Monday, August 10, 2015

The Bad Influence Of Limbaugh, Hannity, Et Al.

There are a lot of bad reasons people have for supporting Donald Trump's presidential campaign. A lot of his supporters name Jeb Bush as their second choice. Since Trump and Bush have the best name recognition among the candidates, it's likely that much of Trump's support at this stage is a result of name recognition. And he's a protest candidate for some people. But a moderate protesting conservatism is supporting Trump for reasons inconsistent with those of a conservative who's supporting Trump in protest of moderation. Then there are the people who are supporting Trump out of anger. But different people are angry for different reasons, sometimes for inconsistent reasons. Even among those with more similar motivations for supporting Trump, such as concern about illegal immigration, they have no reason to think that supporting Trump will accomplish anything significant on that issue. I often see Trump supporters refer to how their critics "don't get it", as if there's one reason or one universal set of reasons people have for supporting Trump, and any critic who doesn't recognize it is guilty of criticizing a movement he doesn't understand. But the fact is that the Trump movement is diverse, and a lot of his supporters don't get that fact. They're the ones who don't get it.

One of the reasons why the Trump movement has been so successful is a reason I haven't seen discussed much. That's what I want to focus on in this post.

People like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Matt Drudge keep giving Trump a lot of positive coverage he doesn't deserve. Limbaugh and Hannity also give a lot of positive coverage to Ben Carson. We have two bad candidates who never should have entered the race, Trump and Carson, getting a lot of positive coverage from some of the most influential sources in conservative media.

And I suspect that a lot of conservatives, as well as some non-conservatives, avoid criticizing people like Limbaugh and Hannity because they want to avoid the potential pushback. Limbaugh rarely gets criticized by conservative media, relative to how often he deserves criticism.

His treatment of the Thursday debates on his Friday program was ridiculous. The best performers in the debate - Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, and Carly Fiorina - got far less attention than Trump and Carson.

Limbaugh sometimes refers to how he plays golf with Trump, and he said on Friday that he's gotten to know Carson over the last several months. I suspect the quantity and quality of coverage he gives both of them has a lot to do with those relationships. Hannity has also referred to how Trump keeps in contact with him (Hannity) off the air, and I know Trump recently made some positive comments about the Drudge Report, more than once. It's paid off. Limbaugh and Hannity are giving him far more coverage than he deserves, coverage that's often positive. They're influencing many millions of people who know little and/or care little about electability and the dangers of third party candidates. Those millions of people, largely influenced by individuals like Limbaugh and Hannity, are supporting two candidates who would lose badly to Clinton, and there's a good chance that one of those two would run as a thirty party candidate (though he probably wouldn't, but the risk shouldn't be taken).

Imagine if somebody like John Boehner or Jeb Bush had made comments about healthcare like what Trump said in Thursday's debate. Or if they'd donated to the Clintons and other Democrats and had defended it the way Trump did during the debate. Or if they had the record of recently taking liberal positions on so many issues, and making so many inappropriate comments about people, that Trump has. Would people like Limbaugh and Hannity be as uncritical of Boehner and Bush as they are of Trump? I doubt it. Limbaugh, Hannity, and Drudge do far more good than bad overall, but their behavior in this context is doing a lot of damage.

With Limbaugh, I suspect another factor is that Trump reminds Limbaugh of himself so much. Both are largely self-made men, financially successful, outspoken, often opposed by the mainstream media, often criticized for making inappropriate comments, often opposing mainstream Republican leadership, etc. They're different in a lot of ways as well (Limbaugh is more sincerely and consistently conservative, he's more knowledgeable of political and other issues than Trump is, etc.). But there are enough similarities for Limbaugh to see himself in Trump to a large extent. Limbaugh likes what Trump is doing in a lot of contexts that voters shouldn't be taking into account when deciding which presidential candidate to support. Limbaugh may like Trump's outspokenness, his willingness to make comments considered inappropriate, his being opposed by mainstream Republican leadership, etc., but it doesn't follow that Limbaugh's listeners ought to be supporting Trump as a presidential candidate. But I suspect that the lines often get blurred. They hear Limbaugh saying so many positive things about Trump, for a variety of reasons (often reasons with little relevance to a presidential campaign), and that motivates them to support Trump as a candidate.

