In the last several days, many in the national media have begun the self-imposed but difficult task of identifying exactly who or what is responsible for the rise and sustained success of Republican front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE's campaign. Some have concluded that everyone is at fault. Others decided that no one is.
Often it seems that the point of all the articles and news segments isn't to reach a satisfactory conclusion, but rather to indulge in the navel-gazing necessary to keep them involved as players in the larger narrative. "Donald Trump continues his march toward the Republican nomination, here's how I'm involved," seems to be the storyline. If nothing else, the recent spate of stories proves that nothing is more interesting to the media than the media themselves.
On his wildly successful talk-radio show, Rush Limbaugh has recently been engaging in self-reflection as well. But his is a more exasperated tone. While some seem gleeful to bear responsibility for the rise of Trump, and others are horrified by the prospect, Limbaugh just seems ... frustrated by it all.
He has every right to feel that way. After all, it was Limbaugh whom Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonBusiness coalition aims to provide jobs to Afghan refugees Biden nominates ex-State Department official as Export-Import Bank leader Obamas, Bushes and Clintons joining new effort to help Afghan refugees MORE implied was partly responsible for the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City 21 years ago this month. And since then, conservative talk radio has been sullied by opportunistic politicians — or the industry's less-successful players on the left — anytime some nutcase with non-defined political leanings commits mass murder. It is Limbaugh who has been nefariously and wrongly blamed for acts of pure evil for decades.
Now to assume that Limbaugh is frustrated by those who claim he bears responsibility for the rise of Trump is understandable. I've listened as callers to his show blame him for an implied favorable opinion of Trump. I've read the stories that call him out for his reluctance to denounce Trump; I've written articles that do the same. And I've heard the frustration in his voice grow. So for the minor role I've played in this, I'd like to apologize to Rush. His neutrality on Trump, or failure to see the man as so many of us do, isn't reason enough to erase years of entertainment garnered from his show.
A few weeks ago, Jonah Goldberg poignantly put into words how so many of us feel. "I hate this. I hate it. I hate attacking people I respect," he wrote. He continued: "But I honestly and sincerely don't see this as a mere principled disagreement. I see this as an argument about whether or not we should set fire to some principles in a foolish desire to get on the right side of some 'movement.' I have never been more depressed about the state of American politics or the health of the conservative movement."
Goldberg's words echo my sentiments. The worst part about the rise of Trump is how it has forced so many of us to take sides, sides split by an ever-widening divide. And I think that's where the frustrations that so many of us feel toward Limbaugh lie. So many of us have depended on him for decades to be our voice of conservative reason.
In the first season of HBO's "True Detective," Marty asked Rust if he ever wondered if he was a bad man. "No, I don't wonder," Rust said. "The world needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door." That scene of the two men in the car, smoking, wandering the coastline of Louisiana, encapsulates the disappointment those of us against Trump feel for Limbaugh. We're not asking him to champion anyone over another, but we have for years counted on him to keep bad men from the door.
Trump has shown an astonishing lack of preparedness for the job he seeks. Dismissing his myriad other flaws, his disregard for even the slightest attempt to learn, to grow into the candidate that so many want him to be, should be insulting to a man as intelligent and self-made as Limbaugh. But yet it isn't. He refuses to identify the bad man at the door.
Friday morning at 11:06 a.m., I tuned in to Limbaugh's show, just as I do almost every day. Then I did something different: I turned his show off. Not out of anger or frustration, but out of respect for the man whose voice and ideals have served as my political compass through the years. Sadly, he's not there anymore. And I'd rather remember him that way.
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. Follow Hale on Twitter @LubbockElitist.