The race to the bottom is over and Rush Limbaugh has won

In 1984, when Rush Limbaugh was finding his voice on radio station KFBK in Sacramento, California, I had several in-laws who were initially charmed by his bombast, though they ceased to be fans after he moved to New York in 1988.

Since then Limbaugh has arguably become the nation’s demagogue in chief. A July 6 cover story in the New York Times Magazine reveals that his contract with Premier Radio Networks earns him about $38 million a year. Limbaugh says:

First and foremost I’m a businessman. My first goal is to attract the largest possible audience so I can charge confiscatory ad rates.

Writer Zev Chafets says Limbaugh has gone deaf and wears a cochlear implant so he can hear callers. Not that he’s there to listen. That’s the audience’s job, as Chafets writes:

Limbaugh’s program that day was, as usual, a virtuoso performance. He took a few calls, but mostly he delivered a series of monologues on political and cultural topics. Limbaugh works extemporaneously. He has no writers or script, just notes and a producer on the line from New York with occasional bits of information. That day, and every day, he produced 10,000 words of fluent, often clever political talk.

Or what passes for political talk in America, I suppose. The wonder is that a man who, as we learn has a private jet and is considering the purchase of an NFL franchise, has apparently dialed in to a wide swath of the American psyche. The best line in the piece was an observation by his friend, Joel Surnow, that a movie of Limbaugh’s life would be “Citizen Kane” meets Howard Stern.