Rushing Left


The hunt for a liberal Limbaugh continues to attract comment. Here's some constructive criticism from Phil Leggiere, and here's some cold water from Marc Fisher.

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  1. Ironically, the first national (albeit with a modest 10 city start) liberal host launched this week via the new Fox News Radio net, with Alan Colmes as the host:

    My guess is that he won’t be the next Limbaugh, however.

  2. Colmes isn’t the first nationally syndicated liberal host. He certainly won’t last long enough to be the last. In my experience, liberals hate Colmes even more than conservatives do, because he’s so ineffectual on his Fox TV show. Sometimes, having a bad champion is worse than having no champion at all.

  3. My mistake–I didn’t mean to suggest he was the first, rather that he is the first in the current quest for a nationally syndicated liberal host (i.e., since Gore complained about rampant conservative bias in talk radio and similar rants).

    And you make a valid point–the association with Fox doesn’t work to his advantage with some.

    Further, I am not sure he has the raw talent to last long–along I have to admit, I haven’t listened to him on the radio.

  4. is it even possible estimate just how boring this radio station is going to be?

  5. Isn’t Michael Moore already the liberal Rush Limbaugh? He’s got the physique, the attitude, the personality, and the same “interesting” approach to the truth..

    Ok, he’s not on radio yet, I’ll give you that. But come on, he’s the obvious choice.

  6. “Liberals” come across as elist, holier-than-thou social engineers. Those pushing this project would do a lot better promoting a *populist* alternative to conservative radio. A genuinely populist talk radio program would take a critical view both of big government and big business. It would promote decentralist, grass-roots forms of organization as an alternative to both, and trust the average Joe to run his own life without help from do-gooders (and that goes triple in such areas as smoking and gun rights).

    And genuine populist talk radio would expose the faux populism of Limbaugh and the New Right, by pointing out the extent to which those “rugged individualists” in corporate America are feeding on the public tit. It would cease the corporate liberal pretense that the regulatory/welfare state was motivated by anti-business sentiment, and expose it for the big business creation that it is.

    Just one example: the current tax debate is polarized between Republicans who want across the board cuts, and Democrats who want targeted tax credits that require jumping through a bunch of social engineering hoops. What if a populist proposed, as an alternative to both, raising the personal exemption to $30,000?

  7. Jim Hightower tried the populist approach, and it didn’t work out too well. His was a liberal/progressive populism.

    For that matter, I would argue that Bill O’Reilly’s basic approach is populistic (references to “the folks” and the cultivation of an image of a common guy with common roots (which Michael Kinsley took him to takes on in a WaPo column some time back) not to mention general anti-elite rhetoric), although from a more conservative perspective.

    Really, populism can be seen to more an approach than an ideological perspective (the whole “little guy” v. the “big guy” bit) and it can take on numerous ideological guises.

  8. I don’t know what cracks me up more about this group of self-important twits tossing their money into a giant back hole–their arrogance or their cluelessness. Rush and other conservative hosts didn’t become successful through some organized effort. They got that way through the listening preferences of millions of idividuals who heard someone echoing their own views. These well-heeled liberals can build their network but they can’t make people give a rip. Put something entertaining on the air and they’ll come; don’t and they won’t. All the money in the world isn’t gonna change that.

  9. Indeed. Thomas Sowell made the point that the current quest is classic US liberalism, i.e., the solution is to throw money at the problem. I ref’d the column here.

  10. I think Michael Moore used to *have* a radio show, in Flint in the ’80s. It was co-hosted by Ben Hamper, author of the excellent book *Rivethead*.

    (Note: this factoid comes via a half-remembered conversation I had a decade ago with an ex-girlfriend who grew up in Flint. I may have got a thing or two wrong. Maybe Moore wasn’t a co-host; maybe he was just a regular guest. More knowledgeable readers are invited, nay urged, to contradict me.)

    What ever happened to Hamper? I always said that discovering him was the best thing Moore ever did.

  11. The Liberals have the same problem in talk radio that they have politically…THEY HAVE NO COHERENT MESSAGE. All they have is “Conservatives bad”. Until they come up with something that’s not gloom and doom, they’re toast.

