Thursday, April 28, 2005

From 98-lb. Weaklings to Heroes of the Beach 

Courtesy of our venerated colleague Avedon Carol: Robert Parry of Consortium News examines a baffling scientific phenomenon: the spontaneous, and possibly contagious, regeneration of long-lost vertebrae in certain Democratic members of Congress. The explanation, he suspects, has to do with the nascent liberal media: there are now radio and television venues in which Democrats are welcome to speak their piece without groveling, without apologizing for their party affiliation, and most importantly, without being eaten alive by the host:
For more than a decade now, conservative talk radio has had the Republicans’ back. Republicans could count on Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, et al to go out on the nation’s air waves and organize support for conservative positions. Whenever Republicans were in a tough spot, they knew they had defenders.

By contrast, Democrats could expect any clumsy remark to be turned into a huge controversy both by mainstream and conservative news outlets. In Campaign 2004, John Kerry got pummeled for saying that he had supported one version of an Iraq War appropriations bill but opposed another, when it was barely mentioned that Bush had opposed the first version and supported the second . . . .

After more than a decade of the Right’s near monopoly of AM talk radio, listeners on the Left are taking pleasure in hearing the conservatives get a taste of their own medicine. Hosts – such as Stephanie Miller, Randi Rhodes, Al Franken and Ed Schultz – dish out a mixture of satire, ridicule and information.

Leading Democratic politicians from the House and Senate are lining up as guests, but now they are addressing an audience that expects tough talk about the Republicans, not mushy rhetoric designed not to offend.

In effect, a political market is emerging that rewards courageous Democrats and punishes wimpy ones. That is why references to Sen. Joe Lieberman bring derisive laughter on progressive talk radio shows because he is viewed as an archetype of the Democrat who seeks acceptance from the Brit Humes and Tim Russerts . . . .

Yet, today, many of the same figures in the “progressive establishment” still spurn media initiatives. These funders seem stuck in the Left’s old rhetoric, which valued slogans such as “think globally, act locally” and “all politics is local.”

So, rather than invest in media that has the potential to build a national movement, the “progressive establishment” continues to sink its resources into grassroots “local” organizing, a strategy that has dominated the Left’s approach to politics over the past quarter century.

During that same time, the Right has relied heavily on media to gain political dominance, especially in the nation’s heartland and increasingly with working-class Americans, even though their financial interests tend to suffer under conservative policies . . . .

Now, the media tide is showing signs of shifting. Progressives on talk radio are defending liberal values and criticizing conservative hypocrisy. Emboldened, Democratic politicians are starting to find their voice, too, and the Republicans have begun to stumble.

Progressives, who have long puzzled over how to get the Democrats to fight back, are discovering that relatively minor investments in media can bring major returns in convincing Democrats that there is a future in standing up to Republicans.

Image copyright 2001 by Charles Atlas
. All rights reserved.

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