One thing I like about Michael Medved is that he's made a lot of effort over the years to teach his listeners about the importance of electability and the dangers of third parties and third party candidates. I wish people like Limbaugh and Hannity would do the same. They do it to some extent, but not often or consistently enough. And they keep giving a lot of positive coverage to horrible candidates who never should have gotten nearly so much coverage (e.g., Herman Cain in 2012 and Trump and Carson in this 2016 cycle). Often, the candidate's poor quality will eventually become so evident that even the positive coverage from people like Limbaugh, Hannity, and Drudge won't be enough to keep the candidate going. That's what happened with Cain in 2012, for example. But the candidate never should have gotten so much support to begin with, and changing the situation was made far more difficult than it should have been because of how people like Limbaugh and Hannity mishandled it. With Trump, there's also the danger of a third party candidacy. Instead of giving him so much positive coverage (along with occasional negative coverage that's much less negative than it ought to be), people like Limbaugh and Hannity ought to be giving Trump much more negative coverage and using this as an opportunity to teach their listeners about electability and the dangers of third party candidates.


  1. Jason,

    I could not disagree with your post more. When people invoke "electability" that may have worked in past decades, but not any more. I have learned that when people invoke "electability" they are afraid of what the "media will do to them," as if the mainstream media will be nice to the Republican candidate who wins the primary.

    Not only do I not think a third party would be a bad thing, I hope Trump runs third party. I hope the Republican party is destroyed soon. We do not need another career politician as a president. The major reason America is in this mess today is because there are no term limits for congressmen. They get to Washington not to change things but to enjoy its elitism.

    So the slogans "lesser of the two evils," "electability," etc. they do not work for people any more who have realized that the Republican party is bought off and, I would argue, possesses less backbone and convictions than democrats.

    Vote electability, then vote for status quo, which means no conservative president.

    I enjoy watching Limbaugh make the establishment squirm.

    1. Electability is usually in reference to whether a candidate can actually win a general election. Media perception plays into that calculation, but not to the extent you seem to think it does.

      The good news is that Trump is unlikely to have either the patience or the self-sacrifice necessary to mount a successful third party run. If he leaves the GOP, he will have to create his own campaign infrastructure. Not only does that require a lot of resources, but it isn't something you can build in a year and a half.

      The bad news is that Trump only needs to shave a couple points off the GOP nominee to hand the election to Clinton (if her server troubles don't end her campaign). Given how divisive he's been, the damage may have been done already.

      As for term limits: those would simply lead to politicians who can't effectively legislate. Law making would then be outsourced to a permanent lobbyist class. Furthermore, term limits prevent voters from reelecting good politicians.

      You can choose to watch it all burn, but I do not want to see a President Clinton appoint liberal SCOTUS nominees who then decide a slew of important religious liberty cases 6-3.

    2. It's disturbing to see how many people are taken in by Trump's posturing. He's just a ham actor. Yet so many people allow themselves to be manipulated by his publicity stunts.

    3. Alan,

      Electability involves far more than how the media are likely to portray a candidate. Voters make a decision about who to support based on a large number and variety of factors: a candidate's physical appearance, race, communication skills, economic status, reputation, moral status, etc. In the 2012 election, around fifteen percent of the voters said that Hurricane Sandy was the biggest factor in deciding which presidential candidate they voted for. Even if they were lying to cover up some other motive they had for voting the way they did, their actual motive probably was even worse than what they used to cover it up. There's good reason why the term "low-information voter" has become popular in recent years. It's a real phenomenon. When somebody like Trump is so morally deficient, has no governmental experience, is inconsistent on the issues, is ignorant of the issues, is almost seventy years old, is such a poor communicator, has had so many negative things said about him by such a wide variety of respected sources, etc., his electability is likely to be significantly lower than that of somebody like Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, or Jeb Bush. He's likely to get worse media coverage than other Republicans, but that's only one of his problems among many. Are you going to maintain that all of the polls showing that Trump has worse electability are unreliable?

