Via RCP, this makes for a nice bookend with the Scarborough post insofar as they’re both sneak previews of post-election recriminations on the right. (Assuming Trump doesn’t come back to win in November, of course.) How much time righties spend having this argument next year will depend partly on what Hillary’s margin of victory is. The closer the outcome, the more plausibly #NeverTrumpers can be blamed for having made the difference. The more of a blowout it is, the more people like Hannity will be laughed at for suggesting that missing Republican votes mattered — although he’ll try to make the case regardless, rest assured. In a way, he and Morning Joe are merely preempting the angry accusations of culpability that’ll be thrown in their own faces if the election turns into a debacle. “You made Trump possible!” angry Republicans will say, pointing fingers at both of them. “I never backed Trump,” Scarborough will meekly reply. “Well, you made Hillary possible!” Hannity will bellow, pointing the finger right back. Between the two I think pounding the table and staying on offense is the shrewder strategy, but in Hannity’s case he doesn’t have a choice. Scarborough really has criticized Trump at times and never formally endorsed; he can make a not convincing but still sort of tenable case that he didn’t technically “support” Trump. Hannity? Trump fan numero uno. He’s stuck riding this missile no matter where it goes, even if he ends up like Slim Pickens at the end of “Dr. Strangelove.”
He’s almost uniquely badly positioned among Republicans to make the “you own Hillary now” accusation against #NeverTrumpers, though. The person who’s best positioned is someone who opposed Trump in the primaries and then came around to him reluctantly in the general, as a superior if still flawed alternative to Hillary. That person can say, honestly, that they didn’t want Trump, knew he’d be a weak hand in the general election, but concluded that at least he’ll deliver a better Supreme Court as president than Clinton. That’s a defensible argument, although I think it glosses over the possibility that Trump has a bigger upside and downside than Clinton. The person who’s not so well positioned to attack #NeverTrumpers is the person who preferred Trump in the primaries too, when he could have had Cruz or Rubio or Kasich or, God help me, even Chris Christie. Hannity used to say during the primaries that he didn’t favor any one candidate over the others and merely tried to be fair to all of them. To which all I can say is, ask Team Cruz about that. Ask any Fox viewer who watched Hannity’s show between last June and this May if they had any inkling about whether the host might have a preference for any of the candidates. The irony is, even if it were true that Hannity was studiously neutral among Trump, Cruz, Rubio, etc., he shouldn’t have been. A guy who advertises himself as a rock-ribbed true-blue conservative should have had no difficulty at all concluding that Trump was the least attractive candidate in the field. Leon Wolf put it well back in April:
The reason Hannity is being criticized is not that he gives an inordinate amount of air time to Donald Trump, and his response that addresses only the airtime aspect of this is a classic misdirection on this front. The reason Hannity is being criticized is that he is giving a ton of airtime to a not very good caricature of a conservative, and that he is doing absolutely nothing to expose a faker for what he is.
Worse, he is actively helping Trump defray controversies that should be harming him with conservative voters.
He enabled Trump’s ascendancy in the GOP far more than Scarborough did. His radio audience is vastly larger than Scarborough’s TV audience and Hannity enjoys a degree of conservative credibility among the Republican base that Scarborough doesn’t. Lord knows he’s not the only “principled conservative” to blame for mainstreaming Trump as acceptable to Republicans — Ted “Vote Your Conscience” Cruz spent 2015 bro-hugging Trump at every opportunity — but there’s no one, Rush included, who did it as effusively. If not for Hannity (and Rush), we might have a stronger nominee now than the one we have. In which case, who’s ultimately responsible for a Clinton victory? The guy who cheerily backed a nationalist authoritarian saddled with a 35/60 favorable rating since last summer, or the guy who decides “If there’s no real conservative on the ticket, I’d rather not vote at all”?
Two questions in closing. One: Do any of Trump’s working-class white supporters, many of whom passed on supporting rich stiff Mitt Romney in 2012, bear any responsibility for Barack Obama’s second term? It’s strange to watch Hannity excoriate one group of would-be Republicans for not doing their duty for the team while letting another off the hook. Somehow, it was the candidate’s fault in 2012 for not successfully winning over the voters whereas it’s the voters’ fault now for not letting themselves be won over by the candidate. Funny how that works. Two: If Trump comes all the way back to win, is Hannity on the hook for everything he does as president the way #NeverTrumpers will supposedly bear the sins of Hillary Clinton? Or is he off scot-free because Republicans are supposed to vote for anything with an (R) after its name that’s put in front of them? If Trump starts ignoring federal law to implement his policies, if he starts issuing illegal orders to the military, if he sh*ts the bed on his Supreme Court appointments and doesn’t deliver the wall his fans are expecting, is that Sean Hannity’s fault for trusting him or are only anti-Trumpers to blame for bad policy outcomes? You know what the answer is. The answer is that Hannity will end up defending anything and everything Trump farts out as president, no matter how anti-conservative it might be. There’s no “blame” to be had when everything a Republican president does is, by definition, salutary and virtuous.