Donald Trump
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

I’ve probably mentioned before that I don’t consume much right-wing news, even for research purposes. The stuff makes me ill and life is too short. Every once in a while, though, someone points me to something interesting, and that was certainly the case with the transcript from yesterday’s Rush Limbaugh Show. If you enjoy schadenfreude, you might want to check it out. It’s also just kind of hilarious.

Now, even though I’m not a regular consumer, I know Limbaugh’s schtick, which means that I know he’s pulling a long con on his listeners and we shouldn’t approach what he says at face value. That’s a not very brief way of saying that I give Limbaugh credit for being smarter and savvier than he lets on.

I don’t think Limbaugh is honestly confused about why Donald Trump can’t get anything done. It’s more of a pose that he takes to put himself in the shoes of folks who voted for the man thinking that he could fulfill his promises so fast all our heads would spin.

Still, Limbaugh throws a lot of truth in with distortions. For example, he’s right when he says that the Washington Establishment doesn’t like Trump and that even most of the Republicans there didn’t think he should be our president. He’s right that there is a lot of resistance to Trump’s policies coming from Washington Republicans. He’s right that K Street has a lot of influence and even writes much of the legislation that Congress produces.

Here’s what he isn’t telling his listeners.

Trump is failing because of math.

For Trump to succeed at all (and I think the boat left port already), he would need to govern as neither a Republican nor a Democrat, and certainly not as a factional movement conservative Republican. All presidents lose votes from their own party on certain tough votes, but that can be survived if either your majorities are big enough or you can consistently pick up a few votes from across the aisle. Trump’s majority in the House is healthy, at least on paper, but his majority in the Senate is razor thin.

He knew this would be the case on Election Night but he didn’t understand what it meant. You want to know why he’s calling for the end of the legislative filibuster today? It’s because reality has now smacked him in the face enough times that he realizes much too late that he can’t govern the way he’s been trying to govern.

Sure, his style doesn’t help. His appointments don’t help. The record he laid down during the primaries and the campaign doesn’t help. And, yeah, Washington doesn’t like him.

But it’s a still a math problem.

And Rush can’t tell his audience that because the conclusion would be that the way for Trump to be more successful is to stop trying to lead a Movement Conservative revolution and begin cutting deals with the people Rush and his listeners hate with a seething passion.

Now, some of this is even simpler. Trump said a bunch of shit on the campaign trail that he never thought he’d get held accountable for because he didn’t really consider the possibility he might win. That some people took him seriously is a shame, but, c’mon, there was never a chance that Mexico would pay for his stupid wall. In other areas, it’s easy to promise to do stuff that would violate the Constitution, but a bit harder to get courts to allow those things once you try to follow through.

I can be a little forgiving that folks might not have anticipated how the need to keep the government open and operating might prevent Trump from destroying Planned Parenthood or defunding “sanctuary cities.” The writing wasn’t necessarily on the wall that Trump would have to fund Obamacare and the Environmental Protection Agency. But to hear Limbaugh react with his wailing, “Why is anybody voting Republican, if this is what happens when we win?” is extremely satisfying nonetheless.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at