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Democratic Voices

March 1, 2003

Selling Democratic Talk Radio to Republicans!

I ought to sell Democratic Talk Radio to the Republican National Committee or Rush Limbaugh! How did I reach this surprising conclusion?

Democratic Talk Radio started the night that a partisan Republican majority on the U.S. Supreme Court short-circuited our democratic election process with their Bush vs. Gore ruling and installed George W. Bush in the White House. My co-host, Al Lawrence was watching this outrage on CNN with me that fateful evening. We were both angry at this injustice and genuinely frightened for the future of American democracy. We still are!

Al Lawrence was and still is currently Program Director at a small AM radio station in our hometown of Fayetteville, Tennessee. We both thought the Republicans had conditioned American public opinion with corporate spin in news coverage and created a real emotional hatred of traditional American values with their dominance of talk radio. I am conservative but very anti-Corporate. Al Lawrence is now a more traditional liberal Democrat although he was once a Reagan Republican. We both wanted to fight back and restore a healthy American democracy not totally controlled by Wall Street and Big Oil. I wrote a check for a paid one hour weekly program that night. Democratic Talk Radio was born. It was a small beginning but we were sure Democrats everywhere would rally to the cause. The need was obvious and nobody else seemed willing.

After 27 months, we have spent tens of thousands of hours and just as much personal cash trying to create a viable, policy-based, easy to understand, educational and interesting alternative to Rush Limbaugh, Neal Boortz, Michael Savage, G. Gordon Liddy, Sean Hannity and the other radio stormtroopers of the Republican Right Wing. We have created the right kind of program without the help of the Democratic Party national leadership.

We have become experts on policy issues and on the impact of talk radio on American politics. Republican Right Wing talk radio is the single most important mechanism used by Corporate America to take control of the American government. It has set the political agenda in many ways and brainwashed millions of Americans into voting against their own economic interests. It has been used effectively to destroy all the traditional checks and balances in our national media like anti-monopoly, fairness doctrine and equal time regulations. This unelected Bush Administration has been using Michael Powell’s position at the Federal Communications Commission to guarantee that only Corporate (read Republican) views will be effectively presented in our national media.

Democratic activists from all over the nation have seen the danger to an informed citizenry of Fox News and Right Wing talk radio. Some have seen the more subtle bias in the Corporate news channels that are falsely smeared by the Republican Far Right as liberal. There is no liberal broadcast media and almost no liberal daily newspapers in any major American cities. In fact, there are no real anti-Corporate or non-Corporate conservative media voices. We only get moderate Corporate, conservative Corporate and far right Corporate viewpoints from our major media outlets.

We need a truly free press for our democracy to remain healthy. We instead have become like Greg Palast pointed out in the title of his latest book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.

Where has the Democratic Party been in this battle of viewpoints and ideas? It has been MIA (missing in action).

Talk radio shows like ours exist at the grassroots level all over America. Most are funded by individuals who buy their own air time. Others are restricted only to internet sites because of a lack of funding. The Democratic Party leadership bemoans the lack of Democratic-oriented talk shows but starves these grassroots efforts of all the resources they need to survive. Large Democratic donors do not help fund the programs so they can grow and prosper. Democratic businesspeople do not advertise. Democratic officeholders do not help promote or fund the programs. Often Democratic officeholders do not even make themselves readily available as guests. Senator Daschle’s office cancelled a half dozen scheduled appearances on Democratic Talk Radio.

Our program solicited donations in letters to every elected Democrat in the US Senate, Congress and state legislatures in Maryland and Tennessee. We did the same with almost every Democratic County Chair and included Nevada. We solicited every Democratic Governor and the leaders of a national railroad union. We received only one donation of $50.

It would be less disturbing if this kind of experience was limited only to Democratic Talk Radio. This lack of support has been experienced by talk radio shows from coast to coast. Many Democratic shows have already been starved to death. Many others are on life support!

Meria Heller has a booming Internet show that has largely been ignored by the Democratic Party. Randi Rhoads has a hugely popular show on a Clear Channel station in south Florida. Why has the Democratic Party failed to exert pressure on Clear Channel to take her into syndication? Andy Johnson in north Florida has to pay for his own air time.

Mike Malloy and Peter Werbe both have hard-hitting nationally syndicated shows on the ieAmerica radio network. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party has been to timid to get behind these hosts the way the Republicans have for Rush, Hannity and Liddy.

Joe Jackson has a great show in the conservative Salt Lake City, Utah market. A former Democratic Congressman is taking it to the Republicans in Kentucky. State Senator John Unger is doing the same in West Virginia. Score of other shows are listed at

The leadership of the Democratic Party talks about creating voices that already exist. These hosts are experienced and have finely honed messages. They know how to get listeners when they can get air time. We do not need to recruit retired politicians who are not experienced in talk radio. These politicians are far too diplomatic and prone to excessive caution to effectively answer the angry tongues of the Republican Right Wing.

For Democrats to gain listeners and win elections, we need to back our experienced grassroots talk radio programs. We need to hear working class and middle class voices speaking out for our interests. We need to reconnect with our working class and middle class roots. We need to return to the collective action approaches of the labor unions and the civil rights movement that helped so much in making the Democratic Party great.

As long as the leaders of the Democratic Party fail to realize that we are a Party and not just a vehicle to elect a few chosen candidates to a few offices, we will be a Party that is both lost and losers. I fail to see why I should be writing huge checks I cannot afford as a working class guy to support a lost Party with a losing approach.

If the leadership of my Party will not support grassroots Democratic Talk Radio, I might as well sell , and to Corporate American interests like the Republican Party or Rush Limbaugh. We cannot change the political landscape without the help of the Democratic Party leadership but could turn a quick buck.

Stephen Crockett
Al Lawrence
Co-hosts: “Current Affair” News Talk Program
WEKR 1240 am radio
(931) 433-3545

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