  12. “Put something entertaining on the air and they’ll come; don’t and they won’t. All the money in the world isn’t gonna change that. ”

    That’s the rub. Putting something on the air is difficult when the air is controlled by ClearChannel and other conglomerates. It’s difficult in today’s market to reach millions of listeners, because of the level of control of ClearChannel and its ilk.

    Obviously, it’s not in ClearChannel’s interest to promote a liberal show which would support increased regulation, such as more FCC regulation of ClearChannel!

  13. This plan is doomed to fail until liberals can somehow disassociate themselves with being politically correct. That is the appeal of talk radio. Whether you agree with them or not, no one would accuse Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage of being politically correct. Plus most of the shock jocks who are the epitome of political incorrectness are surprisingly conservative in their political views. The only liberal I can think of who might have a shot is Bill Maher.

    Nevertheless, I don’t know why liberals are in such despair. The left still dominates all three major networks (including both news and its other programming- i.e. The West Wing), PBS and virtually every Hollywood release that has anything remotely resembling a political message. These are more far-reaching media than AM talk radio.

  14. Dan, above, is right – surely Michael Moore is the nearest thing the liberal/left has to a highly opinionated and widely-viewed and read character in the Limbaugh mould. Like Limbaugh, his shaky grasp of the truth, rudeness, girth, and overall nastiness makes him a contender. And like Limbaugh and his peers, Moore came outside the mainstream “big media” at the outset, though I suspect he is more part of the chattering class establishment these days.

    It is interesting that there are no Limbaughs here in Britain, but I suspect that is because of our noisy and populist right-wing press, for which there are no clear parallels in the U.S. – hence talk-radio and blogs.

  15. I think that Alan Colmes used to be on the radio circa ’93 or so. People used to call in for 10 seconds and get their say. I believe that FOX noticed him and that’s how he ended up there.

    I also think that the above messages are essentially correct. Prescription drug coverage is not a philosophical viewpoint–that’s where the conservative talkers have their edge. They have a philosophy and apply it to social problems. Those on the left can’t come out and say that their philosophy is “Big Government”–that wouldn’t wash anymore.

  16. I disagree with Jon H. above–ClearChannel would put a liberal on in a heartbeat if they thought it would make money.

    Part of the reason there is a proliferation of conservative talk radio is because Rush worked (i.e., made money). And when something works, it gets copied. For evidence, check out whatever the current TV craze is: currently it is “reality based” dating shows, before that it was money-laden quiz shows, before that hospital shows, etc.

    Part of the equation that gets ignored is that it is simply difficult to decree a success, and that has nothing to do with ideology.

  17. Michael Moore and Bill Maher would both make for provocative and occasionally entertaining (if not philisophically coherent) liberal talk shows. I’m sure there are other personalities out there that could do just as well in that regard.

    The reason liberal talk shows have failed and will continue to fail is that liberals, by and large, listen to ClearChannel, their own CDs, etc. Even NPR with its liberal bias, alluded to by Todd, has a predominantly conservative listenership. The liberals that are inclined to listen to talk do not constitute a big enough market to support a Limbaugh-size program, or it certainly would have happened already.

  18. Hasn’t anyone noticed that there already is a liberal viewpoint on the radio? You know – the guys that have to go groveling for cash twice a year.

  19. Is Larry King still on the radio in something besides “Garlique” or some other ad? Pretty sure he ain’t conservative.

  20. Whatever happened to Ben Hamper? Judging the way his book ended (‘Rivethead’ was a very good book btw), it appears that he has drank himself into a worthless lump of Moore clone poop. I got an e-mail from Ben, back when he still communicated with the public, telling about the ‘Rivethead’ follow-up, ‘America Drinks and Goes Home’.

    Evidently, the book has been scrapped (rumors suggest that Hamper can’t stay sober long enough to finish it) and it appears that he can’t even hold a website together. is no more and the only web source to be found on the guy is Michael “Worthless Lump of Bunny Dung” Moore’s site… at least the fat b*stard is loyal to something, eh?

  21. EMAIL:
    DATE: 01/27/2004 01:34:49
    I criticize by creation — not by finding fault.

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