What is someone to DO if they don’t like the fact that there is now a Democratic administration, a Democratic Congress and moderates and liberals are seemingly on the ascent — all during a time when conservatives are split and battling each other over Rush Limbaugh, Michael Steel, Newt Gingrich and David Frum?
Here’s an idea: suggest — half jokingly (which means part serious?) of course…that it may be so bad now and that the threat to the America of our childhoods is so enormous that perhaps it’s time for your state to succeed from the union. And do it on an increasingly popular multi-media right wing talk show whose host is increasingly warning his audience how the Obama administration could mean the end America as we know it.
Does this sound outlandish? Not really, former movie and TV star Chuck Norris (whose movies and shows I loved) has been doing just that — suggesting to talk show host Glenn Beck that since Washington is moving farther from what he contends is the founder’s vision (a vision apparently still maintained in the pronouncements of Beck, Limbaugh and Sean Hannity but not shared by apparently uneducated or insidious independent voters, RINOS or Democrats) he has jokingly suggested that it maybe time for Texas (the state where Norris filmed his addicting action TV show) to exit the U.S. of A — and that he’d run for President of it.
The problem is: since Obama’s inauguration some of conservative talk radio has not just jumped the shark, but jumped Shamu at Sea World. Obama is not just a political foe, but being painted as a dangerous political figure and virtual bogeyman.
It began with Limbaugh and Sean Hannity making it clear before Obama was even sworn in that there would be no let up — and, indeed, if the purpose is to gain audience share, why should there have been? Talk show hosts are there to entertain and gain and deliver an audience demographic to advertising clients. The good ones on the left and right know that they can’t succeed if they’re emulating C-SPAN or PBS hosts. So…fair enough.
But next came Limbaugh’s “I hope he fails” which became an actual litmus test of party loyalty in the GOP for some.
Yesterday, on a six hour off-and-on drive from San Diego to Santa Barbara, I had the chance to sample a variety of conservative talk show hosts. In this world, where hosts and callers often talk in angry, shouting or mocking tones, Obama is a “madman” and a “socialist” or a “Marxist” who is danger to the United States, you savings and homes, education free of political indoctrination — who wants to destroy a health care system that has worked beautifully. Conservative talkers who made a huge issue of Bush opponents not referring to George Bush as “President Bush” now sometimes use derisive terms for Obama, rather than even mentioning his name.
Obama, in this world, in case you don’t know, is now getting ready to soon start a civilian corps of police– green-clad thugs similar to Nazi Germany’s brown shirts, who could go into houses and take people’s guns away (a caller on one show did indeed say that). The Democrats don’t want to fix the economy — that isn’t their intent. They want to impose socialist and big government policies, even if it means bringing the country down to do so.
The tone has been not marked by just a rightward shift (as Jerry Seinfeld would say “Not that there’s anything wrong with that…”) — but a shift away from criticizing policies to suggesting to listeners that their way of life and perhaps their very freedoms could are threatened by Obama and by the Democrats. The shift is further right from what was on the talk shows just one year ago and the tone is increasingly strident.
Which brings us full circle.David Frum and to the New York Times new columnist to be Ross Douthat — conservatives who show the real 21st century flag,…the flag of thinking younger conservatives who place the emphasis on “thinking to .” as opposed to demonizing. Their analysis adds to the options and ideas that’ll shape the future America; conservative talk shows now suggesting that America As We All Know It and our freedoms are in danger stirring up some of the less desirable forces out there, forces mired in resentments, stereotypes and hubris of the past.
In some of Norris’ great action movie and TV work he has ridden a horse, and he pulls in its reigns. Now it’s up to serious, younger conservatives not mired in baby-boomer us versus them hubris to pull in the reins as American heads in the 21st century so that conservative Americans don’t buy into the tone and direction of some broadcast conservatives who are galloping ahead as they whip their horse to go into areas that could prove perilous for conservatism, solution-oriented debate and the traditional American idea that someone who disagrees with you on policy is not necessarily your mortal, dangerous, ill-intentioned enemy.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.