Interesting contrast between this clip and Rush’s mano a mano with a caller yesterday. To the charge of disingenuously spinning for Trump on immigration, Rush pled not guilty by reason of entertainment. I never took Trump seriously on mass deportation, he told the caller (which was a lie), and I never endorsed him. I’m an entertainer who trusts you, the listener, to make up your own mind. Don’t blame me for Trump just because I’ve been running interference for him with grassroots conservatives for the past year. That’s one way to dodge blame for listener disappointment with the nominee: Simply minimize your own contribution to his success. Joe Scarborough’s following the same strategy.
Hannity’s in a different position because he’s been such an enthusiastic mouthpiece for Trump for so long that there’s no way credibly to pretend that he hasn’t been on the Trump train. His blame-shifting strategy is simply to pound the table. I’m to blame for what looks like a dispiriting defeat this fall, he implies, just because I backed a guy to the hilt who’s been at 60 percent unfavorable in national polls since last summer? Screw you. You’re to blame. Here’s a taste from today’s rant; it goes on and on from here.
“Well, let me just say to all of you. And that includes the commentator class. That includes the Jonah Goldberg class, that includes radio talk show hosts. Glenn Beck is like on a — it’s a holy war for him at this point. I mean, he’s off the rails attacking me every day. Blaming me for Trump. Well, no. I was fair to everybody, Glenn. Whether you want to admit it or not. I know I was fair. My conscience is clear. And I, frankly, I’m proud to pull the lever for Donald Trump with a clear conscience.”…
“So here’s what I say to all of you Never Trumpers — Glenn Beck, I hope you’re listening. You own Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court appointments. You own it! You are doing everything you can do to cast doubt in people’s minds! Trump gave us a list. You own her Supreme Court nominees, you own her un-vetted refugees and the 550% increase she will bring into this country. You own the jobs that illegal immigrants will take from the 95 million Americans out of the labor force. You own Obamacare, which is a disaster for this country. You own education, because she is beholden to the NEA. And if we don’t improve the lives of 95 million Americans out of the labor force, I blame you for that too!”
“Because you’re helping elect her. And I’m also saying that, hey, we have a $4,100 increase in health care payments since Obama has been president. It’s only going to go higher. You get responsibility for that, too! We have got 12 million more Americans on food stamps. If that increases, I’m going to blame you! We have 46 million total. Eight million more Americans living in poverty. Fifty million Americans in poverty. If that gets worse, I’m blaming you! You know, we have the worst home ownership in 51 years. If that gets worse, guess who I’m blaming? I’m blaming all of you!”
There’s seemingly no downturn in American life, including something as complicated as the number living in poverty, that #NeverTrumpers won’t be responsible for if Hillary wins, apparently regardless of whether or not the race is close. Right? If Clinton hangs an eight-point landslide on Trump, which would be tantamount to something like 10 million votes, I fully expect Hannity to be on the radio the next day insisting that 10 million people might have changed their minds if Jonah Goldberg and Beck had been Trump cheerleaders from the beginning.
But never mind that. Let me repeat a point I made the last time Hannity went nuts over #NeverTrumpers: Does the candidate bear any responsibility for his current predicament? And don’t dismiss the question with an “Oh, sure, but #NeverTrumpers yadda yadda yadda…” Let’s stick with Trump’s culpability for a second. If he loses by five points, the same margin Romney lost by in 2012, what percentage of blame would Hannity say Trump bears for that margin compared to the percentage #NeverTrumpers bear? Let’s quantify this now. Because as I recall, when Romney crapped the bed, the apportionment of blame on talk radio between him and working-class voters who didn’t turn out for him was around 100/0. Here’s something new from PBS to inform your blame calculus:
As the presidential election marathon breaks into a final sprint, the Trump campaign faces a jaw-dropping gap in the ground game: Hillary Clinton currently has more than three times the number of campaign offices in critical states than does Donald Trump…
As of Aug. 30, Hillary Clinton has 291 offices in those 15 battlegrounds. Donald Trump has 88. (Those figures include joint presidential and party offices.) Both campaigns pledge that more offices are coming…
That is just right now. The Trump campaign plans to open 57 Trump offices in [Pennsylvania, Florida, and North Carolina] in the next few weeks, according to Susie Wiles, a communications strategist for the campaign.