      You said that we "do not need another career politician as a president". Then why not support a non-politician who has fewer problems, like Carly Fiorina? Or one of the candidates who's held office, but not for his entire career? But I see no reason to think there's anything wrong with career politicians to begin with. You have to judge case-by-case. Some of the candidates are so young that there's no way you could know that they'd remain in politics the rest of their working lives. Even if they would, so what?

      You said that "The major reason America is in this mess today is because there are no term limits for congressmen." If the Congressman weren't corrupt to begin with, why would a lack of term limits be an issue? America's biggest problem is the character of the American people in general, not our political leaders, much less a lack of term limits on Congressman in particular. The American people's priorities are wrong, and their time management is terrible. As a result (among other results), big government becomes a substitute for God and the family. Single women look to the government as a substitute for a husband, for example. I've been documenting these problems on this blog for years. The polling data and other research (e.g., the Department of Labor's annual study of Americans' time management) are devastating. To look at that sort of evidence, then cite "term limits for congressmen" as "the major reason America is in this mess today" doesn't make sense.

      Given how corrupt the American people are, we should be grateful that we have such a promising opportunity to get leaders as conservative as Rubio and Walker. Even Bush is much more conservative than the average American. We ought to be enthusiastic about this sort of field of candidates, relative to the condition of the nation. Instead, people are complaining about it and looking to Donald Trump or a third party candidate as an alternative. That's perverse. And it gives the Democrats what they want. What you're trying to do amounts to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

    4. Alan writes:

      "So the slogans 'lesser of the two evils,' 'electability,' etc. they do not work for people any more who have realized that the Republican party is bought off and, I would argue, possesses less backbone and convictions than democrats."

      You need to address the sort of documentation we've provided many times in the past, demonstrating that Republicans are significantly more conservative than Democrats. See here, for example. Vague references to how "the Republican party is bought off", they "possess less backbone", etc. are insufficient to overcome the sort of hard facts that we've documented against your position. You're essentially repeating failed arguments we've been answering for years in response to Ron Paul supporters, advocates of third parties, etc.

  2. You mentioned several times that Carson is a bad candidate. I agree that Trump is a bad candidate and I have some very good reasons that everyone is ignoring (his stand on tariffs is economic suicide and his planned tax on wealth is Obamaesque) but you never explained why you insist Ben Carson is a bad candidate, could it be his SDA membership?

    1. Jason can speak for himself, but I'm guessing his objections to Carson are as follows:

      i) Carson is unelectable. That makes him a distraction.

      ii) Although Carson is admirable in many ways, he lacks the knowledge of domestic and foreign affairs to be a qualified Chief Executive.

      iii) In addition, he lacks any hands on experience in political governance, such as how to get a bill through Congress.

    2. Doug,

      Did you watch the presidential debates last week, or at least the one Carson participated in? Some of his problems were on display there. The first question he was asked, regarding his ignorance of the issues and the mistakes he's made while addressing the issues, was devastating. He's never held any political office. He's a poor communicator. He had time to plan some good lines to use in the debate, but a presidential candidate has to be able to communicate well without having done that sort of planning ahead of time. Carson isn't good at that. He's too hesitant, he comes across as nervous, he often doesn't choose his words well, etc.

      Choosing somebody like him over the likes of Rubio, Walker, Jindal, Perry, etc. reflects remarkably poor judgment. Carson's supporters have a lot of explaining to do.

  3. I think a basic problem is that when you get to be rich and famous like Limbaugh and Hannity, you move in the same social circles as Trump. Moreover, both Hannity and Trump are native New Yorkers.

    Limbaugh feels flattered to play golf with Trump. He's in the same social echelon.

  4. On the one hand the Democrats are driving the U.S. down a road with a "Bridge Out" sign with the pedal to the metal, while a tranny in the front seat is lip synching Bohemian Rhapsody, and the back seat is full of tweaking meth-heads, surrounded by narcotics and aborted baby parts. The rest of us are stuffed in the trunk bound and gagged.

    On the other hand the Republicans are driving the US down the exact same road, while sensibly abiding by the posted speed placards, and gently chiding the occupants in the back to secure their seat belts, while tut-tutting their bickering. Lee Greenwood is looping on the playlist.

    And we all end up in the same fireball at the end.

