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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/24/17

"I Hope He Fails"?

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Message Manfred Weidhorn

Rush Limbaugh
Rush Limbaugh
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In the early days of the Obama administration, Rush Limbaugh proclaimed, "I hope he fails!" Although typical of his unfettered pronouncements (which now seem like an early version of Trump-speak), this remark struck liberals and moderates as over the top. People hostile to the new regime may very well have thought in that way, but it seemed unpatriotic to say it aloud. After all, if the president of the U. S. fails, the nation will suffer.

Now that Obama has been replaced by a man who is his polar opposite in every way, the shoe is on the other foot, and those same liberals and moderates find themselves thinking, if not saying, "I hope he fails!" So what had seemed sacrilegious coming out of the mouth of a malicious political troublemaker has been normalized by the vast Electoral College pivot that put Trump into power. And liberals, who had been unwilling to give Limbaugh's ejaculation any justification, now have to do precisely just that as a result of finding themselves harboring thoughts that once seemed unthinkable. They will have to do so with the realization that whatever argument is used to defend anti-Trumpism will also apply to the earlier anti-Obamaism. So here goes.

Taken at face value and expressed with the vitriol of which Limbaugh has long been a master, the statement sounds repulsive. I loathe Obama so much--it implies--that I am eager for him to crash even at the expense of the well-being of the nation. In other words, I hate more than I love. But that of course is not the sole or main meaning of the outburst. A more defensible version of what Limbaugh meant would be:

I have no strong feelings one way or another about Obama the man, but I detest his liberal ideology and policies. And I do so because they are bad for America, and the wished-for failure on his part would therefore be good for America. If Obama were--Limbaugh might say further---to turn out to have masked a conservative philosophy with liberal platitudes in order to get elected and then managed a right wing presidency, all would be forgiven and his success would be celebrated. But such an outcome is unlikely, and therefore I wish his liberal presidency ill.

Such a position, in other words, does not betray an unpatriotic outlook, but, on the contrary, a patriotic one from a conservative perspective; what is good for America--a solid conservative regimen---cannot come from the liberal Obama.

But while this interpretation rescues Limbaugh from the accusation of unpatriotic behavior, it does not address a second, less admirable, motive. If Obama and his liberal policies were to revive the nation, that success would be like a verdict on an experiment: It would prove that liberalism has a stronger connection to reality and, more important, would cast doubt on the viability or relevance of the conservatism that Limbaugh has long propagated. As a result, Limbaugh would lose face and, worse, listeners and advertising money. Here we certainly deal with ego, greed, and selfishness on Limbaugh's part.

That brings us back to the current, reverse situation. A perfectly rational argument drives liberals, moderates, and even quite a few of never-Trump conservatives today, just as it did the Limbaugh crowd eight years ago. Were Trump to succeed, America would be isolated and diminished abroad, and riven by class conflict at home. Many government functions would be privatized and rendered expensive, money would be transferred from the many to the few, the environment raped, necessary regulations shredded, public education eviscerated, the separation of church and state weakened, etc. Additionally, recent revelations suggest that while the Trump family may not be guilty of treason, they certainly are closer to treason than to innocence.

To be sure, in the unlikely event that Trump were to regress and to implement some of the rhetoric he used during the campaign--provide inexpensive health care insurance for all, clamp down on the financial aristocracy that he said was "getting away with murder," and bring back jobs, his success would, for liberals, augur well for the nation (setting aside his many character problems).

But the policies he is actively pursuing--to wit, the most hard right in modern American history--are to the detriment of the welfare state that America has embraced. Hence liberals are inclined to root for a political derailment that will hasten the return of progressives to governance. His failure will not harm America but, on the contrary, show that liberalism is somewhat more in tune with reality than is conservatism.

Hence, yes, as patriotic Americans worried over the consequences of bad policies, liberals cannot but "hope he fails." Limbaugh should have no trouble recognizing that sentiment.

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For 51 years Professor of English at Yeshiva University. Author of 13 books and over a hundred essays.
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