“I hope he fails.”
That’s one of the most incendiary quotes ever uttered by Rush Limbaugh. It’s also quite possibly one of the most misunderstood.
When I first head it, I (like many people, I’m sure) sort of winced. After all, he was talking about our newly elected president, Barack Obama. And everyone was sure this new presidency (and this new face, with the different skin tone) was going to bring with it a fresh wind of hope and change and all of that good stuff we couldn’t quite put our finger on.
Why on earth would someone root for the failure of this man?
So, unlike so many people in the media, I listened to Rush explain himself, on his show, in his own words. And his explanation made sense to me. And as a Libertarian, I agreed with him. I, too, hoped more collectivism and central planning didn’t happen. And THAT was what Barack Obama was promising. And he delivered as much of it as the electorate would allow.
Now, years later, after losing my health insurance and my doctor, after my taxes going up, after having to go into in-depth explanation after in-depth explanation about the difference between disagreeing with someone on policy and disliking their skin color, and after watching the wrecking ball of Donald Trump be chosen by the American electorate to roll back so much of what President Obama put in place, I, too, wish he had failed.
That doesn’t mean I wished him harm or ill-will. I didn’t wish for him to fail as a human. I didn’t wish for his health to fail. I simply wish he hadn’t been as successful at his attempt to fundamentally change (his words) so many things that didn’t need to be fundamentally changed. It had nothing to do with the man or his race or his family or his “agency” as a human being.
And that’s what Rush meant.
But it was taken out of context so many times it started to get laughable.
I could understand not getting it at first. It was a jarring comment. But if anyone had simply taken the time to put it into context, it wasn’t all that controversial. Maybe one could disagree on the substance; maybe you WISH for more government and more central control. That’s a legitimate disagreement. But people attributed this quote to someone with a racist heart.
And that is a huge misunderstanding.
I started listening to Rush in the early 90’s, right when he burst onto the national stage.
Up until then, my politics had been informed by having been a child in the south and watching southern Democrats practice systematic racism. Members of my family had been involved in the civil rights movement. My father pastored a black church. The Republican party was the only party that would register blacks to vote in some places in the south. It’s why Martin Luther King Jr was a registered Republican. And it’s one of the reasons many of us broke with generations of tradition and became Republicans.
But then, Jimmy Carter came along and we all felt that his goodness as a man would finally end the scourge of what we had witnessed Democrats standing for, for so many years. And make no mistake – Jimmy Carter is a good man. But as his presidency unfolded, we realized his policies simply didn’t work. It was no more complicated than that.
By Reagan’s second term, we all knew, without having to be political experts, that something was working. And it kept working.
Still, the country as a whole, was not in constant “political thinker” mode as it is now. Only the most boring among us lived in, and relished the weeds of, foreign policy and tax codes; public and private sector debates.
While on tour, in my early 20’s, I turned on a hotel room TV and William F. Buckley was on, explaining human cause and effect and how it related to carrot-and-stick politics. I was transfixed for the next two hours and felt everything he said resonate with me to my core, as a young songwriter and student of the human condition. And I suppose that set me on the course of being a Libertarian.
Then Rush Limbaugh came along and was able to distill all of that high-brow philosophy into easily digestible bites. But he also brought with him a bluster and tone that was off-putting to so many. I remember my wife and I listening to him in the car, once. As she turned him off, her exact words were, “I actually agree with everything he just said. I just can’t stand to hear him say it.”
I would imagine that was the case for many.
I’ve listened to Rush for decades. I haven’t always agreed with his points of view and I haven’t always agreed with his methods of communicating them. But I have never found him to be a racist or a sexist or a homophobe or any of the things ascribed to him by the media. I can assure you I wouldn’t be able to tolerate racism for any length of time.
But sometimes what we think is racism, is actually not. And sometimes what we think is “inclusion” is actually not. And if you don’t examine the subtleties, you will fall for the big lies.
So many quotes ascribed to Rush Limbaugh are things he never said. It is well-documented (and actually a running joke on his show) that many, many horrible Rush Limbaugh quotes have been simply made up out of thin air. As a blogger and occasional public person, I can tell you this happens more than you might believe.
Even in my small universe, I’ve been assigned belief systems or points of view that weren’t mine at all. Sometimes my quotes have been confused with some crazy comment on one of my social media comments threads. And sometimes people just make it up. You can imagine how this issue might be a nightmare for someone who talks three hours a day, five days a week.
In the early 90’s Rush stopped doing taped interviews because he realized that they could be edited in ways that made him look horrible. So, his standing order was that he would only do live, un-edited interviews. As you can imagine, that cleared the field pretty quickly. But it also relegated the explanations of whatever comments were being taken out of context, solely to his talk-radio world. And unless you are an avid listener, it’s easy to just resign Rush Limbaugh to white, imperialism, racist, misogyny. Because you’re not putting any of his statements in context.
