When I was in my mid twenties, long before I began a career talking politics or making videos & film, there was one voice that seemed to say everything I was thinking. I'd tune in to 1110AM in Charlotte, NC every day at noon to hear the opening beat from "My City Was Gone" by The Pretenders, and Rush Limbaugh's voice would boom through my car stereo or my home computer while I worked.
I was a Rush 24/7 subscriber the day it became available and downloaded the podcast religiously to my clickwheel iPod. I called in a handful of times and was so excited to have gotten through that I ripped the exchange out of the mp3 from my podcast download and played it for my whole family.
I still drink out of my Club Gitmo coffee mug. I still have the photo I took in front of the Kennedy Compound in Nantucket with my Gitmo shirt on and I beamed with pride that Rush's staff put it on the website.
I listened as Rush started the Adopt-a-Soldier program where you could purchase a 1 year 24/7 subscription for our fighting men & women overseas and I happily contributed. Even got an email from the soldier thanking me!
I stopped listening to Rush several years ago, mostly as a result of a busier life and having a job I don't hate. But I still had the utmost respect for him and everything he'd accomplished for conservatism.
I expected, even as Trump began to rise, that Rush would side with the Republican nominee, but I expected him to give Trump the bad candidate treatment. That is to say I didn't believe he would really cheerlead about Trump, because to me, Rush put conservatism ahead of Republicanism. That's always who he was to me. That was why he was so influential to my own views. I figured he'd cheerlead the people surrounding Trump, spend a lot of time attacking the left, talk about how great Pence is and so on.
That's how he handled McCain's nomination.
I remember when Rush, who had spent years hating on McCain, referred to McCain as "McBrilliant" because of his decision to nominate Sarah Palin for Veep. I cringed a little when he did that because I knew it was mental gymnastics, but I understood why. And by that time I knew how he was. He was a partisan guy who believed the Republican party was the best party to be a part of. And that was ok, because when it came down to it, conservatism would always be more important than the party.
But it has been said that you either die a hero or live long enough to become the villain.
It is sad to see that Rush has taken the route of cheerleading Donald Trump, all the way to the point of completely contradicting himself, lying to his listeners about it, and now, taking aim at the very principled conservatives that were the core of his audience for decades and agreeing with the author of a widely read article that Never Trumpers are "The Washington Generals."
And there's even a term used for the conservative Never Trumpers. He calls them "the Washington Generals." I wonder where he got that? That happens to be my term for our side. Specifically, the Republicans in Congress. I think I named them the Washington Generals, happy to be on the field, happy to wear the uniform, but supposed to lose and happy to do so.
This was what he did on yesterday's show as Caleb Howe pointed out in a post this morning.
The widely read article he is quoting came from Claremont.org and is titled The Flight 93 Election.
From the article.
2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway. You—or the leader of your party—may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees.
Except one: if you don’t try, death is certain. To compound the metaphor: a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.
The metaphor is crap, obviously. The article itself isn't bad other than that it is a phony baloney plastic banana good-time rock-n-roll straw man. Hell, it's the Burning Man of straw men.
But I'm not just going to write about what he got wrong. I'm going to tell you what this election is about and why it's important since the anonymous author of that article and even the great El Rushbo seem too drunk with partisan blinders to have any clue what is actually happening.
I've already laid some of this out in previous writings, but the straw men keep coming back and we're even starting to lose some of our #NeverTrump line so I suppose it's time for a refresh.
I'd like to start by asking a very simple question that I've asked before: have the last 20 years made it easier or harder to sell conservatism to the public?
Did adding trillions to the deficit over the 2 terms of George W. Bush make it easier or harder to convince people conservatives, and by extension Republicans, are a fiscally responsible crew with budget-minded ideas?
Did cutting taxes without cutting spending make low income earners believe that lowering taxes works for revitalizing an economy?
Did creating the Department of Homeland Security instill trust in voters that Republicans are not about growing the size and scope of government?
