Rush Limbaugh celebrated 24 years on his national radio talk show Wednesday, and that date is as good as any to benchmark when the country began its journey into a deeply polarized political climate. Limbaugh -- universally called Rush by friends and critics alike -- almost single-handedly started a narrative that recast Americans into conservative heroes or liberal villains, patriotic saviors or mainstream media dupes.
He was helped by the 1987 demise of the Fairness Doctrine, the longstanding regulation that required broadcasters to present both sides of a issue in roughly equal measure. He was perfectly poised to take advantage. A fervent audience quickly congealed around him and became the largest in talk show history. Some listen for three hours a day, alternately outraged by his latest discoveries of Democratic malfeasance or entertained by his often politically incorrect humor.
As in the last presidential election, he seems lukewarm about the presumptive Republican nominee. In 2008, he ridiculed John McCain as a moderate until McCain got the nomination and took on Barack Obama. This year, he warned against nominating another moderate. But Mitt Romney has nothing to worry about. Rush is all about exposing, bashing and unraveling the Democrats, especially Obama. He will be Romney's hatchet until election day, urging his audience to take on liberalism in all its forms and disguises.