A kinder, gentler political climate?
Sat April 14, 2012 1:19 pm

Is something happening out there? Has a subtle shift occurred in political discourse? Dallas talk radio host Mark Davis is off the air, writes the Star-Telegram's Bud Kennedy.  Apparently, WBAP, the station on which he has appeared for the past eighteen years, has been bought by Cumulus Media. Redstate.com is waging a bring back Mark Davis campaign, but there are no new developments. Meanwhile, Time magazine writes that four corporate sponsors (Coca-Cola, Kraft, Imtuit, and McDonald's) have withdrawn their financial support for ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has played a huge role in disseminating conservative legislation,  most notably voter ID laws. Guess who is ALEC's biggest champion in Texas, and the immediate Past Chairman of ALEC's Board of Directors? Former speaker Tom Craddick. ALEC's role in drafting model laws on subjects near and dear to conservatives has had an major impact nationally in getting such laws adopted by state legislatures. ALEC is sort of a one-stop shopping site for these bills, which can be obtained off the rack, like ready-to-wear clothing.

From the Time article (no link available):

What may have seemed like an obscure bit of corporate priority shifting quickly became a hot button. By the end of last week, the news had made the front page of social-media hive mind Reddit, whose users enjoy earnest, libertarian-leaning encomiums to open government almost as much as they like posting cat pictures. “It is time for a call to action,” the post began. “ALEC has been exposed.”

The high-profile departures from ALEC were not set in motion nor fully explained by just a few days of public scrutiny. For the past four months, liberal advocacy groups, unions and activist investors have been reaching out to major corporations, asking them to further disclose their activity with ALEC or drop membership altogether. Things boiled over last week, but the underlying issues had been simmering for much longer.

ALEC, a tax-exempt group operating under the 501(c)3 section of the IRS code, bills itself as “a nonpartisan membership association for conservative state lawmakers” interested in “limited government, free markets, federalism and individual liberty.” It convenes policy task forces and drafts model bills that can be introduced in state legislatures nationwide. For a modest membership fee, conservative legislators gain access to the group’s resources. Think of ALEC’s prepackaged and prelawyered legislation as Swanson TV dinners: all you need is a majority vote to reheat it, and it’s ready to serve. The result: similarly flavored bills in statehouses across the country.

Among the proposals that emanated from ALEC is the stand-your-ground law that is at issue in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

Did Coke, Kraft, McDonald's, and Intuit have any idea that ALEC was pushing Voter I.D. legislation? I doubt it. They probably thought they were being good corporate citizens by supporting a nonprofit political enterprise.

Another indication that political discourse may have turned the corner is the backlash against Rush Limbaugh for his comments about Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke:

“So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. We want you post the videos online so we can all watch.”

Now Limbaugh faces competition from Mike Huckabee in his noon to 3 p.m. time slot, and sponsors are betting that listeners want to hear a different approach to talk radio. “Our tagline is, ‘More conversation, less confrontation’,” Huckabee told POLITICO. “I’m going to treat every guest with respect and civility. Nobody is going to come on and get into a shouting match with me. That’s just not my style.”

Kennedy's column quotes people in the industry about the future of talk radio. He writes:

But the sharpest jolt came Thursday with the news that WBAP/820 AM host Mark Davis is off the air in what he called a contract dispute. Note what his boss told Radio Ink magazine this week:

"I think people are fatigued" with talk radio, said John Dickey, co-chief operating officer of Atlanta-based Cumulus Media. It's no different than music-based stations. If you burn out a record, you are going to lose TSL [time spent listening]. If you burn out a subject and a perspective, you are going to lose TSL."

Dickey told Radio Ink that somebody like Huckabee won't "intimidate and shout at people" and will draw younger, female and minority listeners.

* * * *

This is a zeitgeist story, a window onto the spirit of the times. It's part of the war-on-w0men narrative, an indication that the radio industry is trying to broaden its appeal beyond the right, male side of the political spectrum. The moral is that nothing lasts forever, that last year's phenomenon is this year's flop. Mike Huckabee is about to send Rush Limbaugh into oblivion. The tea party seems like yesterday's news. Talk radio is becoming kinder, gentler. ALEC has been exposed. Few corporations will be eager to support an organization that has bent its efforts to support legislation that is designed to suppress the votes of hundreds of thousands of Americans, and stand-your-ground laws that bear the stain of Trayvon Martin's blood. What is happening is not a political movement. It has little to do with politics. It is a revolution of decency, of people coming forward to say enough is enough, we're tired of the overheated rhetoric, we're tired of the gridlock, we're tired of the incivility, we're tired of politicians who begin every press release with "I'm outraged." If this is indeed the political climate in which the 2012 elections will take place, my advice to candidates is, "Beware of negative campaigning."




 

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