Did $800 billion in TARP loans and $100 billion more in auto bailouts under a Republican president with support & encouragement from Republicans in congress convince the average undecided voter that they can trust Republicans care about the working families who struggle to keep their own doors open? That it's not about handing money to the wealthiest at the expense of the poorest?
The examples are countless. Every single year, every single congress, every single president, the story remains the same: government grows, the economy bubbles up and bursts, and the "have nots" bear the burden of the fallout from that bubble while the wealthiest are protected by the DC elite. Then they start creating programs and initiatives that put a bubble around the old bubble and the problems get pressed into a can and kicked down the road.
And through it all, Republicans are the ones that primarily take the negative heat for it.
See my rhetorical questions above. You know the answer. Our leaders run on one thing and do another. Say what you want about Democrats but for the most part they say they'll raise taxes and increase spending and that's exactly what they do.
It drives a lot of conservatives nuts to hear but the truth is optics matter. Much more than people would like to admit.
But instead of working on those optics, or working on earning trust with the American people and explaining ideas and SELLING ideas, they all just work feverishly to ensure the next election is won by appealing to the same groups over and over, no matter how divisive they have to be to do it.
The next election is all that matters. Not fixing things. Not changing things. Just get to the next election and pray you win and keep your job.
In fact, Republicans became so accustomed to appealing to whatever group would stay loyal to them, that they stopped caring at all about who it was or what they stood for. Could they count on their vote? Then by God, we want them in our tent.
If Republicans thought they could up their chances of winning an election by getting the support of cannibalistic ponzi schemers you'd better believe they'd start saying Hannibal Lecter and Bernie Madoff were misunderstood.
That's not anything remotely similar to a set of principles or ideals. It's just a win at all cost obsession.
And throughout all this time Republicans infected their base with that same urgency. Every election was do or die. Every election is 1776 reborn. I know this because I not only fell for it, I took part in spreading the idea.
We have reached a point of hyperbole where people regularly tell me that Hillary Clinton is literally satan. That in fact, if the actual source of all evil in the universe was running opposite Hillary, they'd vote for the Prince of Darkness.
I had someone tell me she was Hitler and Pol Pot wrapped into one. That we would be slaves by 2020. That there would be internment camps. Our guns will be confiscated. We'll lose the Supreme Court for 50 years because she'll appoint 4-6 in her first term.
Let me say something incredibly controversial: There are worse things than Hillary Clinton.
Now let me temper your frothing outrage with a less controversial comment on the panicked right: There are worse things than Donald Trump, too.
For the love of God of course I would vote for Donald Trump if SATAN was running against him. Hell, I'd vote for Donald Trump if Alan Grayson was running against him!
But the fact that there are worse things than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is not proof on its own that either of them deserve your vote in this election.
And that's not because we aren't at a tipping point. We are.
It's not because a Hillary Clinton presidency or a Donald Trump presidency won't be disasters. They will be.
It's because it is time to break this cycle. Not out of some sense of tiredness, or election fatigue. It is precisely because we are at a tipping point that the cycle must be broken.
We can not be slaves to a 4 year election cycle any longer. We have reached a point where otherwise intelligent people are suggesting that if you don't vote for the narcissistic, power-mad, uncontrollable, spoiled, dangerous, non-conservative, blowhard liar, that democracy is dead.
We're being told that it's important to ignore your reservations, ignore your genuine concerns, shut up and vote for a guy you may legitimately be concerned isn't mentally stable or trustworthy with nuclear codes, because if you don't the marriage of Adolph Hitler and Pol Pot is going to throw you in an internment camp.
Every 4 years this hyperbole gets worse, and now the base is so whipped up into a frenzy that it has legitimized and elevated some of the most paranoid, xenophobic and, if not racist, at least ethnically fearful group of Americans I've ever seen. They operate on fear and mistrust and often represent some of the most mindlessly obscene views you can imagine. I interact with these people every day and many of them are now holding high positions within the Trump campaign or serving as surrogates on cable news.
