Conservative Talker Quits After Trump Won
Sean Iling interviews conservative talk radio host John Ziegler who quit after Trump’s win on vox.com.
There are a lot of reasons why it (his radio show as an experiment in calling it straight to a conservative audience) failed, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was the election of Donald Trump. The part of this equation your audience will be most interested in is the reality that talk radio, in the era of Trump, isn’t remotely conservative. It’s also no longer about the truth. It’s about telling people what they want to hear.
It’s very much like a cult now, where the purpose is to substantiate what the religion is telling you and anything that runs counter to the religion is inherently false and blasphemous, even evil. So anyone who breaks from orthodoxy is a traitor.
(Iling mentions that Wisconsin conservative radio host Charlie Sykes had a similar experience.)
For instance, you can’t simply say, as a conservative radio host, that Donald Trump lost the popular vote. Now that’s an obvious fact, but listeners can’t deal with it, they won’t deal with it. Fifty-two percent of Republicans, in fact, don’t accept this fact, and they don’t accept it because they don’t have to in their echo chamber.
They live in an alternative reality in which Trump won the popular vote and the Electoral College vote, and that reality is propped up by conservative media.
As a Never Trumper, I’m basically selling beef to vegans at this point. There’s just no interest in what I’m saying. If you weren’t prepared to toss out your principles and drink the Trump Kool-Aid this year, conservative audiences weren’t listening.
Sean Hannity (is the worst panderer) without a doubt. Here’s a guy that’s worth tens, maybe hundreds of millions of dollars, whose guy won and he still spends Friday nights attacking guys like me on Twitter. I think he realizes what he’s done on some level and I think he’s incredibly insecure about it.
But he’s completely sold out whatever principles he had and he’s an abject hypocrite. It’s been great for his ratings, though. I’m sure he sleeps well at night.
A good fairy tale will always be more sellable than a harsh truth. Truth is not always comfortable for people, and we’re living in an era in which you don’t have confront the truth if you don’t want to. There are a couple of things that have happened in terms of the economics of media that have altered the content.
In the past, talk radio basically had a monopoly on non-liberal thought and opinion. But Fox News emerged and the internet exploded and talk radio lost that monopoly. So talk radio was then forced, increasingly, to pander to its niche audience in order to compete for their attention.
Now, no matter how insane or crazy a belief is, you can find a media outlet that will affirm it for you. So the pressure to feed the crazies is immense in this media environment. What this means is that talk radio hosts are now gravitating toward their audiences rather than audiences gravitating to hosts. If a host refuses to do this, the audience disappears.
People like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin were so afraid of pissing off the Trump supporters that they were co-opted, and that’s about ratings, not conservatism or truth.
Well, as I said, I think there’s been a liberal bias in the mainstream media for a long time. People like me rightly criticized it. What’s happened, though, is that conservatives now don’t trust the media at all. My side no longer trusts the other side. There’s just a complete divide. Trump, to his credit, has been very effective at using this to his advantage.
That Trump, a liberal con artist, is the guy who most benefits from the legitimate criticisms of mainstream media over the years is unbelievable to me.
I don’t see how this ends well. I don’t see how it gets better, because hosts are now in a situation in which they either defend Trump at all costs or they will be seen as a traitor and no one will listen. So I don’t see a scenario under which a Sean Hannity or a Rush Limbaugh abandons Trump — they’re too committed at this point.
I’ll probably shock you by saying that, given a choice between a third term for Obama or a first term for Trump, I’d vote for Obama.
But, more to the point of your question, why do conservatives buy into this post-fact Trump world? I think it all goes back to the structure of the news media. Because so much of the mainstream media has historically leaned left, there is an understandable paranoia on the right. When you’ve been shown for decades that the left is against your presidential candidate and they’re willing to lie about your presidential candidate, it’s not hard to understand why they just don’t believe anything.
Is there a psychological element to this? Are conservatives more prone to paranoia? Frankly, I don’t know. I can just say that I’ve seen on it the left as well. And we know that voters on both sides of the aisle tend to be ignorant of negative information about their own candidate, so confirmation bias is a bipartisan problem.
Ultimately, I can only speak for myself, and I just told you that I’d prefer Obama over Trump.
Trump has absolutely killed it (conservatism). I don’t see the scenario under which conservatism survives this. Trump is going to do a lot of the same big government stuff that Obama did. If he was a Democrat and did this with a Republican Congress, you could argue that Republicans were compromising in order to get things done. But if Trump does it with a Republican Congress and Senate, there’s just no conservative defense of that.
Conservatism, as a small-government philosophy represented by the Republican Party, will be dead.
I know it won’t end well, but I have no idea how bad it will be. One of the reasons Trump has so much leverage over the Republican Party is that he has the option to move in a liberal direction and the GOP is essentially hostage to him given how large and loyal his constituency is. His constituency is the base now. Hell, he could later run as a Democrat and he would take 40 percent of the Republican base with him.
So Trump has all the leverage here. You tell me how that doesn’t end badly.
Cross-posted from The Sensible Center