But no matter how many staffers get on the ground, the Trump campaign faces a question of timing in many swing counties.
“There’s an element of time required to get operational,” said Steve Schale, Obama’s campaign manager in Florida in 2008. “Little things like getting leases signed for offices, getting cell phones for organization, getting volunteers trained, these are not turnkey operations.”
Field offices are where the nuts and bolts of voter turnout happen — identifying potential supporters, phoning them, following up, coordinating to get them transportation to the polls on Election Day, and so on. If you think “undercover Trump voters” are out there ready to deliver victory, it would help a lot for Trump to have people in the field identifying them aggressively and making sure they’re registered and that they know their closest polling place. Per PBS, Hillary has 36 different offices in Pennsylvania attending to those tasks right now (plus a sophisticated data operation to identify them). Trump has … two. The two states with the greatest number of Trump field offices at the moment are Wisconsin and Virginia, neither one of which is close in the polls. By some estimates, a big turnout advantage in a key battleground area can be worth six points, yet Trump’s getting swamped organizationally. I ask again: How much are #NeverTrumpers to blame for a loss this fall and how much is Donald “I don’t know that we need to get out the vote” Trump to blame?
One more thing. At one point in today’s rant, Hannity said that if Trump becomes president and reneges on some of his promises, then Hannity will accept blame for that. That’s both untrue and a dodge. It’s a dodge in the sense that the relevant blame calculus here isn’t President Trump versus President Hillary, with Hannity on the hook for the former and #NeverTrumpers on the hook for the latter. The relevant blame calculus is Trump versus any other potential Republican nominee. The core complaint of #NeverTrumpers is that we didn’t need to be in this position, saddled with a deeply disliked loose cannon in a winnable race against a lackluster candidate in Clinton, and we might not have been in this position had grassroots influencers like Rush and Hannity spoken up against Trump forcefully in the primary. In January of this year, Lynn Vavreck noted today, a generic Republican led a generic Democrat by seven points, 46/39. Today that number is upside down, with the generic Democrat ahead by eight, 44/36. If a Clinton victory is the fault of #NeverTrumpers, why isn’t that generic-ballot reversal the fault of Trump apologists in talk radio? They could have had a competitive race this fall, but evidently they didn’t care enough about that in the spring to risk getting on the wrong side of their populist audiences. Stephen Miller’s summation of the talk-radio criticism of #NeverTrump is spot on:
Golf buddies with Rush, Hannity advising him, Ingraham advising him, Coulter advising him, but this is all our fault if he loses.
— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) August 27, 2016
And as for the idea that Hannity will stand up to President Trump if he breaks his promises, anyone who watched his show during the Bush years and then through the primaries this year knows it’s nonsense. He’ll be the best friend a Republican White House could ask for. That’s his role in the conservative media ecosystem, making sure that prominent Republicans have a friendly conduit to the base. The day President Trump decides that the only solution to ObamaCare’s woes is single-payer health care, Trump’s press secretary will be on the phone with Hannity arranging an interview for that night’s show to sell the plan to Republicans as a “conservative” solution. Same goes for amnesty for illegals. That’ll be the new party dogma, with Republicans who dissent attacked for playing into Democratic hands by opposing Trump’s policies, just like #NeverTrumpers are attacked now for proving that they meant it when they said they won’t vote for a candidate who isn’t conservative. And if all else fails, President Trump and Hannity will make sure they clear the lowest bar they can set by arguing that, however unhappy you might be with a Trump administration, a Clinton administration would have been worse. Trump can go as far left as he wants, breaking as many promises as he needs, and so long as he’s semi-plausibly still to Clinton’s right, that’ll be spun as something of a victory. That’s where the great populist revolution is headed.