The declining audience for music on radio, however, is a secondary reason for the rise of the conservative talker. Politics is the primary reason -- and not any kind of politics, but rather, conservative politics. The wave toward conservatism still seems to be gaining strength even as the wave for liberalism evanesces. I can recall the late 1960s and the 1970s when talk radio was a very different land from what it is today. Most talk radio hosts were decidedly left. A conservative, for instance, the venerable Bob Grant, was rare. But at some point liberal talk show hosts lost the audience, probably about the time liberalism began to lose out wherever the citizenry's vote mattered. That would be in the early 1980s with the rise of Ronald Reagan.
I think Democrats ought to give this a little thought. Almost nowhere can they start up a successful media alternative to Rush and the gang. Not even Al Gore's opulently endowed television network shows promise. The frightful suffering of the left's Air America is well known. Some say Air America staggers because Al Franken is not funny. But it is more than that. There just are not enough votes out there in radioland to elect a left-wing Rush.
Michael Barone recently gave an analysis of this condition that bodes drearily for Democratic politics. He did not use my radio evidence to foretell a bad day at the polls in the year's off year election. He looked at voter trends, vulnerable congressional seats, and other traditional evidence to predict this fall's elections. He was the first columnist to predict the 1994 takeover of Capitol Hill by the Republicans. The Democrats see themselves duplicating that feat this fall. Barone says no. The votes are just not there. Now let him explain the death of rock and roll.