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  • Jeffrey A. Rendall

The Right Resistance: Donald Trump ain’t Rush Limbaugh, nor should he ever try to be

Could Donald Trump be the new Rush Limbaugh?

Even in our fast-paced, ever-changing, never-static universe, it’s still hard to believe that the world’s greatest radio communicator of all time has been gone a week. How many of us in the past seven days reflexively reached for the radio dial (or more likely a pre-set button) at noon EDT thinking it was time for the voice behind the golden EIB microphone to once again fill the room and tell us how it really is in our impossible to define world?


Americans collectively can’t rely on anything being both prevalent and consistently worthwhile these days, but for decades, Limbaugh was that force. Having talked with a number of friends about the meaning of Rush’s passing, it was fairly agreed that we didn’t automatically go along with Rush’s point-of-view, but the legend was always worth the time to listen to. Radio is a medium that requires qualities that TV and the internet often don’t demand -- the listeners’ full powers of attention and concentration -- and Limbaugh had a knack for being both easy on the brain and informative at the same time.


No one, it seems, is capable of filling Limbaugh’s seat now that he’s returned his talent on loan from God to its rightful owner. Very few would even hope to try. But there’s one name that’s been bandied about quite a bit in the intervening week between Rush’s final hour and today. This particular person lost his job recently and is therefore available for a full-time position. Though he is of retirement age, he’s not the type to resign himself to the golf course, post-round cocktails and an evening of Bingo down at the rec center.


This sounds more like President Grampa Joe Biden, doesn’t it?


What about Donald Trump coming to you every day for three hours, pausing only for commercial breaks and the occasional preempting of his show? Say it isn’t so. But still, people are talking about it nonetheless. In a piece titled “Where Will Rush Limbaugh’s 15 Million Listeners Go Now?” published originally in The New York Times:


“Rumors that Mr. Trump might start a post-presidential media venture have swirled for months, although those prospects have dimmed since the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. On Friday, a spokeswoman for iHeartMedia said Premiere Networks was not considering Mr. Trump as a replacement for Mr. Limbaugh.


“Still, some can dream. Greg Kelly, the resolutely pro-Trump Newsmax anchor, asked the former president during an on-air interview on Wednesday if he could imagine himself pontificating for three hours a day to millions of listeners.


“’That is one of those little things that keeps popping up,’ Mr. Trump replied, after a pause. ‘But you wouldn’t want to follow Rush. It’s the old story: You get somebody like that, you don’t want to follow them, because some things just can’t be done.’”


I couldn’t help but chuckle after reading Trump’s reply to the replace-Rush question. Everyone in America has been force-fed a steady diet of Trump for decades by the establishment tabloid media -- or at least since he announced his intention to run for president in June, 2015. Trump has been around a fair amount longer than Limbaugh was, contemplate that. But in those years, we also discovered that Trump truly believes he can do anything.


Yes, anything. It’s a type of confidence that propelled him to amazing successes, and in the past few months, equally noteworthy crashes. If he’d won a second term (or if he’d been credited with one) Trump was on a collision course with history; he would’ve forever been recognized as the man who did it his way, darn the consequences.


So if Trump supposed he’d benefit from following-up on Rush Limbaugh, I think he’d do it in a heartbeat. It’s one of only a couple remaining challenges that would require his unique blend of talent and drive (the other ones coming to mind are starting a new social media empire that would supplant and best the arrogant leftist big tech oligarchs at their own game… and/or to run for and win the presidency again). But there are good reasons why he wouldn’t do it.


First, visual presentation is a crucial part of Trump’s celebrity. When conservatives think of Trump, we see him positioned on a stage behind a podium, sometimes with a teleprompter, sometimes not. But he connects with his attendees through visual cues and gestures -- pointing to members of the audience, mentioning certain individuals, referring to the “enemy of the people” media in their booths, pacing back and forth while the crowd wildly applauds… The same spiel wouldn’t work on the radio.


Because a lot of his content is ad-libbed, Trump would find it very difficult or practically impossible for producers and engineers to set up quote snippets, bumper music or background effects for news stories. These are things Limbaugh perfected and aren’t easily mimicked, even after a crash course in Rush 101. In his mid-seventies, would Trump even want to put in the time to carry his “act” to radio? I don’t see it transpiring.


Can you imagine Trump taking callers or interviewing guests (granted, Rush didn’t do this much either, but still)?


Two, Trump has nothing left to prove in media. Donald Trump has done just about everything there is to do in entertainment (except for hosting a nationally syndicated radio show). How would taking on a Rush Limbaugh-type program expand his brand or resume? Assuming he could command an audience of fifteen to twenty million like Rush did, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the number of people who voted for him.


Before being banned from Twitter, I recall Trump had 80+ million followers. How would spending time speaking to a much smaller fraction of the audience be any better? It would be very limiting in some sense. Trump loves the back-and-forth of talking to people, but there’s no way he could directly connect with more than a few dozen during a radio gig segment.


In addition, people who loved Trump might not have liked Limbaugh. But everyone who liked Rush invariably liked Trump. What is there to gain?


Third, Trump can’t Make America Great Again through radio. The former president likes big ideas and projects, the kind of thing that can only be done by occupying the seat of power. As president, Trump could address the entire nation, sign executive orders and fly around the world setting American policy. On the radio, Trump could talk about all those things. But how many policy victories was Rush actually responsible for?


Donald Trump wouldn’t gain a whole lot by becoming the new Rush Limbaugh. The talk radio pioneer was often prodded to run for office, something he never did for reasons that went to the grave with him. The former president already tried for the White House -- twice -- and his next step likely includes steering the GOP in a way that only he is capable of. I can’t wait to see it.


  • Rush Limbaugh death

  • Donald Trump

  • Rush Limbaugh replacement

  • MAGA agenda

  • media

  • talk radio

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