Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

'If Trump is the monster, the Establishment is Dr. Frankenstein'

In this morning's musings about the future of the Republican Party, I wrote about the danger created when a party's vision of the world "turns out to be irreconcilable with reality."

Not long after posting the piece, I ran across the perfect example of those irreconcilable differences courtesy of David Limbaugh at Townhall. In a column headlined "The Establishment Birthed Trump," Limbaugh lays out a compelling if utterly dystopian view of the United States as it is seen through conservative eyes:

"It's hard to overstate Americans' concern for the state of the nation. Horrified by President Obama's Sherman-esque march through America, they are tired of hearing that nothing can be done. They are through with empty promises from establishment politicians.

People are tired of Obama's pitting blacks against whites, women against men, gays against heterosexuals, rich against poor, non-taxpayers against taxpayers, citizens against cops and non-Christians against Christians. They can no longer stomach Obama's apologizing for America and excusing terrorists while rushing to attack Christians at every turn.

People are sick of being called racists for things that happened in this country before they were born or before they could vote, for opposing Obama's destructive agenda, or for simply being Republicans. They abhor the war on cops orchestrated by racial hucksters and pandering politicians. They are incredulous that any president would deliberately engineer America's decline and degrade our military. They are tired of the nation's chief executive officer's flouting laws and thwarting the people's will.

Americans are sick of Obama's trashing America's founding, assaulting capitalism, and bellowing about man-made global warming as a pretense to impose more liberty-smothering regulations. They are nauseated by politicians who are more interested in bipartisanship with scofflaws than with saving the nation."

It goes on from there, but you get the drift.

Now, three things are true about that statement:

1.) Conservatives honestly and sincerely see it that way. The version of America described by Limbaugh is the version of America that has been blasted at them for years now by talk radio, Fox News, mass e-mails, conservative websites and other sources. That dark, apocalyptic version of America has been useful to the GOP establishment as a means to get the base to vote and to donate, but by this point conservatives have internalized it to such a point that it is no longer possible to even debate its accuracy with them.

2.) On the other hand, the picture of America painted by Limbaugh is unrecognizable, even laughable, to those outside the conservative echo chamber. It simply bears no resemblance to mainstream reality. The same Barack Obama whom Limbaugh accuses of a "Sherman-esque march through America" and a plot to "deliberately engineer America's decline" has a job approval rating of 49 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, with 47 percent disapproving. Obama's approval rating is 16 points higher than that of President Bush at the same point in his presidency. And even a good number of those who disapprove of Obama's performance on traditional policy grounds would still recoil at charges that he has "attacked Christians at every turn," fomented a war on cops or "assaulted capitalism." (In fact, a plurality of Americans now approve of Obama's performance in handling the economy.)

3.) However, if you are among those who do honestly subscribe to the vision of America painted by Limbaugh, then of course you are deeply frustrated with leaders in your party. By the logic of the world in which you reside, you have every right to be. Your leaders have told you that Obama poses an extremely dire threat to liberty, prosperity and Christianity, yet when it comes time to take action, they insist on treating Obama as if he were just another Democratic president. They don't seem to get the desperation of the moment.

"Every other week, we face a new existential threat to the nation," as Limbaugh puts it, "threats perpetrated or enabled by Obama and the Washington establishment. But the establishment meets these perils with barely disguised indifference."

In short, the GOP establishment is acting as if it doesn't really believe the narrative that they've been spinning all these years. It's acting as if the story has gotten away from them, as if it has become bigger and more powerful than they calculated, and is now pushing them to take actions that they know would be disastrous for the party and the country.

"If Trump is a monster, the establishment is Dr. Frankenstein." Limbaugh's words, not mine.

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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.