Can liberals clone Limbaugh?
2/26/2003 12:00:00 AM - Brent Bozell
We know that liberals believe that in the grand march toward
human perfection, we should be able to clone our way out of many medical
ailments. But their faith in human potential is reaching laughable levels of
utopianism if they think they can somehow clone the success of Rush
In merely the latest in a series of front-page non-scoops
touting a left-wing agenda, the New York Times reported that a group of
super-rich liberal Clinton-Gore donors will be wasting their spare change on
a new venture to create a liberal talk-radio network.
It's got to be one of the dumbest $10 million investments ever.
How off the wall is this business proposition? Start with the notion that a
network, liberal or conservative, can somehow be just imposed on the
populace. Rush didn't just appear on the scene and -- shazam! -- attract 20
million listeners. He toiled in the radio vineyards for years, went national
in 1988, and didn't really reach national distribution until 1991. Even
then, while conservatives were latching on to him in droves, he didn't truly
become a nightmare in liberal heads until Bill Clinton arrived to corrupt
the nation in 1993.
Every single successful talk-radio syndication has been built on
the grass-roots level and not in a corporate laboratory. New York cannot
deem that Dallas will accept a given program. A program will succeed in
Dallas only if the Dallas market wants it. Time and again, that grassroots
market has opened its arms to conservative voices. Limbaugh, Hannity,
O'Reilly, Reagan, Schlessinger -- the list of conservative nationally
syndicated hosts is endless.
So why are there no liberals? Before the Vast Right-Wing
Conspiracy types suggest that this is all part of The Plan, let's be very
clear. Liberals have
been tried. And the market has
rejected them like bad milk.
On commercial radio, liberal backers tried Mario Cuomo, who was
far too condescending to the listeners. They tried Jim Hightower, who was
too much like Will Rogers channeling Karl Marx. But these men were
politicians, not professional broadcasters, promoting an ideological
perspective that is not only not embraced, it is plainly rejected by the
Conservative talk radio was never planned in a corporate
boardroom (or at our VRWC meetings). It was an unintended consequence of
arrogantly liberal national media outlets, who, over time, have insulted
every Republican/conservative voter as a racist, a sexist, and a believer in
heinous imaginary causes like starving all the poor people and killing all
the innocent Iraqi civilians to get their oil. Big Media's utter dismissal
of a conservative perspective meant utter dismissal of a conservative
audience. When offered an alternative in a talk-show host that spoke their
language, they pounced to embrace Rush Limbaugh.
Rush Limbaugh offered a unique formula, too. Liberals who never
listen to the show think it's just a haters' bonanza of mean-spirited
rhetoric. It's nothing of the sort. If anything, he is providing a balanced
diet of information to counter the mean-spirited rhetoric disguised as
network "news." He is a great popularizer of common-sensical conservatism,
which explains why millions of Americans have signed up on his side. He is
totally underestimated as a pundit, always a step ahead of the conventional
wisdom. While everyone wonders what we should do about Iraq, Rush is
considering the possibility that Iraq's liberation and the outpouring of
Saddam Hussein's archives and weapons depots will leave the anti-war
Democrat fringe thoroughly marginalized politically when this is over.
Perhaps most importantly, he doesn't get conservatives mad. He makes them
laugh. He gives them the confidence not to take liberal arrogance seriously.
It's on this last point -- radio as entertainment -- where these
super-rich Clinton-Gore donors think they have their secret weapon. They
think the answer is the entertainment folks in Hollywood and New York,
especially comedian Al Franken, author of "Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat
Idiot." But does Fly-Over Country really want satirical drivel from Franken?
Or Janeane Garofalo? Or Barbra Streisand? That's not exactly putting your
finger on the pulse of the market. Don't take my word for it. Ken Berry, who
manages news-talk station KIRO in Seattle, says national liberal hosts have
simply been "bad radio talent." As for Franken, "We've had him on as a
guest. He's not a good radio guest." Bad guest equals worse host.
Perhaps the most unintentionally funny excuse liberals use to
explain their talk-radio failure is that they're too nuanced and complicated
for talk radio; simple-minded people like simple-minded conservatism.
So what's a poor liberal to do? He can toss millions at the
private sector and wonder why the private sector rejects him. Or he can do
radio the old-fashioned way: Take hundreds of millions from (END
ITAL) the private sector every year and nurture his own 700-station
playground. It's called National Public Radio.