Is Rush Getting Set Up To Fall?

So Rush spends three days calling Sandra Fluke a Slut (probably for telling him to f*ck off when he propositioned her – those who get laid don’t call their conquests sluts) and demanding sex tapes.

Disturbing? Very. But he had been doing this pretty much since the early nineties (if not sooner), when he was able to slip the humor of the billionaires (afflict the afflicted to comfort the comforted) into the national discussion. And since not many Liberals care enough about his show to listen for the sake of complaining about it, one would have thought that this would have passed without much comment.

Only this time it causes a heavy-duty loss of advertisers (to the point that even Free advertisers started bailing out on him). Premier Networks even went so far as to declare a two-week moratorium on advertisers on Rush’s show.

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Think of it: This guy has been comforting the comforted and afflicting and afflicted twenty-plus years. Only NOW he suffers the consequences? Over something he’s joked about for twenty years?

Maybe the folks with the real power in the American Right (Koch, et al) are finally ready to change things in Conservative Talk Radio.

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But first, let’s take a wider view of things.

Probably the one thing that has been a staple in American Political and Religious Life is that Republicans who seem to falter end up falling, and quick. One minute they’re railing against abortion and trying to bring about a system where the rich pay less tax for each dollar than the poor pay for theirs, the next moment they’re resigning their spot in tears and newer faces are fighting to take their place.

Remember The Bakers and Jimmy Swaggart? I do – preachers who ended up falling because of their sinfulness. I also remember how they discovered Newt Gingrich’s infidelities (Okay, so he was. Once a wife would come ill he’d pick her replacement) in time to clear him from the Republican leadership (and in time for 2000).

And we know, of course, of all the gay preachers and representatives who stood strong for the family until they were found out to have had “wayward desires.” All of them to the right, of course.

But understand, for every philandering preacher and gay republican officeholder that gets replaced, there’s a younger, not-quite-corrupted person who hungers for what the fallen icon seems to have had. They see the fallen, they see the opening, and they see those who have stood up to the temptations successfully and grown old in the spotlight.

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Now, on to Rush Limbaugh.

For nearly thirty years Rush has been shouting Radically Conservative ideas. He’s spouted stuff and created words and terms that have slipped into the American lexicon; and helped rewrite American English so that non-individualist/capitalist/bankist ideas have become almost incomprehensible to its speakers.

What’s interesting is that for much of the past eleven years Rush has been dodging bullets. Going deaf? He kept talking until eventually getting cochlear implants (so that he could again hear his paid callers). Oxycontin addiction? Welcome to rehab. Viagra on a trip overseas? Ignored.

So what makes Sandra Fluke different? It’s not like he’s ripped on girls for not wanting to be made barefoot-and-pregnant  – indeed, much of his appeal lay in his views on Feminism (“Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women … access to the mainstream of society.”) and his free use of the word “Feminazi” to define anyone too liberal for him.

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Enter Mike Huckabee – an ordained Southern Baptist minister, musician (who can actually rock out), former Governor of Arkansas, presidential candidate and soon to be talk show host.

On April 9th, Mike Huckabee will go from small bits three times a day to three hours directly across from Rush Limbaugh. Already got written up by Newsweek (granted, the most liberal of the big three newsmagazines, but still…).

Huckabee is a friendly man, an honest Christian, and probably the one man who could give a friendly nudge to the right to someone who’s walled themselves from Hannity, Limbaugh, Roe Conn, Savage et al. I remember seeing a LOT of I ❤ Huckabee bumper stickers, and he had actually charmed the press. I’m not going to say I liked him, but there was definitely a lot to like about him.

Meanwhile, you have a guy in Limbaugh whose audience is not only exposed as a bit less than what it once was (never mind what it was once thought as), but has been shrinking as well. Not just from listener fatigue, but through death and other problems. And the advertisers know it.

So, when they had the perfect excuse to jump off what they perceive as a sinking ship (the Sandra Fluke fixation over three days), they jumped. Premier networks had to ban national advertisement for two weeks, just to buff their image up.

Now…add in a fresh voice, one that’s willing to listen to the other side (if nothing else, to gently tear it apart) and who already has a bunch of goodwill…and the advertisers have an alternative. Should the audience come along, don’t be surprised to find contracts broken at various stations looking for cheaper, kinder alternatives.

Also don’t be surprised at new, “kinder conservative” talk stations popping up to challenge the stallwarts. As it is, there’s already multiple conservative talk stations over various markets. The Northwest Indiana market has four stations broadcasting secular conservative talk: WLS-AM (Mainstream Conservative), WIND (For those who think WLS is for liberal pussies), WIQI-FM (Conservative talk entertainment, to ensnare women) and WJOB (Local Conservative). (Notice I said secular conservative. There’s also plenty of Religious radio in NW Indiana, all of it with its own conservative bent) Only WIQI is looking for new listeners (WLS and WIND has its core who listens 24-7, and WJOB has its own job for which its conservative views are but incidental), and its main job is filling in as a conservative, more entertaining version of WBBM.

What I’m sure the Kochs, Murdocks and others of their ilk see as their need is a talk show format that will draw younger, more skeptical people who may be more left-leaning but have yet to see the wisdom of buttressing their ideas with reason and examples. The Koches and Murdocks see an audience that could be brought in with a conservative talk that doesn’t exclude them but makes its point patiently and consistently…and before you know it, the belief system of the nation has been moved to the right without a real fight. And while they see a possibility of making a group of new stations, more likely they see a chance to renew the mainstream stations with new, fresh programming from someone already well-liked by “the enemy camp.”

And, a few broken contracts later, Rush is being replaced by Huckabee.

(Heck, look at the programming on WLS. The late night’s already been taken over by shows from Huckabee’s syndicator: The mark LEVIN show and Red Eye Radio already run from 9pm to 4am; it would take a simple addition to add the afternoon slot.)

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