The loss of talk radio legend Rush Limbaugh last week is devastating to political conservatives. But it’s a loss to liberals, socialists, progressives and moderates as well.

John Balentine, a former managing editor for the Lakes Region Weekly, lives in Windham.

That’s because we all lost a happy warrior when Rush died the morning of Feb. 17. And the loss of a happy warrior is a setback for anyone who loves good-faith debate that is intellectually curious, open and honest, purposeful, insightful, wise and delivered with a sense of humor and humility.

Rush quipped that he was “talent on loan from God” and “almost always right 99.8% of the time,” and such self-deprecating wisecracks were the spoonful of sugar that helped his message go down and sink in with millions. Though rich and famous, Rush was relatable because he was real.

Yes, millions of listeners gleaned much from Rush regarding how traditional American values weaved into current issues, but that wasn’t why he gained such a huge following. We loved and admired him because he was a happy warrior.

Unlike many politicians and pundits, Rush was truly positive, happy, jolly and fun. He told jokes, he poked fun at others as he poked fun of himself and he always kept a positive attitude no matter how dark the days were, either in his personal life or the life of the nation.

During the Dec. 23 show, when asked if he thought it was time to give up on America because of the 2020 election results, the ongoing pandemic and Joe Biden’s ominous prediction of a “dark winter,” Rush replied, “It’s never time to panic, folks. It’s never, ever gonna be time to give up on our country. It will never be time to give up on the United States. It will never be time to give up on yourself. Trust me.”

Rush always offered hope to his listeners. Always. He was instinctually a happy culture warrior. He enjoyed and embraced his role in the political fight and he never shrank from criticism or from speaking his exact mind. And he never, ever gave up.

“Happiness” has many definitions, but the Greek “eudaemonia” is what I’m referring to with Rush. More akin to joy, the ancient Greeks defined true happiness as more of a happiness gained from living a righteous life. One becomes truly happy not by buying a new car or fulfilling a bucket list goal but by doing the right thing and living for others rather than self. That was Rush all the way.

Rush showed up to his show each day since 1988 because he loved America, Americans and his radio audience. He loved the Founding Fathers’ revolutionary ideas of self reliance, small government and freedom from tyranny. He loathed how liberals and progressives champion victimhood, government handouts, bureaucracy, reckless government spending and suffocating debt.

I’m glad he lived to see the Trump administration, which tried its best, but failed, to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C. Rush loved any attempt to promote smaller government and more individual freedom, and he saw Trump as a kindred spirit.

What’s the future for the conservative movement now that Rush has left the scene? There are many conservative radio and TV hosts and columnists, but Rush’s words mattered the most. And now that he’s gone, I’m not sure who will spread the conservative message with as much aplomb and success.

But rather than give in to the doom and gloom of a post-Rush America, I’m going to remain positive and trust in the words he spoke Dec. 23: “America’s best days are ahead, not behind.”

R.I.P. Rush.

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