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Times Opinion doesn’t often publish four pieces reflecting on the death of one person, but few Americans have left as big a mark on politics, media and culture as Rush Limbaugh did over the past three decades.
We decided to bring readers this week two voices from inside The Times — the columnists Ross Douthat and Frank Bruni — and two voices from outside The Times. Each has a distinctive and authoritative point of view on Limbaugh’s legacy. A big part of our mission is to convene the most compelling voices on issues of wide public interest, and, given the urgent discourse about the future of conservatism, we have tried to do that here.
Jill Filipovic, a journalist and lawyer whose work focuses on gender and politics, captures the enduring power of Limbaugh’s misogyny and bigotry. She writes in her Op-Ed, “But perhaps one of Mr. Limbaugh’s most significant and longest-lasting impacts, and one that will persist even if the Republican Party returns to a post-Trump ‘normal,’ stemmed from his loud opposition to women’s rights: He was the right wing’s misogynist id. His belligerent chauvinism was key in making the Republican Party the party of anti-feminism.”
Frank Bruni reminds readers of the role Limbaugh recently assumed as he “sought to undermine democracy by ardently promoting the fiction that the 2020 election was stolen from his beloved Donald Trump.” Yet Frank also worries about the longer-term effect of the vitriol aimed at Limbaugh after his death.
Ben Shapiro, the conservative commentator, is perhaps among Limbaugh’s most obvious heirs. One of the most popular voices on the American right, Shapiro is well positioned to carry Limbaugh’s message to a new generation of listeners through his podcast — and, like his mentor, has attracted intense criticism for his trollish online presence and, to me, unpalatable views. In his essay for us, Shapiro describes the vacuum Limbaugh filled in the media landscape for millions of Americans. “Conservatives, in deep and abiding ways, occupy the house that Rush built,” Shapiro writes.
Like Shapiro, Ross Douthat is a prominent voice in American conservatism today, but he disagrees with Shapiro’s assessment of Limbaugh’s legacy. Ross’s column, like Frank’s, is a lament, but for the role that Limbaugh has played in the death of the American conservative movement.
I encourage you to read their essays here.
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