    1. The Congressional Republicans haven't been put to the test yet. So long as a Democrat is in the White House, it takes supermajorities in both houses of Congress to outlaw certain policies. Moreover, given the lawlessness of the Obama administration and his DOJ, even if Congressional Republicans did pass veto-proof legislation, Obama or a successor Democrat administration might simply flout the law. There's only so much divided gov't can accomplish. Mind you, that limits evil as well as good.

    2. CR,

      Your analogy isn't accurate. For some examples of the differences between the parties, see here. See, also, the recent Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, the difference in how the two parties voted on Obamacare, etc. At the state level, we see significant differences between how Republicans and Democrats approach religious liberty, judges, abortion, budgets, unions, taxes, etc.

      Furthermore, even if the Republicans were only slowing the car down while heading toward the same destination, that difference alone would be significant inasmuch as it gives us so much more time to work with in an attempt to change the direction of the car. To be more accurate, your analogy would need to add the detail that Republicans are driving the car in the wrong direction largely because the American people won't let them turn it in the better direction they'd prefer.

      Focusing your anger on people like John Boehner and Jeb Bush makes less sense than focusing it on the American people. And as bad as it is for Republicans to be getting so upset with people like Boehner and Bush, it's even worse to be focusing anger on the likes of Walker and Perry. And, apparently, we're now supposed to believe that even people as conservative as Cruz and as uninvolved in politics as Carson are part of the problem as well. Supposedly, only Trump is acceptable. That sort of analysis is more emotional than rational.

    3. I appreciate your enthusiasm and positivity Jason, I really do, but I don't share it.

      One need only look at the course (and discourse) of American politics over say, the past 50 years, to see the great downgrade.

      You suggest, rightly I think to a large degree, that politics and politicians (at least in our representative system of government) are the product of the people - a reflection of the electorate.

      This observation makes good sense of the continued downward spiral we see in U.S. politics. So whether the Republicans or Democrats are placed in the driver's seat, I still think my analogy holds. Whether they're gleefully driving us into oblivion, or doing it half-heartedly, ignorantly, or doing it with a gun held to their head, the end result is the same. That's my point.

      I'm not angry, I'm a realist. Unless there's a Republican candidate who's willing and able to go it alone and do what's right in the face of withering and bitter opposition, the "car" continues hurtling toward disaster.

      I don't see anyone like that, and that person probably couldn't be elected in our present national climate, so we'll swap Obama for another driver who'll stay the basic course, with the possibility of minor variations along the way, as the yawning chasm ever approaches.

      Do you see another way?

    4. The danger of a fatalistic outlook is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Defeatism ensures defeat.

      There are many rival power-centers in a country as diverse and affluent as America. Not just gov't checks and balances, but informal checks and balances on any one faction becoming absolutely dominant. Take the fight between feminism and transgenderism. Of the fight between feminists and gamers. There's more than one steering wheel.

    5. I doubt many people would argue America is better off today as far as the state of the union than in the past.

      Particularly in the post-Roe, post-9/11, post-Obergfell climate. I don’t think it's fatalistic to see the long march of our country's course downward, and look ahead and see no reason to think it won't continue its slide. I think that's reasonable, rational, logical, and realistic.

      Being a Christian, particularly a 5-point Calvinist, guards me against fatalism. It also guards me against a pollyanna-ish outlook.

    6. CR,

      When you refer to "the end result" of a car being driven in two ways down the same path, you're ignoring my documentation that Republicans are driving the car down a significantly different path. You're also ignoring what I said about the advantages of driving differently even if the same path were being taken. All you've done is reworded your initial argument without interacting with my response.

      You refer to "a Republican candidate who's willing and able to go it alone and do what's right in the face of withering and bitter opposition". As I've argued in past threads, Americans are largely ignorant and apathetic on some of the issues in question. On some issues, most of the opposition isn't "withering and bitter". It's often the case that Christians and their allies haven't made much of an effort to argue for their position. If they would make more of an effort, they'd probably persuade a significant number of additional people, as I've documented on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

      Besides, even where opposition to Republicans is "withering and bitter", that can change over time. That's why I referred to the significance of buying more time. Even if the Republicans were just driving the car more slowly down the same path, that would be a significant advantage.