As I’ve said, I don’t always agree with Rush. I’m not an apologist for anyone. I don’t own everything someone who interests me might say or what they might do. But over the years, I have heard Rush articulate the heart of what I believe to be true; that when the human spirit is unleashed, there is nothing it cannot achieve; that when people are free, they are more likely to conquer the problems that face humanity; that the government isn’t an evil entity, per se, but that it’s also not a noble entity either just by virtue of being government, and that the reason the United States is a unique idea in the history of the planet, is that it embraces those notions and actually protects them in founding documents.
The entirety of “conservatism” (or as I prefer to call it, Libertarianism) is rooted in those beliefs.
I’m for letting people run free, not forcing them to languish in red tape. I’m for people chasing and catching their dreams, not having their dreams shaped and tempered by some “for-your-own-good” public policy, made by someone who’s dream is to restrain rather than unleash. I’m for the human being. I believe in the divine spark. The human is sacred in some way. And the human story is an incredible art piece that can be woven and wound into something better than it has been.
This is the sentiment I have always believed Rush Limbaugh believes and articulates. At least that’s how I have heard him.
Around the ’08 election, he and I (for the briefest of moments) shared an agent…sort of. She shared my song “Infidels” with him and not only did he get it (a lot of people didn’t) he apparently loved it. Through this agent, he asked me to insert all the names of the (then) political players on the scene. He didn’t want me to choose a side or make a political statement. He didn’t even ask about my politics. He just said he loved the idea of setting all of the craziness to music. His only stipulation was that I try to use some of the funny “nicknames” he’d coined (“Sheets Bird,” “Breck girl Edwards,” etc) and that I include HIM as an Infidel at the end, the way I had included myself in the original.
I thought about it and mulled it over. You can certainly get cancelled as an artist by making any sort of political stand that isn’t the obligatory “Democrat talking points” stand. But that’s boring and about as brave as saying you love Tom Brady in Boston, or playing Sweet Home Alabama in Montgomery. So, I decided to take chance and at least write the parody.
As it turns out, Rush didn’t use it on his show. Politics moves at the speed of light and by the time I got it written and re-recorded and re-mixed, some of the political players I wrote about were actually gone from the scene. And then the agent wasn’t in the picture. And then we all forgot about it and moved on.
But I can say that my one personal experience with Rush was that he never asked me to compromise in any way as an artist. He didn’t tell me what to believe or how to articulate what I believed. He didn’t demand that I come to anything from any sort of point of view. That’s more than I can say for some of the music companies I’ve worked with.
Here’s the lyric I wrote for him. Sadly, I cannot find the actual recording. But these were the people in the news, in 2008. And this little tongue-in-cheek musical comment on the fundamental difference in a pluralistic, open and free society, and one ruled with an iron fist, by religious dogma, was almost a Rush Limbaugh parody.
These days, just saying you listened to Rush Limbaugh and that you agreed with him on some things, will get you ostracized. Even as I write this, I’m imagining the online beating I’m about to take from some parts of the cyber world. Some of it will even come from people I consider to be friends. But one thing I’ve learned from Rush is that fear is a thief. It robs you of yourself and it forces you into places you might think are safe, but actually diminish you as a human being.
So, I’m posting this. That’s what we Infidels do. And, like Rush Limbaugh, that’s exactly what I am.
The ones who get it, get it. The ones who don’t…well…they never will.
TO SUBSCRIBE TO MY DAILY BLOG CLIKC THE LINK:
Barack Obama, Michael Moore
Albert Sharpton, Albert Gore
all the hippies in the peace corps …
Hillary Clinton, John McCain
Breck girl Edwards and his perfect mane
George Sorros, the gravy train …
You know we’re living in the wild, wild west
we’re only doing what we do the best
put your religion to the acid test
move over here
and try to make it work without machine guns …
Charley Rangle, Charley Sheen
Jimmy Carter, Howard Dean
Ralph Nader and the Green Machine …
Mitt Romney, Barney Frank
Jane Fonda in a commie tank
all the Jews on the west Bank …
you know we like to let the women vote
we think they’re smarter than the average goat
I guess that’s why you want to cut our throat
and blow yourself up (just remember now)
a virgin’s just a virgin for the first time
Giuliani, Tom Delay
all the guards at club Gitmo Bay
black or white – straight or gay – still …
Nancy Polosi, even Rosie
sheets Bird and Richard Durbin
John Glenn, Sean Penn
even if he wore a turban
that little crazy guy Dennis Kucinich
who looks like Popeye without the spinach
the lefties, the righties and everybody else in between – know what I mean?
some people think we like to play too rough
stick out our chest and talk too tough
but we’ll surrender if you whine enough
and protest ourselves
put the blame on us we seem to like it
Fred Thomson, Ron Paul
the gutsy Gipper at the Berlin Wall
George W and Rush Limbaugh …
every movie star you ever saw …
you and me – one and all …