Is Talk Radio to Blame?

Mother Jones — which these days seems to have a business model built entirely on the use of nanny cams — has just released a surreptitiously acquired video of Frank Luntz, the GOP messaging guru, unloading on talk radio as the source of many of the Republican Party’s image problems. An excerpt from the accompanying piece on Luntz’s talk at the University of Pennsylvania:

Believing he was speaking privately to the dozens of students present, Luntz proceeded to gripe about conservative talk radio and its impact on political polarization:

“… And they get great ratings, and they drive the message, and it’s really problematic. And this is not on the Democratic side. It’s only on the Republican side…[inaudible]. [Democrats have] got every other source of news on their side. And so that is a lot of what’s driving it. If you take—Marco Rubio’s getting his ass kicked. Who’s my Rubio fan here? We talked about it. He’s getting destroyed! By Mark Levin, by Rush Limbaugh, and a few others. He’s trying to find a legitimate, long-term effective solution to immigration that isn’t the traditional Republican approach, and talk radio is killing him. That’s what’s causing this thing underneath. And too many politicians in Washington are playing coy.”

As he continued, Luntz, according to [Aakash] Abbi [who made the recording] and two other attendees (who wish to remain anonymous), asserted that it had been irresponsible (and bad for the GOP) for right-wing talkers to pontificate about women’s bodies and birth control—an obvious reference to Limbaugh’s attack last year on Sandra Fluke, a law student invited to testify before Congress on health insurance coverage of contraception. (Abbi didn’t catch this part of Luntz’s reply on his recording.)

Luntz was blaming polarization and the GOP’s problems partly on conservative media, but he didn’t want his criticism of Limbaugh, Levin, and the others to reach beyond this classroom. He was clear on this basic point: Right-wing media is not serving the national debate and not helping the GOP widen the party’s appeal beyond its declining base. (Luntz declined to comment on his remarks at the event.)

What do you think? What role does conservative talk radio play in representing the movement? What role should it play? And our are biggest talk radio starts net positives or net negatives for conservatism?

  1. Merina Smith

    Some of them might damage the brand. I listen to Prager, Medved and Hewitt.  They are all smart and reasonable and do a lot of good IMHO.  

  2. Peter Fumo

    I love talk radio and listen to mainly Bennett, Prager and Medved. All three are even-tempered and patient. To me, these type of radio talk show hosts are enlightening and a net positive. I don’t listen to Rush anymore, but he is still tremendously popular among the rank-and-file, and I think probably gets many people interested in conservative causes who wouldn’t otherwise be. These talk-show hosts give voice to millions, and it is at least one place where one can listen to sympathetic voices away from the MSM. Without talk radio, many people would lose interest. I think Luntz should have been more specific in his criticisms. He has appeared on the Prager and Medved multiple times so I assume he in not alluding to them. Finally, there are many people out there who think Romney lost because he did not do as well amongst working class whites. Does anyone think that following Rubio and Luntz in trying to appeal to Hispanics via immigration reform is going to help among that demographic?

  3. iDad

    Are GOP messaging gurus like Luntz ”net positives or net negatives for conservatism?”

  4. Casey

    The talk radio stars are ok…  but these podcasters!  Geesh!

  5. MBF

    Rush has had Rubio on the show to talk about immigration reform at least twice that I have heard. In both cases, I was struck by the flexibility of El Rushbo and his seeming ability to bend over backwards not to directly attack Rubio’s horribly flawed bill.

  6. Marc Berner

    According to Luntz, and many other of his ilk, I am sure we can defeat the left by adopting their policies. It is sad to watch fellow conservatives slide irrelevance.

  7. Frank Soto

    Rubio is getting killed because he failed to get real enforcement into the bill.  No one’s fault but his own.

  8. Jamie Lockett
    If anyone has listened to Mark Levin you would see what Luntz is trying to say here. The anger and vitriol the spews from his mic far outweighs any valid points he makes. There was one time he told a liberal caller to his show that she should commit suicide! He is appalling   
  9. Luozi

    The right is already losing the propaganda war.  The problem is not talk radio.  We need as many outlets pushing our (general) cause as possible, even if they appear, to one group or another, as “over-the-top.”  Talk radio, it seems to me, is not about winning over new Republican voters but in providing an outlet for conservative catharsis.  It keeps the base from falling into apathy or spiraling into political extremism through a colorful and entertaining presentation of issues.  It always feels good to personally or vicariously vent irritation via radio (more so than the internet, I think.  The internet lacks the realizing “voice” factor).  And there’s all sorts of hosts to choose from, whether one likes more leveled, tranquil debate (Medved) or energetic, even enraged  screeds (Savage).  

    I say the more the better!

  10. Essgee

    What are the chances that talk radio understands conservatism better? 

    Sometimes I think the main stream Republicans define themselves as conservatives simply because they are not Democrats.  They are more conservative then liberal, but that doesn’t make them conservatives.

    I generally like Luntz, but I am not sure that even he has a clue about a large portion of the country.

  11. Matede
    Luozi: I say the more the better!

     I totally agree. Luntz’s premise is that everyone who listens to talk radio are a bunch of mindless drones that will do the bidding of our radio host masters. Talk radio is a business and the talent bring the goods to an audience that has been over-looked by the more mainstream media outlets, and to great success. And as is with conservatives, we are not monolithic and there is something for everyone on the airwaves and if we don’t like a certain host, we don’t listen.

