If you don’t have time to listen, read the transcript. I’m treating it as vindication for my theory earlier that any anger MAGA Nation feels towards Trump for failing on the wall will be redirected in short order towards other actors. Rush hits everyone hard here except POTUS — the treacherous elitist Democrats, the dreaded media, the spineless RINOs in Congress who won’t fight. His harshest words for Trump are that it seems “out of character” for him to cave and that he was elected to “bulldoze” through all of this dysfunction — which is true, by the way, and that point shouldn’t be overlooked. Undeniably, it’s Congress rather than Trump that’s failed to follow through on the wall. But his whole pitch on the trail in 2016 was that he wouldn’t let his agenda to be thwarted. Taking no for an answer from Congress is what soft cuckish amateur negotiators like Obama do. Trump, through dealmaking savvy and sheer force of alpha-male will, would “bulldoze” right through them, to borrow Rush’s term. “I alone can fix it,” the man said.
And now here we are.
Limbaugh’s MAGA-fied callers are also straining to blame anyone but the president for the surrender. A sample:
I’m just shaking with rage, Rush. I appreciate everything Trump’s done, but I’ve had it. You wanted to know when people were gonna start peeling away from him? It’s not so much that I’m peeling away from him. I’m peeling away from the Republican Party. They’re cowards. They’ve been spineless the whole time he’s been in office. They could be on TV just as loud as the Democrats — and I don’t blame him, you know? He’s done his best. I appreciate everything the man has done. I still love him, but I can’t take it no more.
I think Trump is brilliant. We’ve handed him the worst group of you RINOs on the planet. He could not fight this battle right now ’cause Pelosi was right. “You don’t have the votes. Your RINOs aren’t helping you,” and he’s right. If they put this off ’til February, it’s to Schumer and Pelosi and Trump in the room, and our RINOs… He got Ryan to quit. He got 45 RINOs to walk away. He has to drain our swamp before he can drain the Democrat media swamp.
Do these sound like people who, per Ann Coulter, will punish Trump in 2020 for having failed them? They’re Trumpists, not nationalists. Even Rush, a man with nothing to lose, whose media legacy is secure and who couldn’t spend all the money he’s made in a dozen lifetimes, felt obliged to say towards the end of today’s spiel, “I guess I could be easily misunderstood on this. I’m not throwing Trump overboard and I’m not abandoning anything here.” Remember the cardinal rule of Republican populism: Trump cannot fail, he can only be failed.
I have a fun way to test whether Republican voters are nationalists or Trumpists, though: Have Coulter primary Trump. Why not? She’s one of the few high-profile right-wingers who could credibly run to his right. I think she’s sincerely exasperated too that Trump hasn’t been more insistent on pushing nationalist priorities. She mentions the lack of progress on the wall practically every day on Twitter and has for ages. So why not challenge him? She wouldn’t even need to mount a traditional campaign. Although her Fox appearances would dry up, I bet CNN and MSNBC would be happy to make mischief for him by giving her a platform when she wants one. She can campaign through her op-ed column and Twitter feed too. She’s actually quite Buchananesque in some ways. Jump in and give Trumpers a way to cast a protest vote, hoping that Trump will get the message and be less likely to compromise on matters like the wall. That’s the only sure way to know how many righties are loyal to the nationalist agenda versus how many are loyal to the man himself.
In the meantime, watching her and Rush goad Trump into a shutdown where he has no leverage is going to be amazing. It’s working, too! If you think today was disappointing, wait until he and Pelosi have a two-week staredown that ends with him inevitably blinking.