Rush Limbaugh: Conservative icon or post-racial posterboy

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This past Saturday, February 28, 2009, marked the 36th annual Conservative Political Action Conference, held in Washington DC. The conference attracted a huge audience of conservative students, politicians, and celebrities, all willing to rally around cries of “less government,” “protection of life,” and “we have all been given the same opportunities, regardless of the color of our skin!”

The keynote address was given by one of the loudest and most opinionated conservative voices in the United States, Rush Limbaugh. For ninety minutes he stood confidently and spoke passionately about America, it’s values, and it’s people. His articulation of the post-racial moment was spectacular.

He started his speech by confusing the Constitution with the Declaration of Independence, “We believe that the preamble to the Constitution contains an inarguable truth that we are all endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life. Liberty, Freedom. And the pursuit of happiness.”

            Rush continues, “We are all different. There are no two things or people in this world who are created in a way that they end up with equal outcomes, that’s up to them. They are created equal to get the chance.”

Here, Limbaugh is purveying what, within post-racial discourse, is called “historical amnesia.” While Limbaugh says that it’s simply “up to them” and that we are all given the same chances, he is forgetting the history of our country. It’s fundamentally naïve, one might go as far to say ignorant, to believe that everyone in this country has the same chances. If this were true, how would Limbaugh explain the disproportionate poverty in this country? How would he explain the prison system? Is the social hierarchy in this country the way it is because some people have tried harder than others? Later on, Rush explained.

            “You know why they are poor? You know why they remain poor? Because their lives have been destroyed by the never-ending government aid designed to help them, but it destroys ambition, it destroys the education they might get to learn to be self-fulfilling, and it breaks our heart.” 

Rush asserts that ambition, or rather lack thereof is the cause of poverty in the United States. However, the education that Rush speaks of is not readily available, that’s why these government programs exist. Rush continues to explain why the Democratic Party is perpetuating disproportionate poverty. The same ideals can be found in the Moynihan Report one of the most important documents in post-racial discourse. It asserted that the Civil Rights Movement had achieved legal equality, and that now progress was in the hands of African Americans who had to become better people. Limbaugh is similarly, placing the poverty problem on the impoverished. If minorities are poor, it’s their problem for not being ambitious enough.

“We want the country to succeed, and for the country to succeed, it’s individuals, its people must succeed. Everyone among us must be pursuing his ambition or her desire, whatever, with excellence. Trying to be the best they can be. Not told, as they are told by the Democratic Party, you really can’t do that, you don’t have what it takes, besides, you’re a minority or you’re a woman and there are too many people willing to discriminate against you. You can’t get any where, you need to depend on us.”

By explaining claims of racial discrimination as methods of control, Limbaugh implies that racism is no longer a problem. We are now living in a post-racial country.

Not only have we seen that this country is not post-racial, but that the operations of the Republican Party aren’t either. At one point in his speech, Limbaugh states that it was not us asking whether Barack Obama was authentic.” Were claims of Obama being a terrorist or a Communist not queries of his authenticity?

Regardless of how clearly we can see post-racial discourse in Limbaugh’s speech and radio show, what’s most disturbing is his following which gains more and more support. He is becoming a voice of conservative Americans, and in his opinion, real Americans, not human waste. Who does Rush Limbaugh think is a real American?            

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