Though our Founders were well-educated and thoughtful men, this nation has a long history of anti-intellectualism. Rush Limbaugh taps into that vein daily, trading on the insecurities of his audience, a loyal core group of a loosely estimated 14-19 million listeners, mostly angry white males, who proclaim themselves to be "dittoheads" who give unthinking assent to just about anything Limbaugh says. If Limbaugh wants our new president to fail, so do they. If Limbaugh thinks women who seek equal rights are "femi-Nazis," then so do they. If Limbaugh says that the "Democrat" party is worse than Al Qaeda, they'll go along with that, too.
And when he refers to the "elites," he doesn't mean really rich people like himself; he means people like Barack Obama or Bill Clinton, whose elitism can be traced to the fact that they followed the American dream out of the lowest economic strata of our nation to win recognition based on hard work and keen intelligence, overcoming obstacles of class and race to achieve the highest position in the land, unlike that "common man" and "regular guy," George W. Bush, who had things handed to him on a gilded plate, never worked very hard at anything, and was given the rich kid's pass through our most prestigious universities based on nothing more than family connections and money. Also, George W. Bush never made the mistake of looking as though he'd gotten an education at all, and that made him unthreatening to Limbaugh and his listeners, who are mostly guys who didn't go to college, or dropped out early if they did.
The anti-intellectualism of a demagogue like Rush Limbaugh is dangerous. He emboldens stupidity, encourages prejudice, and primes the pump of rage and hatred every day. Limbaugh presides over a sour band of American discontent, a substrata of listeners who resonate to the anger, the fear, and the scapegoating he's been peddling for nearly two decades.
Like Limbaugh, most of these white males did not graduate from college and they've always been aggressively defensive about that fact, a defensiveness that expresses itself in disdain for any and all who did finish college--unless those college grads are vocally supportive of positions they've come to hold.
Like Rush, many of them found ways to avoid military service, though they think of themselves as fiercely patriotic.
Like Rush, they hate taxes, though none of them are as richly favored by fortune as he is, and though few of them have benefited from Republican tax policies like the people in Limbaugh's league.
Like Rush, many of them are overweight--cops, forklift operators, and long haul truckers who've been too sedentary and who've eaten a high fat and sugar diet.
Their heroes tend to be workers who don't work, like Joe the Plumber, and they prefer soldiers who don't fight, like George W. Bush, over soldiers who do, like John Kerry.
They trace most of their problems to a boogeyman Rush has defined for them as "the liberal," a monster that wants to take away their hard-earned money and give it to the shiftless, the godless, and the irresponsible--mostly those minorities who flood the nation with drugs, breed like rats, and suck up welfare provided by hard-working men like them.
These Limbaugh clones didn't do very well with the girls when they were in high school, and they've generally carried that lucklessness at love into adulthood. Like Rush, most of them have a divorce or three littering their personal resumes, a fact that has made them a tad cranky.
Like Rush, they never heard of a "defense" appropriation they didn't like, nor a social program they did.
Like Rush, most of them have a nasty streak and a mean sense of humor. They're the kind of people you might find yourself sitting behind in the movies, those guys who laugh in all the wrong places, and think it's funny whenever someone is getting their head blown off.
They think they believe in personal responsibility, but they take little responsibility for their bitter unhappiness, finding instead a legion of scapegoats arrayed as a barrier to their contentment. It was those ex-wives, it was feminism, it was government regulation and taxation that has made their roads more rutted than they'd expected them to be when they dropped out of college, or high school.
In their anti-intellectualism and their eagerness to find scapegoats among the least powerful, they bear an uneasy similarity to Hitler's first followers, the Brown Shirts. And, in their thirst for old-fashioned male power over passive and compliant women, they share more attitudes with the Taliban than many of them would care to acknowledge.
You probably remember these guys from when you were high school. They were always on the fringes of any after-school fight, egging on the would-be combatants, then sneaking in a taunt or a sly and anonymous kick once one of the boys was beaten to the ground. They were the bullyboys who always sought out the new kid for special harassment, or ganged together to hassle a lone black, brown, or "sissy" kid as he made his way home from school.
Life has not turned out as they'd hoped, but it's not their fault. Rush explains it to them every day. They believed in freedom, in liberty, in an "excellence" they never aspired to achieve, but claim to revere, nonetheless. They believed in the unfettered individual, but their dreams were denied because of the "liberal elites," those college-educated types who've done so much to dash their hopes and destroy their happiness.They would be pitiable were it not for the fact that their deep and bitter unhappiness has caused the nation such grievous harm, such severe division, and such perilous hatred for the newly-elected leader Rush hopes will fail at just the time when the nation desperately needs him to succeed.