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Posted on Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 10 a.m.

The Rio Lindas Rush Limbaugh never knew

By Dwight Lang


AP photo

When Rush Limbaugh entered a Hawaiian hospital on December 30th suffering from severe chest pains I wondered how this event might affect him. Death is hard for anyone to contemplate.

After extensive tests proved negative I thought our premier pundit might have a change of heart regarding the possibility of universal health care. But Limbaugh came out swinging and proclaimed we have the “best health care the world has to offer.” No need to change what is already perfect, I guess.

Following the Jan. 14th Haitian earthquake, Rush continued undaunted into the fray. Our compassionate spin-meister once again confronted death through his distinctive political lens. “This will play right into Obama’s hands … they’ll use this to burnish their, uh, shall we say, credibility with the black community, both light-skinned and black community in the country. That’s why he (Obama) couldn’t wait to get out there.” I am certain multi-millionaire Limbaugh, especially given his own brush with eternity, opened up the checkbook and contributed hundreds of thousands to our relief efforts. No dithering on his part as homeless and orphaned children roam Port au Prince streets.

The next day (Jan. 15th) Rush reinforced his sympathetic understanding. Mumbling from a distant corner of America’s political spectrum, Rush declared that Obama’s response to “Haiti is about domestic U.S. politics. … The U.S. military is now meals on wheels. It always is with Democratic Presidents.” Ah Rush, your insights provide unlimited optimism regarding the human condition. Limbaugh always presents himself as an ardent representative of everyday Americans. But as a so-called conservative political leader, does Rush speak for millions of hard-working Americans (and their children) who go without health insurance and other essentials? Does he embody the innate compassion Americans feel when others suffer and die? Rush’s on-going zeal for government failure and cynicism regarding what government can accomplish conceals deep-seated disrespect dating back to his early years as a radio entertainer in Sacramento, Calif. My experience nearly five years ago highlights Limbaugh’s unique place in American culture. Will Rush’s intrusive voice and all it represents finally be his undoing?

In 2005 I traveled home to bury my Dad - a World War II veteran, plumber and union organizer who believed in comprehensive health benefits. Dad was a compassionate liberal - as are millions of people in his generation.

On a hot summer day in early July I visited a Sacramento funeral home and in a cold, overwhelmingly silent room imagined Dad’s asbestos-filled lungs. But after a few minutes I needed to get out of there. Outside I glance over in the direction of Mom's grave and see a narrow two-lane road leading to a small town where I was raised.

Rio Linda has not changed much over the years. Economic development passed over this working-class community where my family’s severely faded double-wide trailer still stands. I bought a cold Coke at a resturant where Mom waitressed in the early 1960’s and saw the old house that had been the county library. The suspicious librarian carefully stamped due dates in my books about distant worlds.

Eventually I left Rio Linda and moved to places with names like Ann Arbor, Berkeley and Eugene. Others, many just like me, could not or did not leave. We all had dreams - pursued and realized, set aside and lost.

Rush Limbaugh rudely interrupted my drift to memory. The radio station playing music had switched to his show and he was talking about a jailed journalist refusing to name names.

I knew about Rush’s reputation at Sacramento’s KFBK radio in the late 1980s - always generous with views on news and people he did not know. He routinely mocked Rio Linda for its white-trash, trailer park ways - cars up on blocks, laziness and unemployment all around - or so he thought. That morning Rush tried to simplify events surrounding a covert CIA agent (Valerie Plame) with the phrase he coined and still uses: “For those of you in Rio Linda….” In other words, these hicks and hillbillies are slow and need things explained to them.

Limbaugh demeans less affluent Americans, including those who build homes for people like Rush. But we never hear his tales of Rio Lindans around the country laboring in the heat and cold - breathing asbestos. “For those of you in Rio Linda….”

I wonder about the irony, as Limbaugh jabbers on about brave Americans fighting for freedom in distant lands. I recall the army ethic sarcastically repeated by Dad over the years: “Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die.”

Yet those I grew up around understood politics and some even read literature. I remember their declarations of pride in contributions to America, but also recall resentment with how some outsiders viewed Rio Linda: a place filled with Git-R-Done, trailer-trash, know-nothings.

Would growing numbers of Rio Lindans end up feeling bitter and betrayed? But Rush never bothers to stop by and ask our opinion. He probably assumes we would never reason why. “For those of you in Rio Linda….”

Dad used colorful words to describe political and cultural elites who divide and manipulate. Those words lurk beneath the surface of my middle-class ways: ways that always made my father uncomfortable.

As I live and work in Ann Arbor in the second decade of the 21rst century I wonder how long America will tolerate Rush Limbaugh’s corrosive influence.

Dwight Lang is a lecturer in the sociology department at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He can be reached at:


Dwight Lang

Sat, Feb 6, 2010 : 9:55 p.m.

