The Curtain is Falling on Conservative Talk-Radio

Confession: I often listen to Conservative Talk-Radio. It’s a guilty pleasure that I picked up while frequently traveling for work in the Southern USA. My trips would involve long days and many miles in rental cars, clocking miles to the next city and set of meetings. That’s where I discovered the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity, and Savage. Don’t get me wrong… They are not my “cup-of-tea”. Quite the opposite… I found that their racist, xenophobic and uber-nationalistic diatribes kept me enraged and road-weary alert.

In recent years, I started listening to recorded Michael Savage shows late at night, when I can’t sleep. It’s perhaps ironic that his Trump-loving, all other “Conservative talk show hosts” are idiot-pretenders, and “Liberals are insane” hysterics lull me to sleep. – cPaul

Rush Limbaugh is ailing. And so is the conservative talk-radio industry.

Paul Farhi | Washington Post

Rush Limbaugh, the most successful talk-radio host in history, is ailing. And so is the medium he helped revolutionize over the past 30 years.

© Washington Post illustration/Getty and iStock images

Faced with aging and shrinking audiences, competition from newer technologies and financial problems for the biggest station owners, talk radio is in decline — both as a business and a political force. Once a leading platform for popularizing conservative candidates and policies, talk radio is on the verge of becoming background noise, drowned out by a cacophony of voices on podcasts, cable TV and social media.

The format’s crisis comes as its biggest star is battling to stay on the air — indeed, he is battling for his life. Limbaugh, 70, has been frank about his struggle with what he said last year is advanced lung cancer. “I wasn’t expected to make it to October, and then to November, and then to December,” he said on the air just before Christmas. “And yet, here I am.”

Limbaugh’s uncertain future confronts the talk-radio business, and conservatism generally, with the prospect of losing its most galvanizing figure. Since leaping from a local station in Sacramento to nationally syndicated stardom in 1988, Limbaugh has been the bullhorn behind every important conservative initiative, from the Contract With America in the mid-1990s, to the tea party movement of the Obama era to the ascent of Donald Trump.

“He will leave a huge void when he leaves,” Paul D. Colford, a Limbaugh biographer, said. “There is no one who has come up to replace him. There is no new voice out there. There is no one like him.”

From his earliest days on the air, Limbaugh trafficked in conspiracy theories, divisiveness, even viciousness (“feminazis” was one of his infamous coinages). He created what Columbia University historian Nicole Hemmer calls a kind of “political entertainment” that partially supplanted traditional conservatism and was crucial to Trump’s political ascendancy.

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, Limbaugh told listeners that the virus was no worse than “the common cold” and that the news media had “weaponized” the crisis to hurt Trump. He floated the fringe theory that the virus was created in a Chinese laboratory as a bioweapon. A few weeks before the November election, he devoted two hours of his program to a worshipful Trump interview. After Trump lost, Limbaugh amplified the president’s lies about voter fraud and at one point suggested that conservative states might secede from the union.

Trump, for his part, awarded Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom during the State of the Union speech last year.

“Limbaugh [wasn’t] just as an instrument of Trumpism but a precursor to it, part of the transformation of the Republican Party into a party captive to its base and reliant on right-wing media,” said Hemmer, the author of “Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics.”

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About cPaul

Father: "He never amounted to anything". Mother: "Who the hell does he think he is"? Former Teacher: "Smart as a bag of hammers". Former Boss: "Condescending". Brother: "Mom loves me more".
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