Limbaugh takes pains to preserve neutrality between Trump and Ted Cruz, whom he describes as the obvious choice “if conservatism is the dominating factor in how you vote.”That's in stark contrast to our local talk radio people who are overtly anti-Trump. So what's Gerson's problem?
But Limbaugh has also consistently defended Trump as a legitimate choice for those whose dominating factor is the humiliation of “the establishment.”... Trump’s deviations from conservative orthodoxy are noted but considered secondary. “I think with the case of Trump,” argues Limbaugh, “there’s a much bigger upside than downside.”Gerson argues that the GOP "establishment" — he always puts it in scare quotes — actually is conservative, conservative within "the constraints of our constitutional system" (as opposed to some "fantasy world") and within norms of "civility, inclusion and tolerance" (as opposed to "casual misogyny, racial stereotyping and religious bigotry"). And Trump is not a real conservative, Gerson says, because he "does not reason from first principles" and he appeals to "authoritarian populism" instead of — as Russell Kirk puts it — "an enduring moral order, political prudence, and restraints on power and human passion."
The upside, in this view, is not just taking the political fight to liberalism; it is also overturning a failed and corrupt Republican political order. Limbaugh dismisses defenders of this order as fundamentally self-interested. “[Trump] has put together a coalition that’s exactly what the Republican Party says that it needs to win, and yet, look what they’re doing. They’re trying to get Trump out of the race, because they’re not in charge of it.” Opposing Trump is the work of a “cliquish, elitist club,” preserving its influence and employment prospects. This criticism is sometimes expanded to include the conservative intelligentsia. “I’m talking about the establishment,” says Limbaugh, “conservative media, the brainiacs, the think tanks, the professors.”