The Corner

Politics & Policy

Rush Limbaugh, Dick Morris, and Audience Trust

By now, you’ve probably heard that Rush Limbaugh admitted that he never took Trump’s promises of mass deportations seriously, but avoided calling Trump out because of his focus on keeping his “radio and broadcast business metrics” strong. Longtime Limbaugh scourge Conor Friedersdorf has the goods on Limbaugh’s praising Trump for the mass-deportation policies that Limbaugh now says he didn’t take seriously.

One of the truest things that Limbaugh says is that his audience is not made up of mind-numbed robots. Limbaugh knows that a large part of his audience gets a kick out of Trump.

Limbaugh is a talented rhetorician and enjoys a measure of goodwill from his audience. If he had made a thorough critique of Trump’s fraudulence, some fraction of Limbaugh’s Trump-supporting listeners might have abandoned Trump. Another segment, possibly larger, of Trump-supporting Limbaugh listeners would have taken offense and stopped listening to the Limbaugh show — during a contract negotiation.

All the business metrics steered Limbaugh in the direction of going easy on Trump. The only incentive that Limbaugh had to go hard at Trump was that it would have been an opportunity for him to defend the limited-government, constitutionalist principles that Limbaugh has been expounding for decades. He made his choice.

After the 2012 election, political consultant Dick Morris admitted that he had skewed his interpretations of the opinion polls in order to boost morale among Romney supporters. Fox News dropped Morris as a political analyst. It wasn’t just that Morris was wrong about the outcome of the 2012 election. It was that he admitted to telling his audience only what he thought they wanted to hear. But the knowledge of being misled destroyed the pleasure of being told pretty untruths.

Rush Limbaugh is much smarter and more entertaining than Dick Morris. Maybe that will save his connection with his audience, and his radio metrics.

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