Rush Limbaugh is a major factor in American conservatism, the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 1994, the defeat of Hillary Clinton, and the election of Donald J. Trump as president.
Rush first began working in radio in 1967 and spent various periods over the next two decades gaining experience at local radio stations. On August 1, 1988 Rush hit national air waves for the first time as a talk radio host, and he has been a major force in the national conversation ever since.
Over the years, Callista and I have gotten to know Rush well. I once even had the pleasure of listening to Callista and Rush entertainingly recount their high school experiences working in local radio. They had remarkably similar stories about their teenage experiences in small local radio stations. Obviously, Rush stayed focused on mastering that trade, while Callista went on to the piano, the French horn, becoming chief clerk at the House Committee on Agriculture, and singing professionally in the choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Nonetheless it was funny listening to them tell stories about their youthful adventures on air.
Rush is a good example of the importance of paying your dues and earning your trade. It was no accident that he spent 20 years in local radio before finally going national. He learned a lot about his audience, about the strengths and limitations of radio as a medium, and about the kind of folks with whom he wanted to attract, entertain, and form a community.
Rush was a deeply committed conservative, a strong fan of President Ronald Reagan, and a passionate opponent of the Clintons. When President Clinton was elected Rush went all out to explain his failings to the country.
During this period, we got to know each other really well because we had wonderful mutual friends, Gay and Stanley Gaines, who would bring us together for long dinners and hours of passionate conversation. One afternoon my son-in-law, Paul Lubbers, was playing golf with Rush and Stanley and hit a hole in one. Rush’s signature made that scorecard even more memorable.
When we went all out in 1994 to win the House with the Contract with America, Rush was our biggest booster. By then he was drawing an audience of 28,000,000 Americans every week. His reach and credibility made him an enormously important ally. With Rush’s help, Republicans won the House for the first time in 40 years. Two years later, Rush’s championing of our welfare reform bill helped us keep the House for the first time in 68 years–since 1928.
Today, Rush remains one of the most important commentators for conservatives. Only Sean Hannity comes close to matching his reach and the intense loyalty of his audience.
President Trump might not have gotten either the nomination or won the general election without Rush’s constant, insightful commentary.
In three short decades, Rush has fundamentally changed the landscape of talk radio. He created an outlet for Americans to hear and discuss the stories the news media refused to cover, long before the rise of the Internet and social media. Rush began his 30th year as host of The Rush Limbaugh Show earlier this week. It is truly a remarkable accomplishment and a reminder of what a true entrepreneur can achieve through vision, guts, and hard work.
Newt Gingrich is the author of "Understanding Trump," and is a former Republican Speaker of the House.