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Thursday, 18 February 2021 06:50

Two Titans Felled

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Around a year ago, Rush Limbaugh was diagnosed with late stage lung cancer.  He has now passed away.  Like the also recently departed Sir Roger Scruton, Rush was a conservative titan.  He also revolutionised American media.  I penned this article - unpublished until now - i early 2020.

Around a year ago, Rush Limbaugh was diagnosed with late stage lung cancer.  He has now passed away.  Like the also recently departed Sir Roger Scruton, Rush was a conservative titan.  He also revolutionised American media.  I penned this article - unpublished until now - i early 2020.


As if, losing Sir Roger Scruton wasn’t enough.  A day before his great honour during the President’s State of the Union Address, the medal of Freedom no less, America’s number one radio star announced that he has stage 4 lung cancer. 

"I have to tell you something today that I wish I didn't have to tell you," announced Limbaugh, 69. The cancer diagnosis was confirmed by two medical institutions in late January after he experienced his only symptom so far, shortness of breath, on his Jan. 12 birthday weekend, he said.

Sadly, and barring a much hoped for miracle, it seems only a matter of time until we bid a final farewell to a second conservative titan in the space of a matter of months.

And how very different these two have been, Scruton and Limbaugh.  Or have they been that different?

President Donald Trump described Rush – for that is how he is universally known, by the single name only reserved for the exceedingly well known – in the following terms:

Almost every American family knows the pain when a loved one is diagnosed with a serious illness.  Here tonight is a special man, someone beloved by millions of Americans who just received a Stage 4 advanced cancer diagnosis.  This is not good news, but what is good news is that he is the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet.  Rush Limbaugh:  Thank you for your decades of tireless devotion to our country.  Rush, in recognition of all that you have done for our Nation, the millions of people a day that you speak to and inspire, and all of the incredible work that you have done for charity, I am proud to announce tonight that you will be receiving our country's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  I will now ask the First Lady of the United States to please stand and present you with the honor.  Rush, Kathryn, congratulations!

Indeed, the highly respected Federalist suggests that Trump owes his very Presidency to Rush Limbaugh.  A big call.  Others have described him as a “Republican kingmaker”.

Rush has his enemies on the left, as did Scruton, and typically they offer spittle flecked abuse where a more sensible approach might suggest reasoned debate.  The (Australian) ABC rose to the occasion, with liberal use of that favourite conservative-describing term of theirs – “divisive”.  Worse than merely “controversial”.  A Wisconsin critic suggested that the cancer diagnosis was “awesome”.  Perennially tedious leftist film director Rob Reiner simply said – “I loathe this f.. man”.  These Yank culture warriors sure do play for keeps.  And the American left, whether the soft or hard left, seems now only to know one kind of communication tool, and that is self-serving but ultimately ineffective hatred.

“Raucous”. “Liberal bashing”.  “Grating”.  The epithets continue to flow, in leftist abundance.

Still, many of us were thrilled at the timely recognition of Limbaugh’s peerless conservative career.  Often the base is most pleased when its leaders show a middle finger to the left in matters of style as well as substance.  And so it goes with the award of high right-of-centre honours.  We just know that they cannot be gracious about these.  Ever.

Mark Steyn recounted a conversation with John Howard when he said that he had to return from an Australian visit to the USA to stand in for Rush behind the Golden Mic.  Howard expressed some surprise at this urgent return home, until Steyn pointed out that Rush’s audience was around 30 million.  “Strewth”, said JWH, “that is more listeners than there are Australians”.  Indeed.  Limbaugh’s singular achievement, for Steyn, was to educate his listeners, not merely to inform them, or, worse, hector them.  He brought them, all 600 radio stations worth of listeners, in that reasonable, soft spoken manner of his, on a learning journey.  Mark Steyn indeed suggested, emotionally, that he owed simply everything, in terms of his own US career, to Rush Limbaugh.

He endlessly points out how American greatness triggers the left.  An hour of listening to the President reminding the world of the great revival on his watch was too much for crazy Nancy.  Unbelievably, she simply tore up the speech in front of the world, in a fit of petulance seldom seen among adults in the room. 

We will not see Rush Limbaugh’s like again.  If the premature death of Andrew Breitbart some years back was thought to be a national disaster by the right, the spectacle of Rush being laid low by cancer multiplies that heavy loss many times over.  For Rush had massive and broad reach, every day, giving meaning to the term “influencer” before that was even a word.  He has gone national since 1988.  32 years’ worth of influencing.

An admirer once suggested in 1992:

"You've become the number one voice for conservatism in our country."

The author of this endorsement was Rush’s hero, Ronald Reagan.

We conservatives just love it when we have the best on our side, to the great chagrin of our enemies, and with Rush, we have.  For yes, Rush has given meaning to the Golden Mic’s tag, “excellence in broadcasting”.  He is polished, professional, and thereby consequential.  No mere right wing rabble rouser.

