Michael Medved, The Wizard of Politics and Pop Culture, has written a most enlightened and realistic column for USA Today, We loved it because it bolsters our own views, but also because it adds some cogent and brilliant points even we hadn't thought of. (And typical of the Ivy League Michael, (KTTH m-f, 12-3p) it's written so well).
He's generally pessimistic about right-wing talk's prospects in the Obama years and its chances to recreate its "Golden Age" of the early '90's, "the last time a young Democrat took over the White House with gauzy visions of change..." (The plight of talk radio mirrors that of the Republican Party and the conservative movement).
Media competition and fragmentation
"... if the new president makes credible efforts to govern from the center, then talk radio can't afford long-term marginalization as a sulking, sniping, angry irrelevancy. It makes no sense to react with pre-emptive rage (and an odd obsession over Obama's birth certificate) to a president-elect who has remained pointedly vague on policy.
The GOP candidates most relentlessly bashed by leading talkers (John McCain and Mike Huckabee) became the two top vote-getters among Republicans, and the McCain-Palin ticket got 90% of GOP votes despite reluctant support from most prominent hosts."
We'd add that the fierce talk radio campaign against the Bush/McCain/Kennedy immigration reform bill (which Medved supported) was a net loser for rightie radio, as it certainly was for the GOP.
How much longer can normal people listen to old angers reinforced day in and day out? The answer, is, reportedly: not much. We'd hope that's good news for more substantive talkers like Medved, and even the few on the left who are breaking in like Rachel Maddow, and Thom Hartmann. Unfortunately, the result may be the sad diminuition of the medium across the board.
Outrage, for normal folks, must come from the heart. Unless you're terminally pissed-off, outrage must come from and be sustained by an outrageous reality -- not rhetoric invented, and re-invented daily, as the traditional talk format demands.
Rip-roarers like Mark Levin with squeaky hyperventilation on tap; or scold-mongers such as Laura Ingraham who cries out like she needs a topical anesthetic, need to re-think. How long can Limbaugh prevail, making as he does, dozens of dire, and scandalfying predictions every day that never, never come true?
You can see Republicans rejecting talk radio -- it's the red-headed step sister with the local right. Read their leading websites (or we'll do it for you) such as Sound Politics, NW Republican, OrbusMax, or The Reagan Wing, there's rare mention of local (or national) talk radio, even though it's still the conservative media that reaches the most people.
Once mighty, it's certainly lost in the seducing of mainstream voters. Kirby Wilbur, Myron "Dori" Monson, John Carlson and Dave Boze did little to save Dino Rossi; stop infrastructure ballot proposals even with their tax increases; help Tim Eyman; or do much of anything else in the 2008 elections.
They are clearly fringe players politically and doing only slightly better in the ratings war of a diminishing medium.
Radio's great strength during its heyday in the Clinton era, was to change minds -- that's not how it works anymore, according to Medved:
"Some radio stars view media debate as a form of warfare, though the ultimate purpose of war involves the total destruction of the enemy. The most effective broadcasters in the Obama Era won't try to destroy anybody. But we should make an impassioned effort to convince everybody."
Will the majors like Rush, and Ingraham, and others with no teevee chops make the adjustments necessary to keep them from becoming ranting zealots on terrestrial radio dials in thickets of infomercials talking to angry old people still peeved at Hillarycare?
Will investors spring for the programming re-development bucks they must spend to draw wider audiences? Or is the handwriting on the wall that Wall Street has already given up on radio, now that they've skimmed it for the top-cream?