Come on in, Al, we’ve been waiting for you since the Al Franken Decade.
Poised at the continental edge; Seattle is at the end of the great western terrestrial migration. We’re where solid ground ends and the Pacific Ocean and the ether of the new paradigm (buddy, can you paradigm?) begins.
We’re all dressed down and no place to go.
The 5000 year trek started in Africa, India and China; meandered through Egypt, Constantinople and the Middle East; through Athens, and Rome, then London and Paris; across the Big Water to New York, then Minneapolis and now we’ve settled here on Moot Point, looking west to The East.
No wonder we’re afflicted with profound ambivalence.
The reckless, the entrepreneurial, the transcendental, the artful, the mavericks, the outlaws and dreamers led the way. The stodgy, the timid, the repressed and the Republicans came after. (We needed them to keep the books and make us coffee.)
Seattle is the least churched city in the country and second only to Boston as the most book-ful. We have a long history of social consciousness, civil unrest and political protest, and, counterintuitively, ambivalence. Our slogan is “On the other hand...”
Tom Robbins swears it’s the light, the “nearly perpetual soft-focus glow that seems to be filtered through frozen squid bladders.”
We ran off all the Republicans 30 years ago; that reprieve from reality improved the aesthetics around here, but frankly, it’s proven to be part of our problem. We tend to find our enemies among ourselves.
Squid bladders explain a lot, but not why we have two healthy right-wing talk radio stations sucking up the cumes and belligerizing the dayparts like Frankenstein treading through the begonias.
They’ve thrived in our midst, because nobody paid much attention to them. Seattle media has woefully, stunningly, and sadly underreported local talk radio. It’s the turd in the punch bowl, covered only when its excesses blast their way into local sensibilities.
In 1999, there was great hope among liberal minded people the world over from the full-throated roar of people against globalism in the streets of Seattle at the WTO Ministerial. After that rowdy demonstration put the issue squarely on America’s table, we all thought: the left is back in the game!
But unfortunately, sight of the planetary considerations was lost quickly. We mired ourselves in the grubby distractions of police brutality at WTO and lesser parochial injustices instead of seizing the day and making it a tipping point.
The moment passed us by.
With all of our famous ambivalence, it’s easy to see how George Bush sneaked up on us in 2000. We select presidential candidates like we’re ordering up a latte. Me--I’ll take a skinny, tall, green, single double with a shot of civil liberties, no meat, no violence, hairy, no dairy, with a safety net and a sprinkle of libertarian. And if I can't get exactly that, I'll just have water, thank you very much.
And after we’d milked the mouse for months with heady small ‘d’ democratic “dialog,” we woke up one morning, turned over and there was George W. Bush in our bed without his Ronald Reagan mask.
We were shocked more at his syntax than his politics, so when he started up his war, we ramped up the offensive potlucks. And god darn it, we wrote some poems. The thunder of hummus platters rocked the Seven Hills; baked bries clattered throughout the nabes.
The irony alone broke windows in Seattle and caused collateral damage in outlands suspected of harboring counterrevolutionaries.
Meanwhile, the reactionary talk radio stations had been busy organizing the be-GoreTexed® masses from the suburbs and exurbs. Paramilitary right-wing Support-the-Troops goon squads rushed amplitudinously to counter our sad little peace marches, and public demonstrations of reason.
While Seattle’s hearts, minds and votes were comfortably--too comfortably--with the Forces for Good, the streets were controlled by the neocons. And this was right here, (as the right-wingers always say) in The People’s Republic of Seattle!
The righteous stayed home on their sofas with their beloved books, a decent cuppa, and afghans covered with Cheeto crumbs. It was shameful.
But in 2004, we were spurred into real action by the perfect storm of a) the overwhelming feelings of overwhelming feelings, b) the war gone worse c) the realization that we were being led by a meanspirited Alfred E. Neuman with poor grammar d) the naivete that such a man could never be re-elected e) a candidate who could speak English and was reportedly breathing.
We spurned the Green Party, laughed off the Libertarians, heckled Ralph Nader, worked hard for Democrats, and really got younger voters involved. You probably know the sad end of that story...
So welcome, Al Franken, to the Seattle radio market. It’s a place where:
--a reasonable progressive kicked Rush Limbaugh’s formidable fundament on a daily basis for years.
--liberal boots on the ground, once got two high-riding rightie talk hosts fired.
--Your show did well in the last ratings book.
On the other hand:
--reactionary talkers outnumber liberals 10 to 1.
--right-wing talk hosts once raised $70,000 in two drive-times for a national pro-war TV spot.
--Michael Medved lives here.
We’re counting on you and Air America to jerk us out of our ennui: to help us break the philosophical, and political stranglehold the right has on our airwaves. If this makes you feel a little messianic, go for it. Messiahs are cool right now and the other side always seems to get them first.