For weeks I’ve been scratching my head over why some of my favorite conservative commentators have been giving Donald Trump a free pass on so many issues. Three of the most-listened to conservatives in America–Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin–among others, have spent many hours defending Trump and giving him extra air time.
Meanwhile, others are raising questions about his conservative bonafides. Glenn Beck, Michelle Malkin, Erik Erickson, and other conservative stalwarts have been adamant in their criticisms of Trump.
I have listened to Levin religiously for about eight years, and I became confused by the fact that he would not nail Trump on his obvious disregard for liberty principles. My frustration came to a head after the second debate when Levin and others went after Carly Fiorina for some of her past positions.
While Fiorina isn’t my first choice, the knee-jerk reaction to immediately attack Fiorina struck me as odd, especially given the fact that she is a much better candidate who can articulate conservatism (Trump cannot). Her alleged sins are not nearly as troubling as Trump’s serial flip-flopping. Why immediately resort to attacking Fiorina when they give Trump a pass on similar issues?
At first I thought this strategy was solely for the purposes of ratings, since Trump has been very good for the news and commentary business. Trump is also getting more people engaged in the process, and they don’t want to dissuade people, I told myself. But when several conservatives attacked Carly Fiorina, even as her poll numbers skyrocketed, that explanation made less sense.
During the course of the CNN debate, Fiorina was Trump’s most effective and cutting critic, and certain conservative members of the media turned on her immediately. Something more strategic was going on, I thought to myself.
At long last, I think I may have solved this puzzle. I am confident that Trump is not the first choice of Limbaugh, et al. I know for certain that Ted Cruz is Levin’s top choice, and Levin is close friends with Limbaugh and Hannity. Limbaugh has recently stepped up his praise of Cruz, calling him the most anti-liberal candidate.
On a recent program Levin let it slip. He said something to the effect of, “Once the media tears down Trump, their next target will be Cruz.” He has since repeated that sentiment. It’s now clear to me that Levin and other commentators actually favor Cruz, but they also know that timing is everything in presidential politics.
The frontrunners at this point in 2004, 2008, and 2012 were Wesley Clark, Rudy Giuliani, Hillary Clinton, and Rick Perry. None of them were the eventual nominees, because they peaked too early.
The same thing is happening now with Trump.
I believe the goal is to prop up Trump as long as possible. Then, when he inevitably implodes, they will point to Cruz as the true conservative. This, the logic follows, will lead to a surge of support for Cruz, who is currently polling sixth in most national polls at about 6% according to Real Clear Politics.
That’s not all. Trump and Cruz have had private meetings, and Cruz has gone to great lengths to align himself with and even defend Trump. This is a smart move by Cruz, because he is developing rapport with Trump supporters who will look to him as their second choice or become open to supporting his candidacy outright.
This is a calculated strategy by Cruz, and conservative talkers are taking their cues from Cruz. In fact, Cruz is not nearly as supportive of Trump as he wants people to think. A “top Republican strategist familiar with the senator’s thinking” said the following:
“Cruz knows full well that Trump is a buffoon and is bad for conservatism, but he applauds him because it theoretically is good for Ted.”
I’m convinced that, when he unavoidably exits the race, Trump will endorse Cruz. Trump’s support for Cruz will follow a cascade of endorsements from various talking heads who boast audiences in the tens of millions. The logic is that most of Trump’s base of support will gravitate to Cruz, the one candidate they have heard defending Trump.
Cruz’s poll numbers will soar as he receives daily positve coverage from the most-listened to conservative commentators ahead of the first primary dates early next year. At that point, most social conservatives will have abandoned Ben Carson, and Jeb Bush’s compaign will be floundering as the establishment turns to Marco Rubio and possibly Fiorina.
The media and establishment will then turn their fire on Cruz, but it will have been too late. Cruz will have amassed enough delegates in the early states and nationwide support to emerge as the frontrunner.
It’s a strategy that, strangely enough, gives Cruz his best shot at the nomination, and it just might be why commentators are trying to keep Trump atop the mountain for as long as possible.
However, it’s also a strategy that invites criticism from other conservatives. Bobby Jindal recently called for Cruz to denounce Trump’s government-run health care plan.
I have my own concerns with this strategy. Is it right for conservatives to prop up a candidate who is a very poor representative of constitutional principles?
A former Democrat who cannot articulate conservatism, or even why he decided to become a Republican, and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to leftists like Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid?
A foul-mouthed, twice-divorced billionaire casino magnate who was against defunding Planned Parenthood before he was for it, who thinks conservatives should “go with” the Supreme Court’s decision regarding homosexual marriage, who says he won’t ask God for forgiveness, and who has been on both sides of virtually every issue over the past 15 years?
It’s time for Cruz and conservative commentators to denounce Trump once and for all, or at least stop defending him day after day. It may make for good political strategy but it does nothing to advance liberty in America.