    I agree with Frank Soto there, Marco Rubio was on Rush and Mark Levin’s show and both hosts were skeptical of the bill, as many conservatives are due to the lack of border enforcement, but they were very supportive of Rubio’s presence as a voice of conservatism in the senate. If Rubio is getting criticism cause of his involvement of an unpopular bill then he needs to deal with the consequences. Luntz’s blaming of talk radio is a cop out.

  12. Tom Meyer

    Almost, Jamie: Levin suggested the caller’s husband should commit suicide (click the link for audio):

    LEVIN: My God. He’s so smart [Obama]. His own party voted against him on Guantanamo Bay. How stupid was that, Cindy? His own party refused to fund the closing of Guantanamo Bay.

    CALLER. Yeah but you know he can just move those people over here anyway. He’s already doing it with the one guy.

    LEVIN: Yeah, sure, he can do whatever he wants. Let me ask you a question. Why do you hate this country?

    CALLER: No, I love this country.

    LEVIN: (angrily shouting) I SAID WHY DO YOU HATE MY COUNTRY! WHY DO YOU HATE MY CONSTITUTION? WHY DO YOU HATE MY DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE? You just said it. He can blow off Congress. He can do whatever he wants, right?

    CALLER: Well, he seems to, he just moved (inaudible).

    LEVIN: Answer me this, are you a married woman? Yes or no?

    CALLER: Yes.

    LEVIN: Well I don’t know why your husband doesn’t put a gun to his temple. Get the hell out of here.

  13. Capt. Aubrey

    I’m not a regular listener but when I’ve heard Rush etc I’ve never heard them say things I didn’t agree with, however, I’ve spoken to tons of people who took things they said either out of context or just plain wrong and I think, while there will always be stupid people and misunderstandings, they all ultimatley have to get listeners so being sensational and devisive is part of the game…its also part of the game in MSM but that gets overlooked. If Marco Rubio is as good as I think he is I bet they won’t be able to kill him as Luntz suggests.

  14. BrentB67

    The radio entertainers they mention are just that, entertainers and they do sensationalize some points to drive ratings, but that doesn’t change the subject matter.

    When it gets to the policies and priorities the guys on talk radio are making a lot of sense to what is left of conservative America.

    The ones that need to wise up are republicans. They are completely impervious to criticism. Every ill suffered by the republicans is always someone elses fault and inevitably comes back to the idea that they just aren’t communicating well.

    When you have nothing to communicate the result is going to be what we have, no matter how much lipstick they spackle on the pig.

  15. Mario the Gator

    I thank God for talk radio.  Along with Fox News it is the only alternative to liberal media brain-washing and propaganda.  Luntz is obviously a McCain-type Republican and less Conservative than many in the Republican party.

  16. Jamie Lockett

    The real problem with talk radio is that it never challenges its listeners assumptions. It just reinforces belief regardless of facts or changing realities. (Some talk radio hosts like Prager and Medved don’t fit this mold.)

    The reason we had a conservative renaissance in this country is that young conservatives like Buckley and Reagan sharpened their arguments against liberals.  Their arguments had to be better because the press and academia etc wouldn’t allow them any room for error.

    Now we have talk radio and Fox News and they are great counter weights to an overwhelmingly liberal media – but we’ve also lost something. Conservatives can live their entire political lives without having their basic assumptions challenged or sharpening their arguments against intelligent liberal interlocutors. This has made much of modern conservatism lazy and intellectually less dynamic than it was in the past.

  17. Matede
    Tom Meyer:LEVIN: Well I don’t know why your husband doesn’t put a gun to his temple. Get the hell out of here.

    Maybe, its because I’m a former New Yorker, or because I come from a loud Irish family but I like Mark Levin’s righteous anger. I know alot of people reject to the tone but I know where its coming from.

  18. Jamie Lockett
    I’m sure a lot of people will be persuaded to our side by his desire for their husbands to kill themselves.  Can’t you see how ugly this is? 
    Matede

    Tom Meyer:LEVIN: Well I don’t know why your husband doesn’t put a gun to his temple. Get the hell out of here.

    Maybe, its because I’m a former New Yorker, or because I come from a loud Irish family but I like Mark Levin’s righteous anger. I know alot of people reject to the tone but I know where its coming from. · 0 minutes ago

  19. Blue State Curmudgeon

    Talk radio serves a similar purpose as Ricochet; an outlet for discussion of conservative issues.  The great advantage of Ricochet is that I can participate in any discussion I want any time I want whereas in talk radio, the opportunity for participation is very, very small.

    I enjoy listening to Rush and Mark Levin but I don’t let them make my mind up for me.   

  20. Matede
    Jamie Lockett: Now we have talk radio and Fox News and they are great counter weights to an overwhelmingly liberal media – but we’ve also lost something. Conservatives can live their entire political lives without having their basic assumptions challenged or sharpening their arguments against intelligent liberal interlocutors. This has made much of modern conservatism lazy and intellectually less dynamic than it was in the past.

     Dennis Prager was asked about conservatives preaching to the choir. He responded to this by saying “yes but the choir doesn’t know the song” Basically, meaning that many conservatives can’t articulate their arguments and need to hone them in order to sway our liberal brethren. So sometimes hashing out the arguments with each other we can strengthen our message…………………………. Like here on Ricochet.