Donald Trump sent shock waves through the political world with his broad defense of participants in a white supremacist rally last weekend, praising them for obtaining a permit and describing some as “very fine people.” He previously put Nazis, the KKK and white nationalists on the same moral plane as those who showed up to protest them, casting blame on “many sides.”
Some have been repelled by Trump’s conduct. Two White House business councils disbanded as some of the nation’s top CEO found any association with Trump too toxic to maintain. Scores of charities have canceled scheduled events at Trump’s private club, Mar-a-lago. A small but growing group of Republican members of Congress have criticized Trump directly.
At the same time, powerful forces on the right are now lining up behind Trump, validating and extending Trump’s views.
Among them is Rush Limbaugh, the powerful right-wing radio host who boasts a weekly audience of 26 million people. Yesterday, Limbaugh delivered a full-throated and frightening defense of Trump, dismissing white supremacy as a problem and warning listeners that “we are on the cusp of a second civil war.”
Limbaugh’s comments were laced with anti-Semetic tropes, blaming the violence in Charlottesville on “people like George Soros and any other number of international financiers whose objective it is to take the United States out and down as a superpower.”
Limbaugh built on Trump’s efforts to deflect blame for the violence in Charlottesville from white nationalists to the left. “None of this that is happening on the left is random,” Limbaugh said. Rather, “[t]hey showed up in Charlottesville to create mayhem and cause hell.”
According to Limbaugh, people did not show up in Charlottesville to protest Nazis but to “erase American history.” He cast the counter-protests in Charlottesville as part of an “ongoing effort to erase America by discrediting the entire premise of our culture, our history, our founding.”
Limbaugh blasted Trump’s Republican critics. He said that they “are unwittingly participating in the effort to cast America as indefensible, particularly with Donald Trump as president.”
Limbaugh describes media coverage of Trump and the Charlottesville white supremacist rally as an effort to “distort information to wipe out from the vestiges of our history and our memory any collection of stories that testify to the greatness of America and her people.”
“They’re not in this just to remove Republicans, and they’re not in this just to remove Donald Trump. The campaign here is to convince you that your country isn’t worth defending,” Limbaugh bellowed.
Limbaugh then goes on an extended rant dismissing the danger of white supremacists and the KKK. He argues that “[t]here aren’t enough of those people to matter, period.” He says these groups have “been shamed into practically nonexistence.” Limbaugh did not discuss that one of these people allegedly murdered a woman with his car during the rally.
“They are not the problem. The problem is on the other side,” Limbaugh says. By the “other side” he means “the Antifa, the Occupy Wall Street, the Black Lives Matter, the United States mainstream media, the Democrat Party.”
“[T]he American people are being misdirected and told to fear the wrong people,” Limbaugh concludes.
Limbaugh is a mainstream voice in Republican politics and is courted by powerful Republican elected officials. Vice President Mike Pence recently appeared on the show. It illustrates that support for explicitly racial politics extends far beyond Steve Bannon, who stepped down as White House chief strategist on Friday and cheered Trump’s remarks on Charlottesville.
Limbaugh’s segment is clearly a warning to any Republican who seeks to criticize Trump for his conduct on Charlottesville. It is also a strong sign that even a defense of a white supremacist rally will not dissuade Trump’s base. It certainly did not dissuade Rush Limbaugh or his millions of listeners, who he affectionately referred to as “Dittohead Nation.”