Thursday, February 18, 2021


Never Trump Republicans regularly lament: How did the party of Ronald Reagan become the party of Donald Trump? "Reagan’s sunny, inclusive vision and principles are the antithesis of what Trump preaches," we're told. But Reagan bashed Democrats at every opportunity -- often with cornball jokes, but never with the sense that Democrats are good citizens with ideas about government worth considering. Reagan brought us Interior Secretary James Watt, who said, "I never use the words Democrats and Republicans. It's liberals and Americans." Reagan's administration gave us the angry, self-important culture warrior Ollie North. Reagan's rise was aided by Jerry Falwell Sr. and other proud haters of what was perceived as liberal culture.

And never forget precisely when Rush Limbaugh appeared on the scene:
In 1984, a station in Sacramento offered him a talk show....

Mr. Limbaugh’s daily dicing of California politicians, spiced with comedy routines and news updates packaged with pop tunes, was an instant hit.

... in 1988, ABC Radio offered him a deal that included a local morning show on WABC in New York and a nationally syndicated afternoon show.

He had an immediate knack for making headlines with his put-downs, as when he blasted “environmental wackos” and declared animal rights activists to be “a bunch of kookburgers.”
If Reaganism was sunny, genial, and inclusive, why was Rush Limbaugh's toxic conservatism able to go national in the last year of Reagan's presidency? Limbaugh's act caught on when it did because conservatives correctly regarded Reagan (and Reaganism) as much more hostile to liberals and Democrats than the misty memories of Reagan's right-centrist (and left-centrist) admirers would suggest. Limbaugh caught on because Reaganism was angry. Limbaugh's rhetoric was the logical continuation of Reaganism.

And as Jonathan Chait notes, Trump's rhetoric is barely distinguishable from Limbaugh's.
They were almost the same person. Perhaps the only only salient difference between the two men’s careers is that Limbaugh found his place sooner than Trump, at a time when a bellicose misogynist could find a valued position in the party but not as its presidential candidate. That had become a possibility by the time Trump found his way to conservatism as a viable exclusive brand.

... The line from Limbaugh to Trump is about an inch long.
Chait says the common thread uniting all right-wingers has been, as Limbaugh put it on the radio in 2016, "this united, virulent opposition to the left and the Democrat Party and Barack Obama." Remove Obama's name, or substitute Bill Clinton's or Ted Kennedy's, and the line goes all the way back to the 1980s (at least). It's all the same. It's hate, and there isn't a dime's worth of difference between the Reagan, Limbaugh, and Trump versions.

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