Via the Daily Rushbo, a question for regular listeners: Has he ever been as angry on-air as he sounds in the last minute of this clip? I don’t get to listen every day because of work duties but I’ve never heard him like this.

He got not one but two calls from listeners today asking him why he hasn’t taken a firmer line against Trump as righties search for ways to explain why Trump’s about to win easily in a southern state that was “supposed to” go for Cruz. Rush is right, needless to say, that it’s not his fault, but “it’s not my job to get votes for people” doesn’t quite answer the question of why he seems less perturbed by Trump’s ascendancy than Glenn Beck and Mark Levin do. The money bit from the first call, captured in the audio below, isn’t Rush getting angry but the part that comes right after that. This is an amazing — amazing — quote-of-the-year-level statement coming from someone who’s been extolling conservatism as a philosophy to millions of people for 30 years.

RUSH: The best thing I could tell you, folks, I guess, as I assess all this, is this is not an election, with a competition of philosophies. We’re way beyond that. People are not gonna rely on philosophy to accomplish anything. You can have the best philosophy in the world, I don’t care what you call it, and it’s not gonna mean anything if you’re up against somebody who succeeds at making people think he’s gonna break balls, kick butts, take names, put people in prison, fix the country, make the country great again, whatever the hell that means to people. You can philosophize all day long in competition against it, and we’ll see you in the rearview mirror.

For years the explanation on the right for presidential failures has been that conservatism never had a fair chance. The reason we ended up with Romneys and McCains is because either “true conservatives” weren’t running for president or the ones who were running, like Fred Thompson, didn’t have Reagan’s gifts as a communicator. Conservatism can never fail in a center-right country but conservative candidates can, through their own shortcomings. The problem with that theory this year is that Ted Cruz is the model of a talk-radio-approved “true conservative” candidate. He’s brilliant, he’s preternaturally fluid as a communicator, he has all the right enemies. Rubio fans, Rush among them, would say the same of him, I think. And here they are, so far behind a guy who’s not conservative — in South Carolina, of all places — that in some polls their combined numbers don’t match Trump’s. What you’re seeing in this excerpt, I think, is Rush tossing out the window the theory that conservatism’s problem is always a personnel problem. We’ve got the personnel this year, finally — and we’re circling the drain. The new theory is that conservatism is simply no match for angry can-do populism, wherever it may land on the left-right spectrum, at least in the current political climate. The irresistible force finally met the immovable object. And no less than Rush Limbaugh is admitting it. Amazing.

The second caller came at him even harder than the first, asking him, “Do you believe the country would be in good shape with a President Trump?” Rush’s answer:

RUSH: I’m gonna answer it this way. Honest, from the depths of my heart: This country needs to be saved from the Democrat Party. The Democrat Party is the most destructive force in this country, and anything that beats it, anything that blows it to smithereens, anything that renders it a minority institution — ’cause that’s what I think needs to happen —CALLER: The Democrat Party just as an institution or liberalism in general? Because Trump is liberalism.

RUSH: The Democrat Party as an institution. The people who… The Democrat Party and the things that it stands for, the things that it’s doing under Barack Obama, that’s the new Democrat Party. The new Democrat Party believes America is ill-formed, it is ill-gotten. The modern Democrat Party thinks that United States of America is illegitimate. Donald Trump doesn’t think that. The modern Democrat Party thinks that United States of America is the problem in the world because of our superpower status…

RUSH: It’s really simple, my friends: I don’t want to destroy anybody who could defeat Hillary Clinton. I don’t want to damage anybody who could defeat the Democrat Party. It’s no more complicated than that. The establishment still thinks all this anger here is a bunch of spoiled brat, little children-type anger. They don’t get it yet. They need to be awakened fully.

The reason Cruz became popular among conservative populists in the first place, I thought, was that not all Republicans are created equal. Mitch McConnell is as much of an obstacle to conservative government in his own way as Barack Obama is. Both need to be replaced and Cruz recognizes that. And yet … Trump is to the left of McConnell. If we need to be considerate of Trump because he might represent the party’s only chance of stopping the Democrats, why didn’t we need to be considerate of McConnell and not attack him too harshly when he was facing a primary against Matt Bevin with a Democratic opponent waiting in the wings in the general? All Republicans are created equal, it seems, at least in terms of their usefulness in keeping Democrats out of office. I could sort of understand if Rush had said that Trump shouldn’t be destroyed because he represents populism, and even populism infected with liberal tendencies is preferable to the liberal-ish one-party establishment we have now. But he’s framing this in partisan terms. How is a liberal-ish Republican like Trump, who’s already promising to make deals with Schumer and Pelosi as president, supposedly some great bludgeon against the Democratic Party as opposed to being a guy who’s far more likely to enable it than Ted Cruz is? The conservatism movement has to stand for something more than “anyone but the Democrat.” Doesn’t it?