Rush described himself as the Mayor of Realsville.  Here he touched the common man and woman.  Alan Jones, an impressive facsimile downunder of Rush in style and approach, though perhaps with a little more sharpness on occasion, might call Rush’s audience “struggle street”.  Howard battlers.  Reagan Democrats.  Silent Australians.  But the joint appeal of Jones and Limbaugh is always to common sense, the pub test of all things political, a non-ideological, centrist conservatism.

And this is at the heart of grounded, “mainstreet” conservatism.  Here, perhaps, is the touchpoint with the conservative philosophy of the late Roger Scruton, sadly lost to us just now.

Scruton was not a shock jock, not a populariser of the centrism conservative message, but a high brow intellectual of the first order.  Scruton did not have the daily reach of the “capital I Influencer”.  Though, if Rush was Reagan’s favourite broadcaster, then Scruton was the favourite philosopher of Reagan’s best buddy Margaret Thatcher.  So there is a connection there.

Sir Roger received similar right-of-centre acclaim to Rush.  He was awarded a knighthood in his own country, a country which, it has been cogently argued, did not generally give Scruton his due.  Perhaps more importantly, Scruton received deeply cherished and valued honour from Eastern Europe for his courageous work behind the iron Curtain in keeping the flame of freedom alight.

Scruton had star quality to match Rush’s.

His humanity and principled candor made him the most influential conservative thinker since Edmund Burke—and one of the most unfairly slandered writers in modern times.

Praise doesn’t get any higher.  And the slander endured is Rush-like vitriol.  You can measure the effectiveness of the enterprise by the degree to which you utterly piss off your opponents.  Something shared.

Dominic Green has observed that:

Conservatism has always been as much a temperament as a philosophy—not an ideology, but an antidote to it. 

Rush’s pitch to American greatness and to the fundamental down home values of ordinary Americans has a little of this type of conservatism to it.

Scruton’s philosophy rejected ideology, rejected economism, rejected the cheap and nasty leftist rejection of truth and beauty, and the hifalutin appeal to earthly utopia.  Speaking to a different audience than Rush, perhaps, and undertaking different work, he nevertheless engaged in the same task of the gentle teaching of virtue, with persistence and a grace not generally known in his enemies.  Like Rush, though, he could be combative.  His focused and precise evisceration of leftist philosophy in his book on the new left, recently updated, would probably have brought a wry smile from the man behind the Golden Mic.

The broad conservative movement has many tasks to be done, and many skill sets are needed to turn around the disastrous pitch to the left of our polity and society over the past 50 years.  We need our Scrutons and our Limbaughs, toiling away in the fields and towns and factories and workplaces and households.

If you google “Scruton and Limbaugh”, you won’t find anything.  This is a pity, for each, in his own patch, has progressed the core idea of conservative thinking.  That is, that there is a way of delivering timeless truths that also speak to the everyday aspirations of the ordinary man and woman who struggle to understand the ways in which their worlds have been assailed by the wicked ideologies and false promises of the left.  Yes, there is far more to the comparison of the greatness of these two conservative titans than the coincidence of their shard cancers.

They are not the same, the two conservative titans, and they did not believe in all the same things.  Sir Roger didn’t Like Trump much, for example, and Rush helped to make Trump President.  Trump is not really a conservative, certainly not an American establishment, “movement” conservative.  Yet he ticks so many conservative boxes, he gets nationalism (as does Scruton) and he connects so many Americans to the wonderful notion of American virtue, in a way that all conservatives must surely admire, indeed embrace.  Rush and Trump get to the endpoint of conservatism, via the route of patriotism and common sense.  A different route to Hegel and Burke, perhaps.  I can live with these differences, as should all conservatives.  We are a broadish church, after all.

Above all, we must thank the Lord for them both, and hope that we will see another generation of cultural warriors of their quality to lead us in the battles of our lives.

Read 1685 times Last modified on Thursday, 18 February 2021 07:16
Paul Collits

Paul Collits is a freelance writer and independent researcher who lives in Lismore New South Wales.  
He has worked in government, industry and the university sector, and has taught at tertiary level in three different disciplines - politics, geography and planning and business studies.  He spent over 25 years working in economic development and has published widely in Australian and international peer reviewed and other journals.  He has been a keynote speaker internationally on topics such as rural development, regional policy, entrepreneurship and innovation.  Much of his academic writing is available at
His recent writings on ideology, conservatism, politics, religion, culture, education and police corruption have been published in such journals as Quadrant, News Weekly and The Spectator Australia.
He has BA Hons and MA degrees in political science from the Australian National University and a PhD in geography and planning from the University of New England.  He currently has an adjunct Associate Professor position at a New Zealand Polytechnic.