When I was a Teenage Moonbat™, I hated Rush Limbaugh and I had a lot of friends who also hated him with a passion: just the sound of his voice on the radio was enough to cause us to fly into fits of rage that evoked Orwellian Minutes of Hate. To this day I have liberal relatives who cannot stand to hear his voice on the radio -- monied and relatively powerful people who would like nothing more than to see him be silenced.
As a Teenage Moonbat™ I knew that the 1st Amendment protected Limbaugh and that aggravated me to no end: the fact that he had listeners, broadcasters and an audience told me that there were very few legal means through which to shut him up. And so we thought of other ways, and undoubtedly there are more people in this country at this very moment who consider other ways of keeping Rush's mouth shut.
In the fullness of time, I came to realize that Rush Limbaugh had gotten a very bad rap -- not just from me but all the people who reflexively hated him -- just because he said things on the air that they didn't like to hear, that they thought should be verboten to say, that they found insulting and derogatory. The limits of their respect for our Constitution were tested by their bile, their disgust at ever having to listen to someone who had a consistently contrary view and was successful at promulgating it. It was a catastrophe of the highest order, for them and for me.
And especially an entertaining and funny one that engaged the listener and encouraged their participation.
Personally, my father was a Limbaugh fan many years before I was, because Rush speaks his mind, and his radio show is popular, informative and funny. Liberals can't stand this about him, and they've famously launched failed attempts to "counter" him: even Chistopher Hitchens has lamented their impotence.
I watched Carroll O'Connor on Charlie Rose mockingly describe Rush Limbaugh (in full Archie Bunker character) as: "One of those guys who comes along once in a generation." (I'm paraphrasing), and it was clear that he didn't like him very much: O'Connor couldn't even act as Bunker and disguise his contempt for Limbaugh. Now, that's TV. Legal academia is something entirely different: I was surprised to learn that so many liberal and leftist law professors thought of Limbaugh as a menace to society who should be silenced for everyone's good. In private moments, I've had people tell me that he should be prosecuted for hate crimes, that he should be taken off the air permanently, that nobody should ever say anything like what he does, in other words, that he should be broken and driven to the gallows. That reaction was one of the things that convinced me that Liberals really don't respect freedom of speech -- unless it satisfies their pretensions and fits their ideological preconceptions.
Today I listen to Limbaugh occasionally, over the Internet, and of course in the car whenever I drive around with my Dad. We've even picked him up in Connecticut with a Grundig radio outside a McDonald's -- and very proudly. My opinion about him has changed so completely in the past 10 years that I cannot even really recognize myself in the opinions I used to hold about him. Importantly, I realized that he was in fact a very careful observer of American politics and a true Conservative: that takes time to understand and there's no shortcut. But he's also an unconventional Conservative because his show is also entertaining and very well-produced, and he gives a lot of time on the air to his listeners.
Just for the sheer amount of work Limbaugh has put into that show over the last decade, you would expect Liberals to respect him, but they never will. He'll always be an acquired taste or something that's rejected outright by them. But for us, he's a treasure (one that I personally had to search for) and so I'd like to say, today:
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RUSH! AND THANK YOU, SIR."