Rush Limbaugh Chickens Out, Calls Conservatives Bitter Clingers
Performance artist Rush Limbaugh went on a meandering rant against “NeverTrumpers” during his June 21st radio broadcast. As often happens when blabber-mouths get blabbering, however, his rant, which began as a pathetic defense of his Trump sycophantasizing during the GOP primaries, ended with Limbaugh hoist with his own petard, as he inadvertently but aptly labeled himself a chicken.
Let’s begin with the audio. (Thank God for YouTube, as I haven’t listened to Limbaugh’s actual program for years, and never intend to do so in the future.)
First off, I don’t know about you, but when I hear callers like this “Carl” fellow, I immediately think “actor” and “infomercial.” To paraphrase his call: Gee, Rush, I love your various digital platforms, which I can wear on my belt and never miss a word! But what I really want to say is that you’re not a right-winger like they say, but actually the true centrist. Don’t you think so?
And that serves as Limbaugh’s cue to begin bitterly tearing down the conservative movement he once claimed to represent (though even while claiming to represent conservatives, he consistently supported the Republican Party establishment on absolutely everything of consequence).
He begins by falsely claiming that “alt-right” is a liberal media label meaning “everything a conservative is, plus he’s a white supremacist. And so that’s Steve Bannon and the Breitbart people. And of course that’s BS as well.”
Actually, “alt-right” is an expression used by many members of the “alt-right,” and they use it precisely to distinguish themselves from conservatives, whom they hate. The term alt-right is used beyond U.S. borders as well, and both within and beyond the U.S. it is associated with the “Pepe” meme, neo-Nazi tendencies, and white nationalism. That doesn’t mean everyone who might broadly be identified (or identify himself) with the alt-right is a white supremacist, but there are legitimate reasons for the association. And there is no doubt that certain people in and around the Trump campaign (most obviously Roger Stone), along with certain so-called conservative media members (e.g. Ann Coulter and Bannon), have exploited such seedy sentiments to win and hold for Trump (and themselves) a following of the slow-witted who see Trump as a great white hope in the ugliest sense. Limbaugh conveniently forgets David Duke’s enthusiastic support for Trump, not to mention that of white nationalist Richard Spencer, founder of the website Alternative Right, who is often cited as the first person to use the term in its current sense.
So it is Limbaugh’s dismissal of the nasty implications of the term “alt-right” as a liberal media creation that is “BS,” along with his too-clever-by-half suggestion than once we remove the “white supremacist” smear, the alt-right are just conservatives. No they are not, they never were, and they explicitly reject conservatism and the U.S. Constitution in favor of their nutty variant of populist nationalism, i.e., democratic demagoguery.
Having essentially aligned himself with the alt-right, and thereby distanced himself from true conservatives, Limbaugh then accurately outlines the criticism of his refusal to recognize the danger of Trump’s demagogue campaign during the primaries, namely that Trump presented a grave threat to the conservative movement and therefore had to be stopped. Then, without offering any argument against that concern, he proceeds to argue, ridiculously, that he didn’t believe any Republican candidate could beat Hillary Clinton, until he saw Trump’s “trip down the escalator” to announce his candidacy, at which moment the sky opened up and he somehow just knew Trump was going to win the nomination and defeat Clinton. (Like all shell-game masters, Limbaugh insists he had a specific magical reason for knowing Trump would win, but he can’t divulge the secret now, so you’ll have to stay tuned to gain an insight into his visionary powers.)
First of all, the suggestion that no one else could have beaten Hillary has no evidence in its favor, and almost every poll taken during the primaries showed most other GOP candidates doing better against Hillary than Trump, even while lacking Trump’s universal name-recognition. In other words, all indications were that once the primaries were over, and a GOP candidate was given the national spotlight and the opportunity to challenge Clinton directly on a debate stage, said candidate might very well have trounced the unlikeable and corrupt old bag of bones. Instead, Trump’s squeaked-out victory is now to be hailed by his cult spokesmen as the best anyone could have hoped to do against the least trusted Democratic candidate of all time. What a joke.
