Rush Limbaugh’s blessing of Trump is killing conservatism

But Limbaugh has also consistently defended Trump as a legitimate choice for those whose dominating factor is the humiliation of “the establishment.” Early in the campaign, when Trump attacked Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) status as a war hero, Limbaugh responded by praising Trump’s courage, defending him as “an embattled public figure” willing to “stand up for himself, double down and tell everybody to go to hell.” Through a long series of controversies, Limbaugh has excused Trump’s narcissism and bluster as an endearing “schtick.” Trump’s deviations from conservative orthodoxy are noted but considered secondary. “I think with the case of Trump,” argues Limbaugh, “there’s a much bigger upside than downside.”

The upside, in this view, is not just taking the political fight to liberalism; it is also overturning a failed and corrupt Republican political order. Limbaugh dismisses defenders of this order as fundamentally self-interested. “[Trump] has put together a coalition that’s exactly what the Republican Party says that it needs to win, and yet, look what they’re doing. They’re trying to get Trump out of the race, because they’re not in charge of it.” Opposing Trump is the work of a “cliquish, elitist club,” preserving its influence and employment prospects. This criticism is sometimes expanded to include the conservative intelligentsia. “I’m talking about the establishment,” says Limbaugh, “conservative media, the brainiacs, the think tanks, the professors.”