Paul Andersen: Right-wing radio reveals Republican rift
Listening to conservative talk radio is instructive for a liberal democrat like me. Strident though they are, the voices of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, et. al. are part of the American political diversity that can make for a vibrant democracy — when tempered with civility.
Until Jan. 6, conservative talk radio had been about hate mongering and scorning what radio hosts denigrated as liberal enemies of the state. Their spiteful rhetoric and shrill deliveries were intended to divide America, and they were successful.
Before the storming of the Capitol, hate toxified the airwaves as talk radio hosts eagerly glorified their savior in the White House. In propaganda wars, truth is the first casualty. Spin is the name of the game, and the talk show airwaves are full of it. Now things are different, and the unwavering loyalty of the past is nuanced with doubt.
It was heartening to tune in several days after the attack on the Capitol and hear the host of a popular program field a call from Mary, a listener in Louisville. He appeared surprised when she blurted out, “I’m so sick of Trump!”
A rare pause followed as the host scrambled for damage control. “Are you a Republican?” he asked. Mary answered, yes.
“Did you vote for Trump?” Mary said yes. She voted for Trump in 2016, but not in 2020.
“Did you vote for (Joe) Biden, or did you just not vote?” The host asked this with the hope that Mary’s vote had been thrown away.
“I voted for Biden,” she stated unapologetically, “and that was a hard thing to do, very hard. But I’m glad I did it. This country needs to heal, and I’m hoping that Biden can help it heal.”
The host stammered with uncertainty. Then he sought redemption. “I could never vote for Biden!” He warned that the president-elect had better not fill his cabinet with radical liberals. Then he became conciliatory. “But I hope Biden can help heal the country, too.”
“Anything is better than Trump,” Mary stated emphatically. To this the host hemmed and hawed, pushed uncomfortably into a corner. He tried an escape route to deflect Mary’s proclamation, but Mary quickly inserted, “I’m a Reagan Republican, and I hate that the party has been destroyed by Trump’s outrages.”
The host tried to override her, but Mary marshaled on with her lament over the fault lines dividing Republicans. Mary kept talking, and so did the host. When he failed to out-talk her, he simply cut her off and moved on to a commercial.
Mary and millions of Republicans are taking new stock in their party. Now, in the grim aftermath of the attack on the Capitol, an attack that sought to thwart the legitimate functions of democracy on which the Congress was deliberating, spin is no longer so hypnotizing or intoxicating.
Caustic opinions cannot blot out videos of the unruly mob smashing windows, breaking into offices and battling police. Some cheered them for fomenting an admirable revolution. Others called it simply revolting. That the nation’s capital was defiled by a mob was, for most Americans and for people the world over, outrageous.
But that attack had to happen, despite the cost of five lives. That rampage was not morally right, but it was necessary to confirm the destruction inherent in Trump and his violent faction. That riot also identified those easily incited to violence and those stridently supporting it, like the Republican Third District representative from Colorado.
Congressional freshman Lauren Boebert, a sincere but misguided gun-rights naïf, has proudly proclaimed, “I am the militia!” Boebert equates liberty with concealed carry. She is literally a loose cannon.
A recall effort to unseat the incendiary Boebert charges her with supporting the Capitol rioters and for her Tweets during the siege that identified the location of Nancy Pelosi, for whom Boebert has vowed a personal vendetta.
The hate-emanating, right wing media that has brainwashed Boebert and others is now answering to the consequences of inflaming a volatile population to deadly violence. Virulent hate has run its course in the mainstream.
For Republicans like Mary, from Louisville, it’s time to stand up to hate and to make America whole again.
Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays. He may be reached at email@example.com.
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