Talk Radio Killed Conservativism?
In my youth, video killed the radio star. Now, Nate Silver suggests, conservative talk radio has killed conservatism. John Ziegler, of whom I’ve never heard, is apparently an imbecile. QED.
This might be the key passage of my interview with John Ziegler on Tuesday, for it is, in a nutshell, why conservatives don’t win elections anymore. It is not that conservatism generally permits less nuance than liberalism (in terms of political messaging, that is probably one of conservatism’s strengths). Rather, the key lies in the second passage that I highlighted. There are a certain segment of conservatives who literally cannot believe that anybody would see the world differently than the way they do. They have not just forgotten how to persuade; they have forgotten about the necessity of persuasion.
Talk radio is about entertainment and drama, not persuasion. Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage aren’t running latter-day Firing Lines; rather, they’re Howard Stern and Don Imus with a political bent.
For a variety of reasons, liberals have not done well in the talk radio genre. But they’ve got every bit the talent for single mindedness as their counterparts on the right — as seen in a large chunk of the blogosphere. It’s easier to build an audience by serving up healthy chunks of red meat, generating faux outrage, and flaming the passions of a single minded audience than to persuade people towards your point of view. And the Netroots are much better at that than their conservative counterparts. (It’s also true, I think, that most of the best analytical blogs are on the center-left; that’s a subject for another post, possibly later today.)
It’s worth mentioning, as an aside, that conservatism is far from dead. It’s main electoral instrument, the Republican Party, has seen better days. But that’s a cyclical thing in American politics. Many had written the Democrats off for dead in 1991 and again in 2000. There’s nothing like losing to motivate reform.
UPDATE: Stacy McCain thinks Silver is unfair to Ziegler. The problem, though, is that Ziegler goes into attack mode when challenged rather than adducing evidence. It’s an entertaining way to deal with a hostile caller to a radio show but an odd tactic for an interviewee.