In the summer of 1992, Rush Limbaugh saved me from myself. I was an 18-year-old high school graduate about to begin college, too impatient to wait for adulthood to come to me. So instead, I went in search of it the only way I knew how: by engulfing myself in presidential politics and the fascinating campaigns that summer between Bill Clinton, George Bush and Ross Perot.
Like many idealistic teens, I was at first drawn to the youthful Clinton campaign and Fleetwood Mac's cheerful command to "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow." But then I started listening to Limbaugh and it changed everything. I was working as a delivery driver, so I'd plan my trips at six minutes after the hour so as to not miss a minute of his show — a habit I keep even today. The way he described his belief in conservatism reached out and grabbed me and I've been a loyal listener ever since.
So it is not from a place of hatred or misunderstanding that I write this. I'm not a plant from Media Matters. But when it comes to Republican presidential candidate Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE, Limbaugh is a mind-numbing, frustrating hypocrite (with all due respect, of course).
His tacit endorsement of Trump, now occurring daily during his show, is almost impossible to understand. Listening to him gleefully discussing Trump is painful for those of us who have followed his advice for decades. Why? Let's break it down.
Look at the polls
For years, Limbaugh has lambasted the "drive-by media" for their insistence on using polling data to make headlines and drive the story of the day. Trump's appearances and speeches, for the most part, are Trump droning on about how well he's doing in the polls. It's often the only story.
Words mean something
One of Limbaugh's biggest criticisms of President Obama has always been the vagueness in Obama's message; in his way of speaking until he can think of something to say; in the blank canvas that he offers us to project our hopes and dreams upon. And that, when he goes off-message, he often misspeaks. Explaining what Obama meant to say has become a cottage industry for websites like Vox and full-time gigs for a variety of nationally known journalists.
When has Trump ever offered anything of substance? His speeches are meandering streams of consciousness, and although he claims each to be unique, they are often the same litanies of vague promises. Trump will negotiate hard with China and Mexico. Trump will make the military so strong it will make your head spin. You'll get bored with winning so much. Chinese bankers live in his building, which proves he can bring jobs back from China. Trump thinks reporters are sleazy. Trump will hit you so hard. And, oh, by the way, have you seen the polls?
Limbaugh has been the voice for those who believe in smaller government for as long as he's been on the air. So it would stand to reason that challenging Trump on even his vague promises to vastly enlarge an already bloated government should give Limbaugh pause. Apparently, it doesn't. How many new government agencies will be necessary to round up 11 million illegal immigrants, send them back to Mexico and then let them back in? How many billions of dollars will it cost to make the military so great your head will spin? How many government workers will be required to build the Trump wall, complete with a beautiful Trump door?
The Kardashianification of American politics
Limbaugh has long lamented "low-information voters," who, he claims, are responsible for the rise of Obama. It's not his policies that win the day; it's the fact that he's cool and hip. His celebrity overcomes all other weaknesses.
Trump took the money that his father left him and built a series of failed casinos. What else does he have to offer, other than gaudy celebrity?
The Limbaugh Theorem
Simply put, the Limbaugh Theorem is Limbaugh's explanation as to why Obama remains popular when so many of his policies lack public support. It posits that Obama is always campaigning against the bad guys or bad situations, even when those situations are of his own making. It's a disassociation in the public perception of him between cause and effect.
Just peruse Trump's Twitter feed to see the Limbaugh Theorem on full display. He's always campaigning; always ready to right to wrongs in the world. The problem, though, is that many of those wrongs will be borne from a Trump presidency. He'll be there on Twitter or on another stop in his perpetual campaign, making obscenely vague promises that only he can fix what is wrong.
I'm still listening, Rush. But I hope you are, too. We don't need another blank canvas in the Oval Office, gilded or otherwise.
Hale is a freelance writer who lives in San Antonio with his wife and three children.