All comments certainly pose important concerns and questions. But as I read many of these observations the following comes to mind. Older children and teenagers (under age 18) from Rio Lindas around the country children of lower income people, regardless of race can certainly hear our dear friend Rush claim they and their parents are lazy, less important and stupid. I wonder how this might shape their self conceptions. Does Rushs comments encourage these kids to work hard, achieve and be positive about their possibilities in this land of boundless opportunities? I can hear a 10 year old girl in Rio Linda, whose parents work hard at minimum wage jobs and who go to church every Sunday, ask her Mom and Dad: Why does someone named Rush Limbaugh think Im stupid? You dont think Im stupid do you Mommy? Miss Smith, my teacher, says Im smart.


Sat, Feb 6, 2010 : 7:32 p.m.

"America will tolerate Rush until he is proved inaccurate." Actually, America has already tolerated Rush a lot longer than that:


Sat, Feb 6, 2010 : 9:41 a.m.

"As I live and work in Ann Arbor in the second decade of the 21rst century I wonder how long America will tolerate Rush Limbaughs corrosive influence?" To answer your question Mr. Lang (question mark added) (North) America will tolerate Rush until he is proved inaccurate. We all go where our biases take us. The USA is slightly conservative and therein lies the popularity of conservative radio and TV. Get over it...


Fri, Feb 5, 2010 : 11:27 p.m.

Rush is by no means corrosive. He constantly extolls the virtues of hard work and self determination. While references to "Rio Linda" are comedic, they are not a slap at the working class. They are more a judgement of the "lazy class." Those that are so critical of him are hard pressed to refute his message with facts. Objective analysis will most often find Rush to be "spot on."

Alan Benard

Fri, Feb 5, 2010 : 9:11 p.m.

I read half of his before I realized it wasn't a parody of a dittohead sycophant blathering on. Lionizing Rush Limbaugh? Really? This is clearly not a Web site for me -- or Ann Arbor.


Fri, Feb 5, 2010 : 8:32 a.m.

"Rush makes more money then obama [sic] about every three days..." This argument is kinda strange. Rush makes a lot of money, therefore he must be right. Howard Stern makes a lot of money, so obviously, he's right too. Bernie Madoff made a lot of money, therefore...

Bill Wilson

Thu, Feb 4, 2010 : 9:32 p.m.

David, You and I agree on a lot, but this isn't one of those things. Rush is, IMHO, right about 70-80% of the time. The writer is correct on spotting one thing: I am one of those conservatives funding health care for corporations, but locked out, myself. Keep the dialog to this... you'll be more sucessful.


Thu, Feb 4, 2010 : 9 p.m.

Rush makes more money then obama about every three days - as it should be. He is a national treasure and popular precisely because of the bankrupt, weak kneed, politically correct government loving drones that are killing the free press in the United States. At least the Soviet Press was forced into their corrupt, censored reporting under threat of prison or death while ours goose step along willingly - no treats required. Certainly the failure of the AAN after 135 years was a perfect example of a rag so saturated with democrat puppet nonsense, that few other then like minded kool aid drinkers could read it. Ratings across the board show that viewers disgusted with this irrational bias are turning to Fox News, the worlds more powerful news organization, by the millions as they enjoy vast audiences (and economic prosperity) as leftist drivel "Air America" goes bankrupt....and certainly trying to patch over such laughable incompetence by trying to convince yourselves of some intellectual superiority is beyond laughable.

David Briegel

Thu, Feb 4, 2010 : 3:03 p.m.

An audiance thirsty for truth and knowledge and the 400 million dollar windbag delivers neither. We have proof right here! He is constantly wrong and rarely if ever corrects himself. Ask Sarah Palin. You Betcha!

John Todd

Thu, Feb 4, 2010 : 1:23 p.m.

Being from Rio Linda, I would call to thank you for such a well written response to the constant lambasting we take from Limbaugh, but apparently I'm too illiterate to dial a phone.


Thu, Feb 4, 2010 : 10:36 a.m.

Rush is living proof of the adage that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people. Rush is a nasty little kid in the schoolyard, only a whole lot better paid. There's gold in that there hate...

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

Thu, Feb 4, 2010 : 8:57 a.m.

You have to listen to Rush for a week or so to understand his point of view.. Most of his critics are simply trying to evoke his name for getting rating themselves. Few critics have made any significant dents in his reputation or positions because Rush is right. 20-25 Million weekly listeners agree.

Top Cat

Thu, Feb 4, 2010 : 8:36 a.m.

Rush has been around a long time. No one has to listen to him. Lots of people do. Obviously he resonates. This is what is called "a success". Leftists don't like him because their definition of a success is a government program. By the way, seen the ratings for MSNBC lately?


Thu, Feb 4, 2010 : 1:20 a.m.

"His simplistic cynicism really is damaging to our nation." Pot, meet kettle.

David Briegel

Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 8:30 p.m.

At best he can be a comedian. His simplistic cynicism really is damaging to our nation. The audiance he preaches to is thirsty for truth and knowledge. Unfortunately he provides neither. Anyone who thinks Cheney is a patriot and Obama is a socialist is delusional beyond belief. In reality Rush is nothing more than a buffoon! "Corrosive influence" indeed!