How ’90s Christian radio enabled Rush Limbaugh’s toxic views

By promoting talk radio’s partisan political discussions alongside their Christian “family-focused” messaging, all of these networks merged the Christian idea of being at war with spiritual “outsiders” with a conservative political theme that’s still dominant today: painting left-of-center democratic politics as immoral.

This framing was often explicit. When evangelicals of the ’90s urged their fellow Christians to engage in spiritual warfare, they often meant that they should all be working against Democrats and Democratic policies. For example, in the Christian fantasy bestseller of the era, Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness series, a variety of left-leaning concepts and policies, from globalization to the welfare system, were presented as being part of an overarching Satanic influence. The books depicted demons as being physically attached to leftist political enemies of the church, while occultist New Age conspirators controlled democratic politicians. (Sound familiar?)

In other words, Clinton-era Democrats weren’t just Christian conservatives’ political enemies. They were The Enemy.

So when Rush Limbaugh — with his braggadocio, mockery of his political opposites, and confident assertion of his own righteous authority over any subject put before him — hit the airwaves and began broadcasting for three hours every day, five days a week, conservative Americans responded to him very similarly to how they would respond to Donald Trump decades later: They lauded him as a much-needed, truth-speaking foil to godless liberals.

A built-in assumption of Limbaugh’s righteousness allowed him to go unchallenged for years in spouting bigotry, including outright racism and homophobia. He constantly asserted the moral vacuity of Democrats while couching his own arguments in populist appeals, played for laughs, such that they could be more easily overlooked as jokes. Like Trump, it didn’t matter that he himself wasn’t particularly moral or spiritual or good — what mattered to his audience was that he held the ostensibly immoral and unholy up to a lens for public scrutiny and collective ridicule.

For a case study of this approach in action, look to one of Bill Clinton’s cabinet appointees, Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the nation’s first Black Surgeon General. At the time of Elders’s appointment, Americans really weren’t outraged by her, and Republican senators had no real reason to block her nomination. But then Limbaugh viciously and relentlessly attacked Elders throughout the ’90s and beyond, labeling her “the condom queen” and using a thick, racist accent to mock her pro-abortion-rights and pro-sex-education stances. Limbaugh’s radio show arguably played a major role in fomenting negative public opinion against Elders, until Clinton ultimately fired her in 1994. “Goodbye to the Condom Queen,” a Newsweek headline crowed at the time.

Exactly how is an accent racist?


For leftist standards that’s pretty good, but it’s not an explanation.

Yes, @MisterBlue is quite articulate, isn’t he?

you pretend not to know what racism is. typical trumptard

I know what it is, but I don’t think you do. That is why you think an accent can be racist. Can you explain how an accent is racist?

The same way you view being against fascism is terrorism. If you want to be snide, come correct.

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Being against fascism is actually fascist these days though, if you’re in the anti fascist club.

I’m sorry but ANTIFA are the most fasci-ist fascists on the planet. When you try to ram your views down peoples throats through violence that’s fascist.

Unless you’re a democrat then I guess it’s a necessity not fascism. Please don’t call the thought police on me

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Lol, no, that was the masturbation comment, as in, let’s teach that in school.

Clinton literally had to respond to that and deny it, yet in the rebound, she still insisted on it. Sorry, but the gal had weird ideas.

Oh, no mention of this at Vox? What a strange emiss omission.