On Thursday, Rush Limbaugh discussed the ideological battle that's been raging on the Right since the rise of Donald Trump: the battle between conservatism and populism. It's the former, not the latter, said Limbaugh, that continues to define Trump's presidency and be the key to his success.
"America's Anchorman" returned to the EIB microphone on Thursday, just in time to unpack the wild fallout from Michael Wolff's muckraking Trump White House book that, among other juicy details, includes a whole lot of headline-grabbing quotes from former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, whose particular brand of populism many have conflated with Trumpism.
Limbaugh took the opportunity of the dramatic public break between Bannon and Trump to underscore that Trump's rise and his current success have far more to do with conservatism than anything resembling populism.
"This whole idea that Trump and Bannon are some sort of massive populist movement, and, therefore, that is bad and it’s nationalistic?" said Limbaugh. "That’s not what has been going on here. Populism has not been what’s going on."
The term "populism," said Limbaugh, has been used by the Left to downplay the strength of the conservative movement as well by some on the Right for political expedience. "This is sour grapes losers using this term to describe it," said Limbaugh. "Now, maybe Bannon, some of his people picked it up and ran with it because, 'If that's what people thought it was, then fine. We’'l give 'em what they think we're doing.'"
But, said Limbaugh, where Trump's administration has succeeded, it has done so by embracing conservatism, not populism.
"[Y]ou'd have to look far and wide to find a more conservative administration than this one, and you know when Trump gets in the least trouble is when he does conservative things," he said. "The more conservatism in Trump’s agenda, the more popular he becomes, the more support he ends up having and the greater success he enjoys in implementing his agenda."
As an example, Limbaugh pointed to the Republicans' failed attempt to pass an Obamacare repeal and replace bill, which he described as having "nothing conservative" about it. "It’s a good thing it went down in flames, because it didn’t repeal and replace Obamacare," he said.
But the opposite is true of Trump's $1.5 trillion tax cut. "Now, that is something, and that’s legitimate and that’s real, and the benefits of that tax cut are already being experienced, and they have yet to really kick in," said Limbaugh. "We’ve had company after company after company announce hiring, announce bonuses. We have American corporations with a lot of money parked overseas. They’ve announced they’re gonna repatriate it for a one-time, 10% tax."
Limbaugh noted that if populism were guiding the tax reform, "there would not have been a reduction in corporate rates because populism requires that corporations/big businesses are the enemy."
"Populism is devoted to the idea that the little guy is being set upon by major, big institutions in government and business every day, and the populists come along and they’re gonna defend the little guy against the encroachment of Big Business, mean-spirited employers that don’t pay fair wages — all this kind of stuff — and encroaching government," he continued. "Well, there isn’t any populism in this tax cut because the biggest tax cut went to corporations, and that’s going to prove beneficial."
Limbaugh concluded the segment by noting that the media and Trump's other critics are failing to acknowledge the "substantive" progress Trump is making, adding, "If you had to tag it ideologically, pretty much all of it is far more conservative than populist and certainly far more conservative than moderate or liberal."
Partial transcript via RushLimbaugh.com