In his interview with legendary author Rick Perlstein this week, Greg Sargent worked to put Rush Limbaugh into some kind of contextual perspective. "It’s hard to overstate the enormity of the impact that Limbaugh had on the course of the conservative movement and our politics," noted Sargent. "Indeed, in many ways, it’s hard to envision the Trump era unfolding as it has without Limbaugh’s influence. Trump himself understood this very well: After Limbaugh announced his illness in February of 2020, Trump awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, declaring: 'He is the greatest fighter that you will ever meet.'"
Perlstein, who called him "enormously influential" and "enormously efficacious," understood that Limbaugh had an "ability to give people a sense that they were part of a community, part of a movement. In the case of politically alienated reactionary white males, they had an ally who would watch their back... People accustomed to being on top-- culturally, socially, economically-- were facing an onslaught of liberation movements that were all about giving other people a fair shot at the pie. This is the guy offering a supposedly forbidden discourse, against the tide, to guys who wanted to drive giant cars and smoke cigars and maybe pat a fanny here and there... There’s nothing he would say that was abstract or intellectual in any way. It was all extremely visceral: There was this transcendent evil behind the scenes that wanted to destroy you. It just shows the viciousness of this person, and how badly he deranged our public life: People were literally being taught that nothing liberals could do, nothing Democrats could do, could be anything but a diabolical conspiracy to destroy them."
When Sargent asked him how responsible Limbaugh was for the Trump presidency, the disasters that flowed from it, and the effort to violently overturn U.S. democracy, he replied simply, "Very responsible. Extremely responsible... The thing about the QAnon phenomenon is that what the Democratic Party actually is-- pluralist, timid, rather centrist-- makes it hard to portray them as evil unless you make up something. The fact that QAon made up this idea that they’re literal cannibals is so telling of the weakness of the material they have. Limbaugh primed the audience for that kind of fiction about Democrats."
Today Trump is gearing up for war without Limbaugh at his side-- and not against the Democrats but against the Republican Party. According to Politico's Gabby Orr and Meredith McGraw "Trump will soon begin vetting candidates at Mar-a-Lago who are eager to fulfill his promise to exact vengeance upon incumbent Republicans who’ve scorned him, and to ensure every open GOP seat in the 2022 midterms has a MAGA-approved contender vying for it." He'll be meeting with candidates starting next month. High on Trump's enemies list are Liz Cheney (WY), Fred Upton (MI) and freshman Peter Meijer (MI).
“If you’re Trump, you don’t gotta play nice with these people anymore. You don’t have to do the whole fake political thing where you pretend to like people you don’t actually like,” said a person close to the president, suggesting that Trump is unlikely to seek feedback from Republicans who disagree with his approach.
Some rank-and-file Republicans have encouraged the party’s leaders to tread carefully as they attempt to distance the party from Trump while he remains exceedingly popular among GOP voters. A Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted after Trump’s acquittal in the Senate found that nearly six in 10 Republican voters want him to maintain a powerful role in the party moving forward.
“A Republican Party that seeks to erase President Trump and fails to understand his appeal to working class voters is destined to lose elections in 2022, 2024 and beyond,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), chair of the conservative Republican Study Committee, tweeted on Wednesday.
So far, Trump’s backing has gone to two of his most loyal allies, Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward, who received a recorded endorsement for her re-election bid, and former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a candidate for Arkansas governor who was given a glowing stamp of approval via his Save America PAC. Since then, he has used the political arm to bash McConnell, share a polling memo touting his popularity, and provide a readout of his recent meeting with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
He has refrained from endorsing other Trumpian candidates who have already entered races, waiting instead to roll out a series of endorsements later this spring and summer, according to a person familiar with the timeline.
In November, there were only two congressional districts where Trump received less than 10% of the vote-- PA-03 in Philly (8.1%) and CA-13, which is Oakland and Berkeley (9.0%). Now that Daily Kos has finished all the congressional district calculations, we also know that there were only 2 districts where Trump got over 80% of the vote-- AL-04 (81.2%) and KY-05 (80.2%). Alabama's 4th district is the whitest district in the state, a collection of small towns with one quasi-city Gadsden (pop-35,000), spread out over 16 counties that stretch from the border with Georgia to the border with Mississippi. It's very poor and will likely cease to exist when Alabama loses a district this year and the new congressional districts are drawn. No one in Congress will miss Robert Aderholt. One of the most anti-American counties in America, Winston County, is part of the district and gave Trump 10,195 votes (90.5%) to Biden's 974 votes (8.6%). The 5 other most doggedly unrepentant KKK counties of Alabama that gave Trump his biggest margins are also part of AL-04:
Blount Co.- 89.7%
Marion Co.- 88.6%
Cullman Co.- 88.3%
Cherokee Co,- 86.1%
Lamar Co.- 85.9%
Kentucky's godforsaken 5th district is very similar-- very white, very racist, very poor, very rural, very backward by all metrics. There are no cities. Hal Rogers is the congressman of this eastern Kentucky mess sprawling across 29 red counties. Half a dozen of the Trumpiest counties in the country are part of the district. Imagine if the people who lived in these counties were your neighbors:
Leslie Co.- 89.8%
Jackson Co.- 89.2%
Martin Co.- 89.0%
Owsley Co.- 88.1%
McCreary Co.- 88.0%
Clay Co.- 88.0%
Heard this one recently?