Carol Platt Liebau: Talk Radio: The Lion's Roar

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Talk Radio: The Lion's Roar

This story about the immigration bill's adverse impact on Senator McCain's political fortunes reveals something very interesting about the way some Republicans view talk radio. Start with this:

[A top McCain fundraiser] added that the constant barrage of criticism from the likes of Rush Limbaugh is making it difficult to raise money from the conservative wing of the party.

"Like it or not, our base listens to that stuff," the fundraiser said. "Whether it's a good bill or a bad bill or an indifferent bill doesn't matter. The folks who are listening to that stuff, it's hard to persuade them with facts."

Set aside the insulting characterization of talk radio's content as "that stuff," and ignore the fact that some of the best in-depth coverage of the facts about the immigration bill came from talk radio shows like Rush's and Hugh Hewitt's.

McCain's people seem to make the same mistake that Senator Lott did when he told Chris Wallace: "Talk radio defined [the immigration bill] without us explaining that there were reasons for it and the good things that were in it. So the onus is not on them, it's on us to do a better job of communicating what we're trying to do."

McCain and Lott have it backwards. The problem with the immigration bill wasn't that people didn't know what was in it -- the problem was that they knew what was in it all too well.

Likewise with McCain's record. The problem isn't that people don't know what McCain has done in the Senate. The problem is that they know, all too well. Most Republicans will laud McCain's stance on terror and the war -- and praise him for his heroism during Vietnam. But that's simply not enough -- with other qualified strong-on-terror candidates in the race -- to overcome his history of opposition to some of the Bush tax cuts, McCain-Feingold, grandstanding on supposed "torture" of terrorist detainees," the Gang of 14, and so much more.

Rush Limbaugh didn't create that record. John McCain did. And when the likes of Lott and McCain blame talk radio for their political misfortunes, they're essentially buying in to the stereotype of conservatives as stupid and easily led.

And talk radio has been eager to have McCain on the air to clear some of these matters up -- Hugh Hewitt has repeatedly invited him to appear for what would no doubt be a thorough but respectful interview. McCain has chosen instead to appear on programs like "Hardball." That's not Hewitt's fault, or Limbaugh's.

What's more, Americans didn't start believing in conservative ideals just when Rush went nationwide in 1988 -- think of the Reagan landslides of 1980 and 1984. Nor does the secret of talk radio's popularity lie in some mythical capacity to program its listeners with right-wing propaganda. Rather, the best way to understand talk radio is to think of Winston Churchill's statement: "I may not be the lion, but it was left to me to give the lion's roar."

Talk radio isn't the lion -- but its best representatives give voice to the millions of listeners who believe in conservative principles, and can't find those principles represented either accurately or fairly in many other places.


Blogger Righty64 said...

You are so right, Carol. It is not just talk radio but the fact that the United States is a center-right nation. We want to do the right thing, but when the people we elect to come up with something that makes sense and these clowns try to shove a bill written in the dead of night, well, you know the rest. Ronald Reagan made it OK to be a conservative. It was he that led me to forsake a family of diehard, liberal, Democrats into the power of conservative ideas and the Republican party. One of the strongest ideas is the rule of law and what offended so many Americans of all stripes is the seeming reward for people who broke the law. Talk radio gave voice to those Americans. Some may have been harsh or nasty, but not the majority. And, I think the reason some got harsh or nasty is sheer frustration that they were not listened to. Not in 1986, when even Mr. Reagan said later that so-called immigration reform was a bad idea. And the fear was not again. Talk radio will continue, despite the attempts by the Democrat congress to supress it. The technology is way more advanced and there is no way that the Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys, et al will not just go to satellite radio and then it will really take off. This is but one victory, I am positive there will be many more.

9:03 PM  
Blogger DomM said...

I seems to me that talk radio is the best medium left to conservatives. That fact is, they speak the truth. Not the politically correct lies and falsehoods that we are subjected to by the MSM. The politicians that fear this talk are the ones that we need to get rid of. The "fairness doctrine" is a joke. Since when do we hear our views expounded on TV. Fox news is turning liberal. When BO supported Kerry I knew right then it was a sham. All I see is some liberal moron spouting their socialist views and the moderators looking like they are late for a manicure. Talk radio is our last best hope for victory.

6:30 AM  

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