But they don't represent the majority of Americans. Not by a long shot. Instead, they are just more and more coming to represent the Republican Party. Until recently, the party, and most conservatives, at least attempted to ignore them (a timid form of enabling in my opinion), but now they've installed a man who understands salesmanship better than most and he's been using this group the entire time to elevate his campaign.
The result is that the rest of the party is having to choose between embracing that madness for the sake of winning the next election, or taking a stand and saying ENOUGH.
The irony of the article that Rush was citing is that he thinks we who are #NeverTrump are the ones that think everything is fine and let's just get through another election.
A thousand times no.
It is the Trump supporters, specifically the ones that have "resigned" themselves to him that are doing this. They are essentially signalling to the American people that there is simply no line of decency, no expectation of principles, no standard of common sense that exceeds the desire to retain power. They're saying "this is just another election."
Have you ever considered that the media is biased against Republicans because we ask for it? Because we don't even try to make a case that is palatable to the American people and instead choose to dog whistle to the type of scum we now find controlling the destiny of the party?
That during an economic stagnation, our best answers involved going to poor areas and complaining that they don't pay enough taxes? That we respond to every single police shooting with the same uniformity (never the cop's fault) as we claim Black Lives Matters does (never the suspect's fault)? That we applaud when a little girl is told her dad will be deported because it's not enough to simply have a position, we're for some reason required to be dicks about it?
The other day, a conservative activist actually mocked the idea to me of doing something that made Republicans "look good on tv."
Where exactly is it that this person thinks voters go to form their opinion? As I've said before, do we want to be right and lose? Or right and win?
Again, how did TARP work out for us? How did Department of Homeland Security work out for us? How did deficits work out for us?
Do you believe that in 2020, if we embrace Trumpism, win or lose, that the American people will now, on top of everything else, believe we are compassionate? That we are inclusive? That we have the best interests of the country at heart? If not, how do you feel about our chances of winning the next election? Or the next one? Or the next one?
You're worried about losing the next Supreme Court nominees between 2016 and 2020. How about losing them from 2016 to 2028? Is that a better or a worse scenario?
This election is not a referendum on Hillary. I don't care if she wins. It's irrelevant. Primarily because we've already lost. Embracing what killed our chances takes us from mortally wounded to swinging from a tree branch.
We gain nothing. We lose everything. And the idea of a lost Supreme Court will be a relic of old thinking as we can't even see what's over the horizon we'll be so far out into the wilderness.
If you truly believe that conservatism, not Republicanism, is what saves America and helps her reverse course, then why would you ever even consider nominating and voting for someone that would destroy the opportunity for conservatism to advance, thus preventing it from being able to do those things?
All because the guys who have been in power for decades are now working with people that we generally despise and don't trust and the two of them are telling us the world is going to end if we lose this election?
The world will not end if we lose this election. But we are going to lose. The only real question is if we lose with an opportunity to recover, or if we lose in a panic, embracing the worst parts of us as we go down.
I abhor that the author Rush quoted used a 9/11 metaphor to make his point, but I will now conclude by correcting it.
Far from being comparable to running to the cockpit to try and save the day, what Rush and others are astoundingly asking us to do, is to not rush the cabin at all. They're not suggesting we try to save the plane, or even to force it down to prevent others from being harmed. Instead, they're asking us to sit quietly in our seats, and trust that we can survive whatever the plane crashes into. To gamble that while we don't know what the terrorists intentions are, we DO know that crashing causes death. So let's go with the unknown. Besides, they've been on a hundred flights and they feel really certain that they can go about business as usual like nothing is different.
But everything is different. Those of us who recognize that will be tasked with rebuilding the destruction Trump has brought to the party.
I'm guessing the rest will go to work at Trump TV.
As for my former hero, Rush? I will always cherish who he was and hope he can be that person again. I'm praying that I wasn't simply wrong about him all this time and he was merely an entertainer with no real convictions.
If Rush happens to read this, my parting words are this: Count your blessings, Mr. Limbaugh. You never had to see your own conservative hero fall so far.
This column originally appeared at RedState.com.