Rush Limbaugh, Intellectual

Mary Grabar

6/3/2009 12:25:41 PM - Mary Grabar

I was a bit surprised to hear former Homeland Secretary Tom Ridge echo President Obama’s criticism of Rush Limbaugh by calling him “shrill” and “divisive” recently. Then Senator John Cronyn joined in the Rush-bashing over Limbaugh’s use of the word “racist” for self-described “wise Latina woman” judge Sonia Sotomayor. I do not recall ever being enlightened or inspired by these politicians.

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On the other hand, as I’ve driven to teach afternoon classes I’ve enjoyed the insights and wit from Limbaugh. I am always impressed by his ability to apply historical figures, ideas, events, and Constitutional principles.

This is what I miss about my profession as a college instructor. Rarely am I able to discuss ideas with my colleagues; indeed, I dare not speak my opinion nor say anything positive about any figures on the Left’s “hit list.”

One of those figures is Alexis de Tocqueville, the French aristocrat who toured the United States in the 1830s and provided an invaluable analysis of the American character and government in his multivolume work, Democracy in America. But to mention his name without the preface of “fascist” or “elitist” is to invite suspicions of one’s academic credentials--and employability.

But to my joy, I’ve heard talk show host Mark Levin cite Tocqueville’s warning about our slide to a “soft tyranny,” an idea he carries through in his current number one bestselling book, “Tyranny and Liberty,” along with references to the Federalist Papers and an obscure essay by C.S. Lewis.

I’ve listened to other colleagues on WGKA, like classics professor Victor Davis Hanson interviewed by host and law professor Hugh Hewitt, and host and professor of Russian and Jewish history, Dennis Prager. On radio host Glenn Beck’s Fox television program, I learned about Florida State University history professor Robert Gellately’s currently apropos and lively study, Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler. Rush Limbaugh provided historical explanation for the public’s adoration of Obama: the same kind of emotional investment that caused gulag prisoners to cry at Stalin’s death. This comes from reading Solzhenitsyn.

Except for the occasional meeting of a couple scholarly organizations, I rarely have the opportunity for intellectual exchange—something I had hoped to do as I studied for my Ph.D.

The public is buying up the books, while the left promotes such fluff as former Air America radio host Al Franken’s “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big, Fat Idiot,” Obama’s “memoirs,” or the sordid story of cheated-on wife Elizabeth Edwards. But this is part of the legacy of anti-intellectualism of “Woodstock Generation”—something that drove former “Ramparts” editor, David Horowitz to the other side. The anti-intellectualism reigns in the academy, the institution of their choice for infiltration.

Many mistake the shows of sophistication—modulated voices and stylish sentences--for intellectual depth. But the educated can spot what is left out of the NPR or “New York Times” report. Usually it is a serious consideration from the other side.

Mistaking style for substance Republican “moderates” have been fooled and fallen into the enemy’s trap. A good professor does not speak in the monotone of a policy meeting or business negotiations. He moves around the room, gesticulates, asks provocative questions, and even, as I heard two lawyers discuss a favorite professor they had at the University of Georgia, throw chairs out the window. Conversely, many tune into NPR’s soothing “analysis” to drift off to sleep.

What the talk show hosts do is present foundational ideas to concerned and intellectually curious citizens. Their wild success exposes a hunger for ideas rarely met in other forums—like our schools. That is why they want to shut down talk radio as it is today.

So I suggest that the government functionaries and politicians take a moment out of their wonkish study of policy and listen in to talk radio. I suggest they go pick up Tocqueville. If they want to be voted into office they need to understand what he says about a free democracy: “No one easily allows himself to be reduced to the mere material cares of life; and the humblest artisan casts at times an eager and a further glance into the higher regions of the intellect.”

Tocqueville is talking about the middle class that keeps this country going. And today they are millions of voters and they’re educating themselves by listening to talk radio and buying books.