If Only Rush Limbaugh Had The Moral Clarity Of Charlie Sykes

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Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Donald Trump appears poised to lose the Wisconsin primary next week, and at least one of the reasons cited by observers is the state’s talk decidedly anti-Trump radio hosts.

Compare this to national conservative radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham, et al.—all of whom (at one point, or another) helped boost Trump—and the contrast couldn’t be starker.

Whereas the national populist talk radio hosts (I say populist because, really, why call them “conservative”?) have mostly sucked up to Trump for ratings, Wisconsin talkers have displayed more intellectual honesty and moral courage, in accepting the serious responsibility that their megaphone has granted them.

“We have an environment where every one of the major hosts has been very anti-Trump,” Wisconsin radio host Charlie Sykes told David Catanese. “I’ve been pounding him since last summer. I said I had Trump derangement syndrome in the fall.”

(Listen to my podcast discussion with Wisconsin talk radio host Charlie Sykes.)

In contrast to national conservative talk radio listeners, as Catanese noted, in Wisconsin, “The result was that daily listeners – totaling around 500,000 in the Milwaukee area alone – could hear arguments hurled against Trump from dawn until dusk.”

But while Wisconsin talkers were doing the Lord’s work, national conservative talkers were creating a monster. Last July, I practically begged Rush Limbaugh to come out against Trump, who, after all, is a liberal. Eight months later, he’s still abdicating this responsibility. In fact, in a bizarrely uncharacteristic move, he has even decided to recuse himself from weighing in on the Michelle Fields/Corey Lewindowski story.

Now, here’s a point that conservatives don’t often make, even though those of us who believe in the importance of localism and community ought to make more often: This is an argument for preserving the unique and local flavor of communities. When everything becomes nationalized—when we all listen to the same shows—we lose some of our uniqueness.

It’s also easier to co-opt a small handful of national players than it is to co-opt hundreds or thousands of broadcasters and community opinion leaders from around the country. There is a very real danger that exists when we close down local newspapers—or when local radio stations opt to pay less money for syndicated content over local programming. Wisconsin talk radio is an argument for preserving the unique flavor and autonomy of original and local media content.

Again, this makes me wonder what things would be like today if the national talk radio hosts had shown their same commitment to honesty, virtue, integrity, and conservatism and their Wisconsin counterparts. My guess is that Trump’s progress could have been halted early on. Instead, these national hosts fed the beast until he grew so big he couldn’t be stopped.

Except, maybe, by Wisconsin talk radio listeners…

Listen to my full conversation with Wisconsin talk radio host Charlie Sykes here:

Matt K. Lewis