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Is Rush Limbaugh Betraying Conservatism with Donald Trump?

Last week, the conservative magazine National Review published a long and scathing attack on Donald J. Trump. Notable names included Glenn Beck, Erick Erickson, Michael Medved, and Thomas Sowell. Absent was the radio champion of conservatism, Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh said National Review’s attack came “too late now,” and would not convince Trump’s supporters. This may be true, but it could also be Limbaugh’s way of explaining why he won’t attack Trump himself. Could Limbaugh be “cheating on conservatism” with The Donald? Does he identify with Trump, or does Limbaugh’s hatred of the “establishment” run so deep that he is willing to tacitly support a questionably conservative candidate just to revel in the establishment’s defeat?

Limbaugh did not respond to PJ Media’s request for comment, but he may have hinted recently at the reason why he refrains from attacking The Donald -- as questionably conservative as Trump is, he is still better than Hillary Clinton. But is this understanding correct, or just another dodge?

Limbaugh on Trump: Is He Really Talking About Himself?

The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf writes that Limbaugh is “cheating on conservatism” by subtly supporting The Donald. Friedersdorf’s argument hinges on using pop psychology to analyze Limbaugh. The radio personality’s flirtation doesn’t lead him to call Trump conservative, but to identify with his fellow media star. Trump is excluded from the Republican “establishment” for the same reason Limbaugh himself is -- not on merit, but due to caprice. As Limbaugh put it, “you can’t succeed your way into [the GOP establishment elite].”

Friedersdorf quotes Limbaugh:

When we’re talking the establishment, they don’t like Trump not because he’s not conservative. That doesn’t matter. The fact that he’s not conservative in their minds would actually be a plus….[In] addition to opposing conservatism or the Republican base, there’s also this cliquish, elitist club characteristic here that, if you’re not in it -- and the only way you can get in it is to be accepted, to be invited. You can’t succeed your way into it. This is important to understand.

You cannot be an overwhelming success in whatever you do and have that be the reason you get into the establishment elite political club. You have to be a certain type. You have to come from a certain place. You have to be invited. Trump does not qualify on a whole lot of grounds, in a lot of ways. So even though Trump has the largest bloc of voters made up of exactly the kind of outreach the Republican claims it needs to win, they’re rejecting it and don’t want it….They are content to lose if winning means conservatives dominate the party.

As Friedersdorf explains, “it’s a strange way to describe Trump.” The man who got a $1 million loan from his father and uses his connections with government to try to seize old ladies’ houses for a limousine parking lot seems an odd candidate for the “overwhelming success in whatever you do” category.