It was with great disappointment that I listened a few days ago to Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump. I was similarly disappointed the next day when I heard Rush Limbaugh proffer simply that “Nationalism and populism have overtaken conservatism in terms of appeal.” It’s tough when you find that your heroes are less than they had led you to believe, or, perhaps, what you chose to believe…
I’ve been a big supporter of Sarah Palin since the moment I saw her walk out on the GOP stage in 2008. I penned a piece titled “Why I love Sarah Palin” discussing exactly why I found her so compelling. I liked the fact that she was not part of the establishment. That she had not spent her life in Washington. That she had lived a normal, imperfect life that many Americans could relate to… and, most of all, she was conservative and traveled around the country touting the virtues of a limited government.
I’ve been a big fan of Rush Limbaugh since I first heard him on the radio in 1990 while in college in Florida. Throughout that quarter century I’ve listened to Rush talk about conservative values, government overreach, media spin and endlessly skewer epic government failures both big and small. Although I don’t agree with him 100% of the time, it’s pretty damn close.
This week it became clear that both Palin and Limbaugh are paper conservative tigers. Both have shown that they are conservatives when it’s easy, when it’s convenient, but when the chips are down, they are consummate politicians. As I myself have written, I will vote for Trump over anyone that the donkey party produces, but until that becomes the choice, I’m not a Trump guy. He’s simply not a conservative in any sense of the word. From limited government to abortion to gun control to taxes, Donald Trump has no idea what a conservative is. And he doesn’t care.
There are however two different things going on here. The first is Palin, who with her ringing endorsement of Trump betrays the very principles she has spent eight years publicly espousing. The conclusion I’ve drawn is that she has become a Kim Kardashian wannabe. She became enamored with the fame, with the media spotlight, with the money, and she decided that a better avenue back to that spotlight was to jump on the Trump train, principles be damned. Donald is a rock star and Sarah is a groupie seeking to reignite her career in his shadow.
With Limbaugh it’s something different, although it’s kind of the same. He’s not overtly supporting Trump, and in fact he constantly says that if you want a rock solid conservative, Cruz is your man. Limbaugh of course doesn’t need Trump to shine. As a matter of fact, if Hillary or Bernie won his audience and fortune would probably increase. No, when he spends three hours simply “explaining” what’s going on with Trump is he’s feigning objectiveness while tacitly pushing him to the front of the stage. Which he has every right to do, as it’s his show… but then don’t waste our time whining about the GOP establishment never giving Americans a conservative to vote for.
Make no mistake, this is a choice. Limbaugh claims that he’s just “explaining” what’s going on, that he’s just reacting to the news cycle, but in reality he decides what goes on on his show. Guaranteed if he wanted to he could spend three hours talking about Iowa governor Terry Branstad’s attempt to crucify Cruz for opposing ethanol, and given it’s Rush it would be entertaining. But rather than do so, he spends days on end explaining why Americans find themselves entertained by a strangely coiffed professional entertainer. And why might he do this? Fear. Trump is the easy play. Trump is the fun play. And there’s no risk with him. If he loses, then he was just a clown that entertained people for a while. If he wins, well, great, a guy who’s not part of the establishment who will leave plenty of terrible government programs to skewer. But Cruz… he’s a real conservative. He’s the guy Limbaugh has been telling America we’ve needed for almost three decades. What happens if he gets the nomination and he loses? Then suddenly Limbaugh is shown to be wrong… he’s shown to have been a fool all these years when he was telling his audiences what Americans really want and need and weren’t getting from the GOP… a conservative nominee.
So there we have it, two giants of modern conservatism who, when the chips are down, decided to betray their principles. One for fame and the other for fear of losing his legacy. Unfortunately, after being a fan of both for years the only thing that comes to mind is a quote from P.T. Barnum: “There’s a sucker born every day.” My guess is more than a few other conservatives feel the same way.