If you want to truly understand why there's a good chance that Donald Trump could win the Republican nomination, over the (metaphorical) dead bodies of many GOP establishment types that tried to get in his way, look no further than the right-wing media reaction to the budget agreement reached between by House Republicans. Even though Republicans got their most important item agenda accomplished — tax breaks, at the expense of inflating that deficit they only pretend to care about — right-wing media is acting like a bunch of quisling Republicans bowed to President Barack Obama's demands to institute sharia law while passing single-payer health care.
Republicans caved on a bunch of right-wing nut agenda items that they were never going to get in the first place, especially the demand to ban Medicaid patients from going to Planned Parenthood or making the visa process unnecessarily lengthy for Syrians refugees. Nor did they go through the pointless government shutdown drama that has become nearly routine under the Obama administration.
The conservative base, which is swiftly abandoning any pretense of ideological motivation in favor of simply identifying as the asshole contingent, loves these shutdown dramas, possibly more than they love the idea of defunding Planned Parenthood or holding Syrian families in refugee camps indefinitely. The idea of blackmailing the president with this threat in an effort to bully him into submission is so appealing that it hardly matters that it doesn't work. But, as is increasingly true on a number of fronts, throwing red meat to the conservative base means alienating the entire rest of the country, and so Republican congressmen, who probably just want to go home and enjoy Christmas with their families, took a pass this time.
So now the right wing media is exploding in rage. Check out, for instance, the dog pile of outrage pouring out of Breitbart's "Big Government" vertical:
The Washington Times posted a photo of Obama laughing, a huge red button for their conservative leadership, with the headline, "White House declares total victory over GOP in budget battle."
There was never a battle. None of this was opposed. The Republican Party didn't stand up to any of it, and the die has been cast for a long time on this. I know many of you are dispirited, depressed, angry, combination of all of that. But, folks, there was no other way this could go. Because two years ago when the Republican Party declared they would never do anything that would shut down the government and they would not impeach Obama, there were no obstacles in Obama's way and there were no obstacles in the way of the Democrat Party.
"The reason they did that is because for some inexplicable reason," he continues, "they are literally paranoid and scared to death of even being accused of doing something that would shut down the government."
He goes on to insinuate that the Republicans are somehow being paid off to sell the voter base down the river, which is, of course, full blown nonsense. You don't need to be paid off by some shadowy figures in order to see that it's a bad idea to shut down the federal government in an impotent attempt to cut some women off from their birth control, especially when the majority of Americans continue to support that birth control funding, even in the face of a full blown national hysteria over hoax videos making false allegations that Planned Parenthood sells "baby parts".
But while this rant is mostly unmitigated lies and garbage logic, Limbaugh does say one thing that is true.
"And these same Republican leaders doing this can't, for the life of them, figure out why Donald Trump has all the support that he has? They really can't figure this out?," he ranted. "Repeated stabs in the back like this -- which have been going on for years -- combined with Obama's policy destruction of this country, is what has given rise to Donald Trump."
On this much, Limbaugh and I agree: Trump's popularity is not due to the man having a unique charisma or some kind of major leadership skills. He's just a cipher for this inchoate right wing rage. It's hard to express the magnitude of rage that conservatives feel right now, after 7 years of the Obama presidency.
In their minds, this country belongs to them and any Democratic leadership is therefore, by definition, illegitimate. (Obama's race isn't helping things, but it's important to remember they felt this way about Bill Clinton, too, which led to impeaching him under some flimsy pretense.) They keep sending more Republicans — and more and more conservative Republicans — to Congress with the sole mission to destroy Obama and restore the "natural" order of things, where conservatives, predominantly white male conservatives, rule and everyone else is, at best, given token representation.
Republicans don't actually have the power to do this, but that hardly matters to the conservative base. When you believe in your heart of hearts that the natural order is people like you on top and everyone else under the boot, it feels like it should be relatively easy to get things back to the way you think they should be. So if it's not getting done, it must be because of a lack of will. And if you have any doubts that it's lack of will, here's Rush Limbaugh, who seems like a smart guy who follows D.C. politics closely, telling you that's exactly what it is. So they believe him.
In a sense, Trump didn't have to do much to exploit this situation. His chest-puffing claims that all he needs to do to get his way is to say what he wants very loudly may make liberals laugh, but it fits right into the fantasy that Limbaugh and his fellow right-wing pundits are spinning out for the conservative base, who is ready to believe it.
Trump's main talent is saying whatever his audience wants to hear, which he did, by telling Breitbart News that "elected Republicans in Congress threw in the towel." He probably didn't even need to know the specifics of what he was talking about, so long as he could imply that all you need is heavier balls and getting your way is a breeze.
There's no easy way out of this dilemma for the Republicans. The conservative base is completely out of step with the general public on all these major issues. But it's a minority who believes that their views should be triumphant over the majority's, and that God agrees with them on this, to boot. Compromise and you lose your base. Give the base what they want and lose everyone else.