"Walt ... I want my kids back. I want my life back. Please tell me ... how much is enough? How big does this pile have to be?" — Skyler White, "Breaking Bad"
Conservative media, particularly the fat and happy provocateurs, relish any opportunity to lambast President Obama on those many occasions when he describes in great detail an imaginary, monstrous straw man blocking him from carrying out his vision. It is with great irony then to listen to those same flamboyant talkers and writers bemoan the existence of some far off, mystical "establishment" that prevents America from being led by truly conservative men and women. If only there weren't the mighty straw man blocking our progressive agenda shouts one side; if only there weren't the nefarious establishment foiling our quest for conservative purity, shouts the other.
Walt's interminable lie comes to mind when listening to — or reading — continued defenses of Donald TrumpDonald TrumpConway says she'll talk to Trump about press safety Helen Mirren gives advice for being a ‘nasty woman’ Gingrich goes off on Megyn Kelly over Trump allegations: 'You are fascinated with sex' MORE's legitimacy by those who have argued for conservative principles for years, some for even decades. Rush Limbaugh said on Fox News Sunday that "I think with the case of Trump, there's a much bigger upside than downside." But anyone paying attention would be hard pressed to agree. Limbaugh, who often touts his own speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2009 as a triumph for the cause, ignores Trump turning his back on the event — and thereby conservatives nationwide.
Sean Hannity, who for decades has pummeled American ears with his stream-of-consciousness brand of conservative ideals, is unequivocally in the tank for a fellow New Yorker who defines conservatism as nothing more meaningful than "a person that doesn't want to take overly risks."
If off somewhere in the bowels of a nondescript government building sits an establishment of aging Republicans that pull the lever turning Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioThe Trail 2016: An important lesson in geography Clinton takes aim at Rubio in Florida rally Dem Senate hopeful dodges leaked Clinton emails at debate MORE (R-Fla.) into Don Rickles and sending out an urgent Romney Signal to shake noted attack-dog (and 2012 nominee) Mitt from his slumber, it is also possible that there exists an establishment of a media not as viable as it once was. An establishment that has concluded its best bet is to hitch its wagons to the gilded star of Trump. Conservative bona fides be damned, this guy is good for business.
Advertising sales, increased ratings and healthy book sales are paramount for survival in the provocateur game. Many are in a battle for continued relevancy with several rising voices who are much younger and equally talented, but less established. Guy Benson, Ben Shapiro, Jonah Goldberg, Kevin D. Williamson, Heather Wilhelm and Mary Katherine Ham stand in direct contrast to the conservative media establishment, because they have yet to base their conservative ideals on how highly their shows are rated. Perhaps someday, once more established, they will do so. But none have yet.
As a strong free-market conservative, I fault no one for choosing self-preservation and ad revenue over the conservative principles all were once bound to. But we all have to choose a side.
Throughout his playing career, Michael Jordan stridently avoided injecting himself into politics, reportedly explaining to a friend that it was because "Republicans buy sneakers too." The establishment sees ratings gold in Trump for at least the next four years. CBS Executive Chairman and CEO Les Moonves spoke for them all last week when he said Trump is great for business. "Man, who would have expected the ride we're all having right now? ... The money's rolling in and this is fun," he said.
But, just like Walter White, it's foolish for the establishment provocateurs to continue carrying the burden of an obvious lie. So while the money rolls in and longstanding conservative principles melt away, the only question that remains for the establishment is "How high does this pile have to be?"
This piece was revised on Thursday, March 10, 2016 at 8:08 a.m.
Hale is a freelance writer who resides in San Antonio with his wife and three children. He has written for Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports but his first, true love has always been politics. The machinations carried out by otherwise good people are his glorious, guilty pleasure.