Secondly, and more to the point, do you see what Limbaugh is really offering as his defense for supporting arguably the least conservative candidate in the entire GOP primary field? He didn’t think other (more conservative) candidates could win, whereas he was convinced Trump — a lifelong progressive and open hater of genuine constitutional conservatives — could win. So a Republican Party victory at all costs, including the cost of sacrificing the principles he claimed to represent publicly for decades, was his only goal after all, conservatism be damned. How is this any different from the reasoning the GOP establishment has pushed election cycle after election cycle, to the fury of conservatives? “The conservative can’t win, so we need the moderate (i.e., progressive) who can appeal to independents and moderate Democrats.”
Here is the implication of Limbaugh’s argument in a nutshell: He doesn’t care about principles or the fate of the United States of America; he cares about the success of the Republican Party as an explicitly anti-conservative, status quo behemoth. (And, of course, about the almighty radio dollars that would be generated by a Trump cult presidency.)
Limbaugh then turns his attention more directly to the NeverTrumpers, mocking them and, as usual for a Trump cultist, straw-manning them as establishmentarians, rather than honestly identifying them as the principled constitutional conservatives the vast majority of them are.
And believe me, the NeverTrumper conservative coali-…it’s still alive, and it’s still functioning, and they are bitter today, almost as bitter as the Democrats, that [Jon] Ossoff lost [against Republican Karen Handel in Georgia], because to them, it’s all about Trump — and Trump is just the worst thing that’s ever happened to America, to conservatism, to American politics, to civility, to everything…to comity, to crossing the aisle, to, uh, the establishment, you name it. And because I did not join in that, I have been summarily sent to the firing squad — the literary firing squad — and I’ve been shot thousands of words at me.
With one diatribe, Limbaugh both identifies NeverTrumpers as “the establishment” — even now, when Trump’s presidency has clearly defined itself as essentially a middle-of-the-road progressive GOP administration — and conjures up the old Obama language of “bitter clingers” (calling them “bitter” and comparing their criticism to a firing squad) to denigrate them as obsessives incapable of seeing past their irrational hatred of the new.
The end of his rant, however, is the most telling, as Limbaugh goes off the rails completely, loses his train of thought, and finally, while meaning to strike out at his critics, actually offers the most succinct argument against himself:
…What has always happened on this program, from day one, this program has targeted liberalism and all of its off-shoots as the greatest threat to America as founded. And so that has been the focus here. And…(fumbling) I’m not denying I’ve espoused and promoted conservatism at the same time, because conservatism’s the alternative, and conservatism works every time it’s tried. That’s the problem — it really hasn’t been tried. Even people claiming to be conservative, when it comes time to actually do it, chicken out.
As my Minnesota friend Tony Bauer would say, “Bingo!”
“Even people claiming to be conservative, when it comes time to actually do it, chicken out.” Right — such as by using an influential public persona to belittle a strong GOP primary field on the grounds of feeling they might not be able to win the general election, and instead throwing all your tacit support behind the most liberal man on the slate, a long-time big donor to the Democratic Party, a personal friend and defender of Hillary and Bill Clinton, and a funder of anti-Tea Party organizations and candidates within the GOP.
Accusing NeverTrumpers of hating Trump as a threat to “reaching across the aisle” is awfully precious from a true GOP mouthpiece like Limbaugh, whose establishment masters literally reached across the aisle to find their presidential candidate, rather than choosing from among the many flawed but relatively conservative, principled, knowledgeable, and highly qualified Republicans in the field.
But in the end Limbaugh is right about one thing. No other leading GOP candidate was going to beat Trump, for the simple reason — which Limbaugh would never acknowledge — that the Republican Party’s old guard would never have allowed it. They fought for Trump, just as they fought for Romney four years earlier. The one thing they could not abide was a genuine conservative who would undermine the whole Washington Uniparty charade. So, given the options, they chose Trump. As did their many surrogates in the so-called conservative media, from Fox News to talk radio to most of the conservative blogosphere, and so on.
In short, the so-called NeverTrumpers were and are right: Rush Limbaugh is (to use his own expression) “a conservative fraud.”