Scott and Paul noted earlier the 30th anniversary of the debut of Rush Limbaugh’s national radio show 30 years ago today, and I would have added to their thread if I hadn’t been in the throes of a supposed vacation and not paying attention. (Being a workaholic, it’s a working vacation of course.)
Anyway, I’ve got the drop on most everyone, because I was listening to Rush before he became RUSH. He started in KFBK radio in Sacramento in 1984, around the time I started going to Sacramento a lot to get involved in California politics more directly. And friends of mine all said—”You’ve got to listen to the this guy Rush Limbaugh on KFBK, the local talk station. He’s a smart conservative, really funny, tears the liberals, quotes National Review and the American Spectator!” And they were right. I couldn’t believe my ears.
This was simply unheard of on radio at the time. In LA, we had Bruce Herschensohn doing a short daily radio commentary, and some short TV segments, which were both great, but the idea of someone doing serious analysis and commentary three hours a day was groundbreaking. And I did think to myself, “This guy needs a bigger audience—and will probably get one sooner or later.” When I heard the news in 1988 that he was taking his show national in syndication, I knew right away he would be a monster hit, and I was not surprised he became a hit very quickly.
One thing that needs to be remembered in this happy occasion, though, is that Rush Limbaugh was only made possible by the Reagan Administration’s repeal of the so-called “fairness doctrine,” which required “equal time” for “opposing viewpoints,” which meant in practice that conservatives existed on short rations in electronic media. There was some sentiment on the left to bring back the “fairness doctrine” under Bill Clinton, and everyone understood it was really a proposal for a “Hush Rush” regulation, and it died quickly. But rest assured that if the left gets back in power again, they will propose a new “fairness doctrine” whose intent will be to shut down Rush and Fox News.
Postscript: Rush did a very nice interview with me over the phone for his Limbaugh Letter after my Age of Reagan came out in 2009, and I got to tell him that I was a listener way back in his KFBK days in 1984, and he said he was touched that I remembered those early days when he broke out.