Rush Limbaugh, Ditto Nation, and Identity Politics

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I still remember the conversation as if it was yesterday. I was sitting with my graduate advisor talking about my thesis. We were in the outside seating area of the student commons, and we both had half-drunk cold cups of coffee, and half-eaten sandwiches. Suddenly our conversation was intruded by the AM band from the radio of a groundskeeper. On it was Rush Limbaugh.

The groundskeeper had brown skin and talked with his partner in the Spanglish common in the border area. They were talking about their trucks, and how liberals and people like me were going to destroy them. Why? Because Rush told him. That he was the precise target of many of Rush’s rants did not phase him.

What my teacher said was far more important. He said that Rush was as dangerous as Father Charles Coughlin, who took to the airwaves during the New Deal. He was a Canadian immigrant, and increasingly went into antisemitic rants on the airwaves, and attacks on Democrats because they were communist. The whole New Deal was a Communist enterprise if you believed Coughlin.

I never forgot that conversation and the modern radicalized Republican Party, with white identity, is Rush’s legacy. The Ditto Nation grew into factions of the Republican Party that ran on white grievance politics.

Ditto nation became one of the early cults in the party. I always wondered if the gardener understood that he was not really part of that club. As the years passed, he might, since Rush’s radio show targeted immigrants, whether legal or illegal, in cruel ways. At one point he even argued that those born in the United States were not truly Americans if they were not white. This is why he embraced birtherism. After all, a black president was not an American.

Earlier Rush celebrated the deaths of AIDS patients. He attacked Democrats, and feminists, calling the latter Feminazis and the former Democrats. He demonized half the country, to the point that he made them the enemy within.

Rush and his army of ditto heads preceded a lot of what Donald Trump said while running for office in 2016. He also lay the groundwork for embracing white supremacists. Ironically, the same group that complained of identity politics by others, fully made it it's own. Many middle-class whites see their time in the sun coming to an end. They also see jobs that have left for places like China and Mexico. While GOP politicians talk a good game, they want those jobs to leave because it is good for donations, or at least was until the January 6 insurrection.

Rush kept going, even when violence resulted. He felt that President Bill Clinton calling to end the rhetoric was an attack on him. Rush did not see a problem with the violence of white men, and it was mostly white men. Women, especially, scared him.

He was a bully, not unlike Coughlin. Now he is dead.

This brings me back to Coughlin. Most Americans these days have no idea who Father Coughlin was. Or that like Rush he was racist, an antisemite, and threatened by a changing society.

In his day Father Coughlin had a large audience, just like Rush. Once he went off the radio his memory faded. I wish Rush the same fate. His ditto army will dissolve into the seas of memory. Someday, the only people who will know who he was, and who the Ditto Heads were, will mostly be historians. In other words, and for Rush this is the worst possible fate. I wish him to become a footnote in the history of the United States.

Historian by training. Former day to day reporter. Sometimes a geek who enjoys a good miniatures game.

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