Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

At 25, Limbaugh show still rules GOP

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
updated 4:41 PM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
Rush Limbaugh, conservative and influential radio talk show host, makes a point.
Rush Limbaugh, conservative and influential radio talk show host, makes a point.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LZ Granderson: President Bush in 1992, seeking Limbaugh's support, carried his bags
  • GOP has been Rush Limbaugh's bellhop ever since he got influential, he says
  • LZ: Rush throws around half-truths and insults. Some are disgusted, others entertained
  • LZ: But it's destructive when people, politicians make him some sort of spokesman

Editor's note: LZ Granderson is a CNN contributor who writes a weekly column for CNN.com. The former Hechinger Institute Fellow has had his commentary recognized by the Online News Association, the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. He is also a senior writer for ESPN. Follow him on Twitter @locs_n_laughs.

(CNN) -- If you want to know why there's little cooperation in Washington these days, I'd start with a campaign promise made in 1988 by presidential candidate George H.W. Bush.

"Read my lips: No new taxes."

So, when he raised taxes two years later, quite naturally, voters, particularly conservatives, were upset.

If you want to know why so little is being accomplished in Washington these days, I'd start with that broken promise and what Bush did in an attempt to get those conservatives back.

He carried Rush Limbaugh's bags.

That's right. In 1992, President Bush invited Limbaugh for a sleepover and personally brought his guest's bags into the Lincoln bedroom for him

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

They were not friends.

In fact, Limbaugh didn't care for Bush that much, and "41" knew it. But Bush was seeking re-election. He was saddled with a slumping economy and locked in a tough battle with Gov. Bill Clinton and businessman Ross Perot.

He believed he needed Rush Limbaugh.

The party has been carrying Limbaugh's bags ever since.

So, if you want to know when Washington became so polarized, maybe we should circle August 1, 1988, exactly 25 years ago. That was the day a satirical talk show host syndicated his act and, in the process, made a lot of money and became one of the most influential figures in American politics today.

Joyner: Limbaugh shouldn't say N-word
Limbaugh: Conservatives lost gay marriage

"Have any of you heard of an individual by the name of LZ Granderson?" Limbaugh asked on his show in June 2012. "Snerdley? He has not heard of LZ Granderson. Dawn, have you? Brian, have you heard of LZ Granderson? Prior to last night I had not heard of LZ Granderson."

Which isn't true.

In June 2011, Limbaugh brought me up on his show as well, going so far as to say, "You can blame me, LZ Granderson, all you want, and I'll take it."

It only takes a few seconds on "The Rush Limbaugh Show" website to find out those facts. But Limbaugh isn't on the air to provide facts, he's there to entertain. Many of his listeners understand that.

And many of them don't.

A 1994 New York Times article leading into the midterm election called Limbaugh "a kind of national precinct captain for the Republican insurgency of 1994" and documented caller after caller legitimately asking the Mahi Rushie -- he calls himself that on occasion -- for guidance.

Not much has changed.

During the Affordable Health Care Act debate, callers were actually asking Limbaugh, a shock jock in the mold of Howard Stern, what was in the bill. He even threatened to move to Costa Rica if it was implemented, which seemed counterintuitive, considering Costa Rica has universal health care.

But it's moments like that when you remember that Limbaugh's purpose isn't to provide thoughtful political discourse. It's to vent on his listeners' behalf, to appeal to their censored side. The side that wants to hear a white man say "nigga" in public or call a woman a "slut" without getting fired.

If that makes you laugh, then he's doing his job.

If that disgusts you, well that's his job, too.

Limbaugh has had us on this yo-yo since the moment he assumed the role of Gabriel in the Kingdom of Reagan 25 years ago. Back then, it was only offensive, because he was the party's megaphone, warning listeners about the impending invasion of welfare queens with his mixture of righteous indignation and half-truths. It became destructive when listeners and politicians alike made him its spokesman: a pseudo-politician free from the burden of actually having to do anything.

Like use facts.

In rebutting the legitimacy of climate change, Limbaugh once told listeners the United States had more acreage of forest land today than at the time the Constitution was written. That wasn't true, of course, but it sounded good.

Not too long ago, he read what he believed to be passages from Obama's senior thesis, passages that expressed a disdain for the U.S. Constitution. Sadly, the whole thing was made up by a blogger. And while Limbaugh did sheepishly tell listeners what he had read earlier was false, the host still found a way to justify reading it by saying, "We know he thinks it."

Some folks eat that kind of stuff up.

Some get riled up about it.

And the folks in Washington? Well, after 25 years, they're still not quite sure what to do with it or him. If you're a Democrat, do you ignore him? If you're a Republican, do you carry his bags? I imagine it's like that feeling you get when someone tells you something that you can't determine is a joke or not. You just stand there half-smiling like an idiot.

So, if you want to know what the folks in Washington are doing about the economy, I'd start there.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:31 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
updated 5:52 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
updated 5:21 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It's been ten days since Michael Brown was killed, and his family is still waiting for information from investigators about what happened to their young man, writes Mel Robbins
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
updated 1:38 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT