Who to Blame for Trump? Start With Rush Limbaugh

It has been noted that no one ever asks who deserves credit for the rise of Donald Trump. But everyone has an opinion on who deserves blame. A large share of it has been earned by Rush Limbaugh.

To maintain his massive audience, Rush has tried to have it both ways, accurately praising Ted Cruz as “the closest in our lifetimes we have ever been to Ronald Reagan” but devoting a tediously large percentage of his airtime to defending the indefensible Trump from critics, most of whom Rush denounces with adolescent demagoguery built upon the increasingly meaningless term, “the Establishment.”

Trump toxin is causing the Republican Party to come apart before our eyes, ensuring a massive defeat in November. Because he has legitimized Trump, Rush is complicit:

Early in the campaign, when Trump attacked Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) status as a war hero, Limbaugh responded by praising Trump’s courage, defending him as “an embattled public figure” willing to “stand up for himself, double down and tell everybody to go to hell.” Through a long series of controversies, Limbaugh has excused Trump’s narcissism and bluster as an endearing “schtick.” Trump’s deviations from conservative orthodoxy are noted but considered secondary. “I think with the case of Trump,” argues Limbaugh, “there’s a much bigger upside than downside.”

The upside, in this view, is not just taking the political fight to liberalism; it is also overturning a failed and corrupt Republican political order. Limbaugh dismisses defenders of this order as fundamentally self-interested. “[Trump] has put together a coalition that’s exactly what the Republican Party says that it needs to win, and yet, look what they’re doing. They’re trying to get Trump out of the race, because they’re not in charge of it.” Opposing Trump is the work of a “cliquish, elitist club,” preserving its influence and employment prospects. This criticism is sometimes expanded to include the conservative intelligentsia. “I’m talking about the establishment,” says Limbaugh, “conservative media, the brainiacs, the think tanks, the professors.”

Who is the most influential brainiac in the conservative media establishment? Unfortunately, Rush is.

For decades, Limbaugh set the tone of popular conservatism by arguing for ideological purity. Now, the great champion of conservatism has enabled the rise of the “least conservative Republican presidential aspirant in living memory” (in the words of Yuval Levin, editor of National Affairs). Trump is a candidate who talks more of personal rule than of limited government. A candidate who praises a single-payer health system, proposes higher taxes on the wealthy, opposes entitlement reform and advocates the systematic destruction of Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy. This is the politician Limbaugh has given the ideological hall pass of a lifetime.

Rush’s attack on the motives of those with the integrity to defend their principles from Trumpism is especially galling:

Many men and women I know who work on Capitol Hill, in conservative media or in think tanks are hardly in it for the money or job security. Criticizing their venality from 30,000 feet in his Gulfstream jet rings particularly hollow.

Given his position, Limbaugh has a responsibility to defend the Republican Party and the conservative movement from a pernicious charlatan who has inflicted massive damage on both and is likely to inflict far more, even if it would entail risking a temporary downturn in his ratings. But when the battle to defend conservatism from its most serious threat got underway, he dropped his rifle and ran. I am not the only longtime fan who is done with him.

One thing we can thank Trump for is separating the wheat from the chaff. Those who stayed true to conservative principles like Glenn Beck and Mark Levin will be respected for it when this debacle is finally over and the rebuilding begins. Unprincipled hacks like Limbaugh and Sean Hannity will be despised.

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By not choosing, he chose.

On tips from Torcer. Cross-posted at Moonbattery.

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