Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Progress On-Air Only

When the campaign "season" began for the 2008 election... (Wait, was that really almost two years earlier, 20-some months before the actual voting?) Well, sometime around then I started listening regularly to "Lefty" Progressive radio--"Air America" and other independent stations--and wound up a fan of Seattle's AM 1090. Now I try to catch a little each day from three of the best "Progressive Talk" folk: Stephanie Miller, Thom Hartmann, and Ed Schultz. But don't imagine them as the jolly, one-for-all "Three Musketeers." I don't know what competitive issues exist, but you aren't likely to hear any one of the three offer praise or promotional support to the other two (though a listener might stumble on an AM 1090 station ad doing just that).

Aided instead by a couple of voice-talent/standup-comic guys, Stephanie Miller, for example, dispenses wild talk and weird humor in the early a.m. "drive-time" slot. Her mile-a-minute program takes some getting used to, but that off-the-wall outrageousness does often make cooking breakfast and driving to work more enjoyable--with pearls of Progressive-politics truth suddenly bobbing up amidst the swine troughs and fart jokes. Though Ms. Miller is a distant cousin of my wife Sandra--both of them raised in upstate New York; yes, we admit to some Batavia-to-Buffalo bias--a more intriguing fact is that she is the daughter of Congressman Bill Miller, who was Barry Goldwater's running mate back in the 1964 Presidential contest. Clearly this particular "nut" fell farther from the family-tree branch!

Thom Hartmann, in contrast, comes across as cocksure; well-spoken and outspoken; a determinedly-Left intellectual who seems to know something useful about almost every development in politics, social justice, economics, history, science, and world affairs. His guests tend to be quite serious, usually with their own agendas or books to promote, but Thom uses his steel-trap memory and razor-sharp debating skills to argue them into submission, or at least a draw--and occasionally to boost a visitor he actually agrees with. One of his few regular guests is U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent from Vermont, and one of the last great statesmen at work inside the damned Beltway. (I'd certainly vote Sanders for President... shoot, I'd even happily campaign for him.) Anyway, I'd say one listens to Hartmann to be enlightened rather than simply entertained, as he rails--convincingly--against a do-nothing Congress, "banksters," corporate schmucks, warmongers, tax-cuts for the wealthy, union-busting Republicans, and present-day American-system stupidity in general. As Tom exhorts us at sign-off time, "Democracy begins with you! Get out there... tag, you're it."

Ed Schultz sits somewhere between Cousin Stephanie and, er, Uncle Thom, a suitable spot for an ex-jock, ex-Midwest Conservative. Redhead Ed, "Big Eddie," saw the Liberal light a decade ago when a new love entered his life (wife Wendy is now his producer) and educated him to the downside of American society; and he's been a tireless Progressive convert ever since--an inspirational, "man of the people" spokesman. Schultz shows a hefty profile and cuts a broad swathe as the Left-spectrum counterweight to the man he calls "The Drugster," meaning Rush Limbaugh, voice of the Right Wing crazies. (In a nice irony the two men actually look and even sound a bit alike!) Ed holds to his Midwest roots, operating in part out of Fargo, North Dakota, and he's still a gun-toting hunter and sportsman; but nowadays he broadcasts from New York City and D.C. too, with a one-hour cable television program on MSNBC weekdays in addition to his three-hour radio shift. Schultz's populist proselytizing is focussed on public option/single payer Health Care Reform, union-backed jobs creation, Republican obstructionism, and cheap money now for small businesses rather than Wall Street.

One thing that unites all three radio hosts, willingly or not, and shakes the core foundation beliefs of many Left-leaning citizens these days, is this: what the hell has happened to President Obama's campaign promises for big changes, a new day in Washington and America? It's been almost a year, and he seems less and less an activist and more and more just another charming figurehead hemmed in by corporate power, Congressional resistance, well-funded lobbyists, and the damned military industrial complex. The talkers explore this daily, and Big Ed also recently brought a "town hall" version of his program to Seattle, which my wife and I attended hoping for enlightenment. Like all such events, we were alternately inspired and disenheartened and came away still confused. Is once-decent, hard-working, yes, even capitalist, America just doomed?

No answers here. But before the event I was so revved up that I designed a "Buffalo Nickel" t-shirt, which my older son Glenn produced in an edition of ten. Then I wrote a supporting political statement to flesh out the simple slogan on the shirt. (The statement is reproduced below; our shirt appears up top.)

Meanwhile, may we all find answers and new hope... and if anyone reading this wants a t-shirt, I have several left--proudly Left--that I'm offering at cost!


First the Great Depression, then Republican recessions... and now we're trapped in this Grim Regression, praying for a Progressive President to arise--an F.D.R. full of spirit, a leader burning with the fire of M.L.K. and the hardwood grit of L.B.J., active and involved rather than aloof and above the fray; a scrapper who'll kick ass rather than kiss it, who'll chop the neo-cons and con-man Re-Pubs and publicity-seeking blue-dogs off at the knees.

Over the past 30 years, Reaganomics and misbegotten, corporation-funded administrations have ruined manufacturing, devastated the unions, outsourced the nation, and decimated the middle class. And that's why we voted for real change, not nickel-and-diming!

It's time. No more pharmaceutical liars, and Goldman Sachs cheats, and "the best Congress money can buy." Down with banksters and Wall Streeters and free trade! Up with health care and fair wages and real jobs for real people!

Yes, we backed a brilliant orator who brought us this far, but now we need an arm-twister and do-er. We're liberals and Democrats and independents and Progressives, and we deserve--we DEMAND--a President who stands with us and for us!

LATE DEVELOPMENTS: Evidently I overstated the case regarding rivalry among the talk shows hosts. Ms. Miller has now moved to NYC, creating (as she is wont to say), her "BI... ((long pause)) Coastal show." The move also allows her to appear occasionally on the Ed Schultz TV program. Politics does make strange... er, bedfellows.

No comments: