The Republican talk-radio bashers did start having problems when many national hosts harnessed popular grassroots opposition to help kill last year's Bush/McCain/Kennedy illegal alien amnesty bill. GOP Rep. Lindsey Graham dismissed them as "loud folks." In other words: They were making a difference. Then-Sen. Trent Lott lamented that right-wing talk-radio hosts were a "problem." In other words: They were effective. McCain's defenders have made common cause with the likes of ethnocentric, open-borders groups like La Raza in redefining all conservative talk-radio opposition as unacceptable "hate" beyond the bounds of reasonable discourse.
In other words: They must be shut up. Bill Clinton approves.
Those who most stridently criticize talk radio know the least about it. It is not one monolithic bloc. Disagreements among top conservative hosts are legendary. They have different interests, varying styles, and divergent strengths and weaknesses. Do they do what they do primarily for money, ego and power? It's an embarrassingly class-warfare-tinged cheap shot.
In any case, if you're a true free-market conservative, it's not supposed to be a crime to make a profit. There's no shame in making a living by sharing information and opinions -- or in meeting unmet demands in the marketplace of ideas.
I've done it for 16 years in the newspaper, TV and blogging businesses. And I can tell you this: Talk radio has been instrumental and invaluable in the dissemination of conservative principles. Ask any author who hasn't been able to get a fair hearing in the national press, but who has watched his Amazon.com ratings soar after a mention by a talk-radio host. Ask any local columnist grateful for a chance to see his or her reporting receive wider attention.
Helprin accuses conservative talkers who oppose McCain of rooting for a liberal presidency because their "influence and coffers swell on discontent" and they are "nostalgic" for the Clinton years. Translation: They're all just greedy self-promoters who care more about themselves than the good of the country. Gramm leveled the same attack: "They're people who put their dogma in front of the interests of the country."
Cocooned conservative establishment snobs denigrate talk-radio hosts for preaching to the choir. But these same critics have no problem using the medium to market their own work. Ask their publicists. The message of the anti-conservative conservatives dissing talk radio: Self-interest for me, but not for thee.
No need to wait for a Clinton to take the White House. Clintonism is alive and well among conservative talk-radio haters on both sides of the aisle.