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Rush Limbaugh defined conservatism for a generation. In his words, this is who conservatives are.


'I want to tell you who conservatives are'

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Conservatives are in mourning. Rush Limbaugh, the No. 1 conservative radio talk show host, whose voice reached tens of millions of Americans for more than 30 years, died at 70 Wednesday, succumbing to late-stage lung cancer.

After his passing, many prominent conservatives, in their tributes to America's Anchorman, credited the late patriot with founding the conservative media industry. They remember him as a tireless advocate for beliefs shared by millions of Americans whose voices are to this day ignored by the mainstream, "drive-by media" Rush would so often vilify on his program.

Limbaugh's critics have vilified him in turn, predictably and boringly recalling, in the words of NBC News for example, "his long history of sexist, homophobic and racist remarks" to commemorate his death. Such critics accuse Limbaugh of inflaming "the partisan divide that came to characterize political discourse in the United States." This is the way the mainstream media and the left would have most Americans remember Rush, if at all.

That is not who Rush Limbaugh was. That is not how he should be remembered. And he would tell you so himself.

"I've made mistakes and try to own up to them, but I just wish one out of a hundred of my critics had ever actually listened to an entire show of mine," Limbaugh once said.

Those that did listen to Rush know who he was. Rush Limbaugh was a conservative. To understand what that means, to genuinely understand Rush Limbaugh and who he thought he was, there's perhaps no better place to begin than a speech he gave in 2009.

President Barrack Obama had just assumed office. Republicans and conservatives were swept out of power in the election, with the Democratic Party achieving full control of the federal government with a supermajority in the United States Senate. The conservative movement was arguably, in terms of holding federal elected office, at its weakest position since before Ronald Reagan was president.

Speaking at CPAC 2009, to a movement facing recent defeat, Rush gave what he called his "first ever address to the nation" broadcast on national TV, courtesy of Fox News. Speaking for nearly 90 minutes, encouraged on by the American Conservative Union leaders organizing the event, Limbaugh spoke directly to the American people about who conservatives are, what we believe in, and why we are eternally optimistic because our core principles are right and true.

Excerpts from that address, quoted below, should serve as the final word on who Rush Limbaugh was, what he believed in, and why millions of Americans love him and mourn him.

Now, seriously, for those of you watching on C-SPAN as well, and on Fox, I want to tell you who we all are in this room. I want to tell you who conservatives are. We conservatives have not done a good enough job of just laying out basically who we are because we make the mistake of assuming people know. What they know is largely incorrect based on the way we are portrayed in pop culture, in the Drive-By Media, by the Democrat Party.

Let me tell you who we conservatives are: We love people. When we look out over the United States of America, when we are anywhere, when we see a group of people, such as this or anywhere, we see Americans. We see human beings. We don't see groups. We don't see victims. We don't see people we want to exploit. What we see -- what we see is potential. We do not look out across the country and see the average American, the person that makes this country work. We do not see that person with contempt. We don't think that person doesn't have what it takes. We believe that person can be the best he or she wants to be if certain things are just removed from their path like onerous taxes, regulations and too much government.

We want every American to be the best he or she chooses to be. We recognize that we are all individuals. We love and revere our founding documents, the Constitution and 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. Those of you watching at home may wonder why this is being applauded. We conservatives think all three are under assault.

We don't want to tell anybody how to live. That's up to you. If you want to make the best of yourself, feel free. If you want to ruin your life, we'll try to stop it, but it's a waste. We look over the country as it is today, we see so much waste, human potential that's been destroyed by 50 years of a welfare state. By a failed war on poverty.

We love the people of this country. And we want this to be the greatest country it can be, but we do understand, as people created and endowed by our creator, we're all individuals. We resist the effort to group us. We resist the effort to make us feel that we're all the same, that we're no different than anybody else. We're 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, given the chance - -

We don't hate anybody. We don't -- I mean, the racism in this country, if you ask me, I know many people in this audience -- let me deal with this head on. You know what the cliche is, a conservative: racist, sexist, bigot, homophobe. Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen of America, if you were paying attention, I know you were, the racism in our culture was exclusively and fully on display in the Democrat primary last year.

It was not us asking whether Barack Obama was authentic. What we were asking is: Is he wrong? We concluded, yes. We still think so. But we didn't ask if he was authentically black. We didn't say, as some Southern Christian Leadership Conference leaders said: Barack is not authentic, he's not got any slave blood. He's really not down for the struggle, but his wife is. So don't expect the race industry to go away. Southern Christian Leadership Conference -- you may not know this, because it wasn't reported in the Drive-By Media -- the racism, the sexism, the bigotry that we're all charged with, just so you across the United States of America know, and you'll see demonstrated here as the afternoon goes on, doesn't exist on our side. We want everybody to succeed.

You know why? We want the country to succeed, and for the country to succeed, its people -- its individuals -- must succeed. Everyone among us must be pursuing his ambition or her desire, whatever, with excellence. Trying to be the best they can be.


Conservatives are naturally happy. We seek happiness. We pursue it. It's part of who we are. So what can you do? Live your life. I swear, folks, you do not know in just the everyday life that you live in your homes, your neighborhoods, the favorite word of this administration, your "communities." Remember the root word there is "commune." Be happy, live your life according to your values and principles. Know you're going to fail, no human being is perfect, you're going to make mistakes, but live your life -- you'll be stunned at how many people you impress. Don't be afraid to tell children that they're wrong. They don't know what you do. They simply haven't lived long enough. It's not their fault, but they're being fed a bunch of garbage in school and don't be afraid to tell them that they're wrong.


So as you leave here, as you leave here optimism, confidence, not guilt, it's not worth it. There's nothing to be guilty about. Don't treat people as children. Respect their intelligence. Realize that there's a way to persuade people. Sometimes the worst way is to get in their face and point a finger. Set up a set of circumstances where the conclusion is obvious. Let them think they came up with the idea themselves. They'll think they're smart that they figured it out. Who cares how you persuade them, the fact they can be persuaded is factually correct, it's possible. But the main thing to do here is stop thinking that we are a minority. Stop thinking that it is being in the minority that liberates you. It is your beliefs. It is your core principles, it is your confidence that liberates you. It's not being in the minority.

In fact, for those of you watching my first national address and still hanging in there, we really are not that happy about being a minority and we're out to change it.
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