment says it better than I can:
LMFAO Rush Limbaugh's Ribbons pic.twitter.com/lR0wMB1LhR
— The Columbia Bugle 🇺🇸 (@ColumbiaBugle) February 17, 2021
The last time we all heard Rush behind the Golden microphone, he said:
“There’s a large part of me that feels like I have failed in such a major way, in a political sense. I’ve had 30 years here to try to convince people, to try to persuade people, to try to encourage people to critically think on their own; to realize the difference between conservatism and liberalism, the difference between the Republican Party and Democrat Party as it relates to conservative versus liberal. Even with all of that, there are still far more people than should be voting for Democrats, voting for the Left. And I chalk it up in part to having failed to convince people, persuade people of the truth.”
You were mistaken Rush, you showed me my truth in under 10 minutes in a chance meeting, and no doubt you showed millions more how to find their truth over your career and personal life.
There would be no cohesive Conservative movement under the MAGA banner if you did not reach so many to lay the foundation, so they recognized the Lion when he appeared. The Republican Party is fractured at present but not the Conservative movement. We all owe you a debt of gratitude, and I am forever grateful. Somehow I know you would say – You were only doing what you expected of yourself. But inspiration and hope to millions are beyond standard expectations, sir, and now rest knowing we carry the cause forward with the same faith in ourselves to complete the task you showed us we deserve.
“Ave atque vale.”