Rush Limbaugh: 'Immorality on a Large Scale Will Ultimately Implode'

The talk-radio host’s unintentionally dissonant diagnosis of what threatens America.

Hugh Gentry / Reuters

This week on the Rush Limbaugh program, amid monologues extolling Donald Trump and attacking Hillary Clinton, America’s most popular talk-radio host took time to answer a question from a caller: “You've been telling us for decades now, ‘Don't panic. I'll tell you when to panic.’ Well, what I want to know is what form should that panic take, and also what your criteria are for invoking this pandemonium?”

Limbaugh offered a serious answer. “If panic means conceding that we've lost, then I'm not there,” he said. “And I don't mean this presidential race, I mean the country.”

He went on to explain why he’s optimistic that he and his listeners won’t “lose the country” for good.

“I'm Reaganesque in this,” he began, adding that “I think that immorality on a large-scale will ultimately implode on itself. Now, Reagan offered that belief about communism, and specifically the Soviet Union. He was adamant that something as immoral and heinous as Soviet communism could not survive. At some point, it would destroy itself because it would eat itself alive, it would destroy the food chain, that is, the people necessary to sustain it. It just couldn't last and survive.”

The next part is what I found most interesting:

There are people that look around at our culture, at the world, and in many cases people see immorality thriving. They see immorality as a ticket to great wealth. They see immorality as a fast route to fame. It seems that the more immoral, the more outrageous, the more outside accepted norms a thing is or a person is, the more notoriety it gets, and the more notoriety it gets, the more fame attaches and then the bigger curiosity it becomes and the greater its audience. And rather than facing universal condemnation, this behavior, this immorality, whatever it is—could be the way a government operates or an individual—is fueled.

And I don't deny that either. At some point—and I believe this my whole life and I specifically believed it during the whole life of this program—that at some point all of this that is going wrong is gonna backfire or implode. Now, I don't mean in and of itself. It's gonna take little nods, pushes, shoves here, this is what we're doing, and you, on occasion. But in terms of reaching the point where, “Okay, folks, time to panic,” meaning we'll have lost it, the country's finished as you and I know it. It's time to stop waste energy trying to fix it. We're not there.

Now, the behavioral patterns that should accompany a panic—panic, if you think, “Hey, we better all get serious or we're gonna lose this,” we are at that point. Whether panic is what's called for is another thing, but the behavioral aspects of that, well, that's easy. But I'm out of time at the moment.

So to review Limbaugh’s beliefs:

  1. Immorality is an existential threat to America.
  2. While the country is not quite lost, we’re seeing the sort of behavior that should make us very concerned.
  3. That behavior is exemplified by people who see immorality as a ticket to wealth, violate accepted norms to gain notoriety, and find themselves egged on by the public rather than condemned, fueling even more fame-seeking immoral acts.

As ever, the talk radio host is attacking the political and cultural left here. And that’s why I found his remarks worth passing along. It is extraordinary that a news junkie of some intelligence could utter that theory of politics and immorality, with apparent earnestness, in the middle of this election … and support Donald J. Trump.

It is breathtaking, really, to lament the embrace of people who act immorally to acquire wealth and violate accepted norms to gain notoriety, even as one spends hours every week urging millions of people—many of them fellow social conservatives—to elevate a man who has, in his words, been greedy all his life; made gambling a cornerstone of his business; bragged to millions about his adulterous relationships; gleefully violates accepted norms precisely to gain notoriety; and built his wealth by fleecing creditors and being dishonest with customers.

Everyone has their own notion of what is immoral. But it’s the rare definition that Trump doesn’t meet—and certainly he cannot meet any standard that qualifies as conservative.

Of course, it is also breathtaking to be Rush Limbaugh and lament the embrace of people who act immorally to acquire wealth and violate accepted norms to gain notoriety.

So maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.

Still, this is a particularly stark example of the flagrant incoherence that invariably results when people who say they want to advance conservative values support Donald Trump.