Via the Daily Rushbo, he’s not offering this as a criticism but rather as a clue to the media, which he thinks is confused about the reaction on the right to Trump’s immigration shift. The press keeps interviewing Trump fans about his “softer” approach to illegals and Trump fans keep reassuring them that they’re fine with it, a supposedly befuddling and frustrating surprise to the press. After all, Rush reasons, the press wants Hillary to win and they’re dying to see Trumpers make that happen by revolting against him over amnesty.
Trump supporters don’t care what he does or what he says because there is no way they are going to do anything that helps elect Hillary Clinton. It’s no more complicated than that. There are many other reasons why Trump’s supporters support him, and I don’t know what percentage of the Trump support base represented by what I just said, but it’s a sizable number of Trump supporters…
And this is something the Drive-Bys can’t understand, ’cause they love Hillary. I mean, they’re Democrats. They’re leftists like she is. They think she’s due to be coronated. They’re going to treat her like a queen if she is elected, and they can’t understand other people not seeing this. So the only way they can chalk it up is, you people that don’t see Hillary for what she is, you’re just biased, you’re sexists, you’re bigots, you’re chauvinists, you’re numskulls, you’re idiots.
And the proof to them will be that even when Trump sells you out, in their opinion, you will not abandon him. So there’s something wrong with you. And they will never understand, I don’t think, just how fervent, just how solid the “no way Hillary Clinton as president” group of people is that’s supporting Trump. Maybe even some of the Libertarians that are supporting other people, too.
This is, in other words, supposedly all about Hillary Clinton, “the worst Democrat candidate that party has ever nominated.” A thought experiment: If Democrats dumped Clinton tomorrow for a genial generic Dem like Tim Kaine, would Trump fans be less inclined to defend his every move? If Rush’s explanation is correct, I think the answer has to be yes. Most Trump fans would stick by him, of course, because he’s still preferable to a more left-wing candidate, but the days of not caring what Trump says or does would presumably be over because the urgency to defeat Kaine wouldn’t remotely approach the urgency to defeat Clinton. That’s the theory, as I understand it. Does anyone think that’s how it would play out, though?
Rush understands the affinity between Trump and his fans in terms of animosity to the Clintons because that’s a frame that served him very well in the 1990s, and it’s a way to reconcile Trump’s support with traditional Rush-style conservatism. Conservatives hate the Clintons, Trump fans refuse to enable a Hillary Clinton victory by punishing him over amnesty, therefore Trump fans must be acting according to good old-fashioned conservative impulses. Here’s an alternate theory, though: Maybe Trumpers don’t care much (some, sure, but not much) about who the Democratic nominee actually is. Tim Kaine would make the same type of SCOTUS appointment Hillary would, after all. Maybe many Trump fans are willing to apologize for Trump’s policy shifts because they legitimately see him as a national savior whose particular policies are less important to America’s success than his politically incorrect alpha-male leadership. If Trump now thinks the country would benefit from legalization, well, I’m sure he has his reasons. He’s playing a long game, orchestrating a deal that’s going to benefit his fans and destroy their enemies eventually. Trust him. That’s the essence of a cult of personality and I think that, not “protect Hillary!”, is the media’s real read on Trump’s base. They’re conducting these interviews about him “softening” on immigration not because they expect Trump fans to abandon him but because they don’t expect it and are using this as a litmus test of how far Trump can go in crossing his own base while still getting away with it. One of the most significant things he’s said over the past 15 months was a throwaway line in a random speech: I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, he insisted, and I still wouldn’t lose any votes. That’s what the media is testing now. Fact check: Mostly true.
All of which is to say, though, that while Rush’s explanation is questionable, his basic point is correct. “Trump supporters don’t care what he does or what he says,” and more importantly, Trump knows that. Judge for yourself whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing for a would-be president to believe that he can betray his base with impunity once in office and never need to worry about losing their support. The core critique of the Republican leadership by the tea party, especially on immigration, was that it cares more about its own political interests than those of rank-and-file righties. Well, here we are again.
I’ll leave you with this interesting quote from Rush himself, elsewhere in this same segment: “And believe me, like our guy from St. Louis, there are a lot of people out there looking at all of this thinking, ‘Is this the best we’ve got?’ And you might start asking yourself, ‘Well, may not be the best we have, but it may be a reflection of what we’ve become.'”