Rafia Zakaria in Baffler:
THE MONDAY AFTER Joe Biden was projected as the winner of the 2020 presidential election was a dismal one for the right-wing talk show circuit. Rush Limbaugh, the venerated elder of the realm, sounded dejected. The president needed to appoint an “election czar,” he intoned repeatedly. Then he reminded viewers that the coming week was a “treatment week” for him. Not only had the election been lost, one of the most legendary conservative talk show hosts in the country was going to be out of commission as he coped with his advanced case of lung cancer. The bad news kept coming. On The Dan Bongino Show, the host—a former NYPD officer and Secret Service agent—bellowed that the result should not be accepted by his listeners. More militant than Limbaugh, who was still interested in evidence that he hoped an election czar would produce, Bongino wanted to keep the Trump base riled up with his “No Surrender” tagline. On Monday, he outlined the “path to victory,” which depended in part on the Arizona count flipping the state for Trump. “We don’t owe the quitter caucus squat,” he said. There is nothing to concede. Donate to Trump’s campaign and legal funds, he urged. On Tuesday, Bongino made mention of his on his own cancer treatment. He needed to have a port installed in his neck for the administration of chemotherapy for his lymphoma; he would record the show prior to his early morning surgery anyway.
Together they set a macabre mood (with an uncomfortable smattering of Shakespearean symbolisms) for the first days of post-Trump talk shows. It was also surprising to hear how little of the Sturm und Drang material they had to activate the base. Perhaps my expectations had been overblown or perhaps the fact that I had never had the stomach to actually listen to either Bongino or Limbaugh erased the context that I needed to truly understand their individual forms of disseminating ire. Despite all of this, the relative reserve was startling. After all, Trump was broadcasting his victory in all caps from his official Twitter account and his talk-show trolls did not seem to be echoing the certainty he had won in quite such explicit terms. Since those first days of devastated hopes, the lot of them have come up with a playlist for keeping things going when nothing is going right for you.