When radio talk show legend Rush Limbaugh was asked which of the crowded field of sixteen Republican presidential candidates is the “most anti-liberal,” the candidate “most opposed to liberalism,” he didn’t hesitate one bit — nor did he beat around the bush with his answer.
“There’s one clear answer. Put your hand up if you know who it is,” the most powerful conservative voice in the country told his vast audience on Wednesday. “Ted Cruz — Ted Cruz is the answer to your question,” he stated.
“If you’re looking for the Republican candidate who is the most steadfastly opposed to liberalism, who’s agenda is oriented towards stopping it, thwarting and defeating it, it’s Ted Cruz.”
As has always been the case with Rush Limbaugh, he has a personal policy of not endorsing a presidential candidate during primary season, however, this is as close to an endorsement, without officially being one, as you can possibly get, since he has long urged his audience that primary season is the time to get behind the most conservative candidate in the race (audio below).
And while Rush Limbaugh may not officially endorse candidates during primary elections, he did urge his listeners in September 2010, just prior to the historic Tea Party landslide victories:
“In an election year, when voters are fed up with liberalism, you vote for the most conservative Republican in the primary — period.”
So did Rush Limbaugh just tell you to vote for Ted Cruz, without breaking with his tradition to not endorse candidates in a primary election, because certainly the case could easily be made that millions of Americans are fed up with liberalism after seven years of Obama?
That principle of electing the most conservative candidate who is “viable,” not “electable,” as the RINO ruling class, Karl Rove-types often misquote, is known as the Buckley Rule, named after conservative icon William F. Buckley, Jr.
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In May of 2014, Rush Limbaugh explained the concept of “electability” over “viability” to a caller, just before the historic defeat of establishment RINO Eric Cantor by political newcomer, the “unelectable” Tea Partier, Dave Brat, in Virginia. Buckley was a “conservative first” and put “Republicanism second.”
CALLER: Hello, Rush. I’m a longtime listener, and I’ve listened to you over the years, and one time you said something about trying to elect the most conservative candidate that was electable. Now, correct me on some of the details, but in light of the Tea Party candidates that are trying to get elected running against the establishment machine, I thought this would be relevant to go over what you exactly said and the details of that.
RUSH: I quoted William F. Buckley Jr., who said that you want to support and elect the most conservative candidate who is viable, not electable, ’cause who knows, I mean, who gets to say who’s electable and who isn’t? You don’t know that ’til after it happens. Viability I think is the word that Buckley used. And I have to agree with him. If you’ve got a viable conservative option in a primary, why not take it? Now, I don’t get involved in endorsing in primaries or any of that. It’s too volatile, and as a policy I’ve always stayed away from it.
CALLER: Have you heard about what’s going on in the seventh district in Virginia against Eric Cantor?
RUSH: Well, yeah. What is it about it that you are interested in?
CALLER: Well, you have a candidate named Dave Brat that is more conservative than Cantor and is running on the Republican creed in Virginia. And we’re just trying to, you know, get the information out there. People just don’t know about it, but he is a viable candidate. That is the term. He is a viable candidate. And so that’s what I wanted to call in. I remember what you had said, not exactly, but the general gist of it, and I just wanted to go over that, to clear that up for me per se, but for others as well across the country so that they know how to make an informed decision.
RUSH: So you’ve got somebody running opposed to Cantor that you want to support, you think he can win, so you think supporting him is worth it?
CALLER: Yes, I do, because in this case there’s no democratic opponent. Whoever wins this race on the Republican primary becomes the next representative of the next seventh district.
RUSH: Cantor has a bunch of built-in advantages beyond incumbency, and one of them is he’s next in line to lead the place. He’s got a lot of power, which means he can do a lot for the district, and that’s gonna enable him in a campaign to point that out versus the rookie.
CALLER: Yeah, but my question is what good does Speaker of the House really do for the district when he’s running all over the country doing other things?
RUSH: Well, I know. Look, I try not to get involved in primaries. It’s a policy thing and governed just by my instincts. Way back in 1988 when I started this — and there are a whole host of reasons for it, but I’ll tell you the main reason. I’ll just go ahead and be blindly honest with you. (interruption) What are you shaking your head for? What do you think I’m gonna say? It’s very simple. You’ve heard me say this before. They’re all panicked on the other side of the glass whenever I say, “Okay, let me really throw back the layers of the onion here.”
Politicians come and go. I’m not gonna tie myself to somebody I don’t really know. My success is not defined by who wins or loses elections. I’ve always said it. Nothing’s changed and I never want that to be the case. I have never wanted my success to be determined by, you know, “Yeah, well, this guy’s pushed over the top by Limbaugh’s support.” That doesn’t interest me. I don’t control these guys.
Okay, let’s say I support somebody I don’t even know that wins, and then does a 180 in office and becomes a big commie SOB, and I got people calling me, “Yeah, I voted for this guy because of you.” I’m not going there. They’re in a completely different business than I’m in. Now, you might say think this is a cop-out, Mark. It isn’t. It’s a recognition here of what this program is and what it isn’t. It’s a radio show.
I have my preferences. I have policy preferences. I have ideological policy preferences. And when I become confident that somebody is worth getting behind, I do. But, boy, it takes a lot. (interruption) What quote is misunderstood? No, no. Snerdley is saying the Buckley quote’s misunderstood because he thinks people sometimes think it means throwing your vote away. It means the exact opposite of throwing your vote away.
Buckley was a conservative. Conservatism first, Republicanism second. But it doesn’t do any good — we’re running against liberals. It doesn’t do any good to commit suicide by supporting somebody that doesn’t have a prayer of winning, for single issue purity. That’s what Buckley was saying. (interruption) Well, yeah, one of the most glaring examples of this, I’ll give you an example. Alan Cranston, senator California, way back. I mean, he already looked like a cadaver, but he’s running for reelection. It has to be ’86 ’cause I left there in ’88, so it has to be ’86. And he’s opposed by a moderate Republican by the name of Ed Zschau. Ed Zschau, San Francisco.
There was no way the guy’s conservative, but he was a Republican. He didn’t get a lot of Republican support outside San Francisco, outside of moderate GOP circles because he wasn’t sufficiently conservative. So Cranston wins. And if Zschau had been in the Senate, it’s not automatic, but it’s possible Bork would have been confirmed. It would have been so big to get rid of Alan Cranston. It would have been huge. And that’s the kind of thing that Buckley was talking about.
There are two things you want to do in an election. You want to elect your people, but you want to stop them, too. Now, if you get to do both at the same time, you’re really in fat city. Sometimes you only get a chance to choose one of those things. But that’s aside from the fact that, nothing against elected officials, but especially if I don’t know them and I don’t talk to ’em every day, if they can go off the reservation one day after getting my support, it’s just not useful, as they say, and it isn’t helpful. And back in ’88 I told myself, “I’m gonna be around longer than most of them,” and I think that’s been proven true. Not all, but some. And it was a recognition of what this is and what it isn’t in terms of a radio show versus a political operation.
But, Mark, back to your dilemma here. I know that there are a lot of conservatives that are not happy with Eric Cantor and so forth. If you like this guy, if you like his opponent and you’re looking for me to endorse, I’m not gonna do that. But I’m not gonna tell you not to. The whole point of this show is to create as large an informed, educated, participating citizenry as possible. Then you go do what you think your best shot is.
The lesson learned, whether it’s Dave Brat, Ronald Reagan (seen as an “unelectable” candidate in the GOP establishment’s eyes) or Ted Cruz, is that conservatives must never let the media or the political ruling class in either party define who is electable and who is not. That is a job for We the People.