Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I Have a Wing to Pick With You

Ed. Ed. Ed, and some more Ed. Broom the vanity and ego aside to get to a vignette from MSNBC's The Ed Show. There, the former right-wing talker but a left-wing talker for the past 16 years, Ed (of course) Schultz did his usual short segment Ask Ed (of course) Live.

That evening, his tweeted query was why didn't more conservatives appear there. He answered simply and disdainfully that he asked them and would welcome them, but they didn't want to. He figured they figured doing so would not help them get elected.

While I nod to Occam's razor, I don't worship the idea that the simplest explanation according to the known facts settles everything. I muse on why so few Republicans and other self-identified conservatives will talk with me at the weekly Left Ahead show.

It's been running for seven years. From the beginning, some weeks the founders — Lynne Lupien, Ryan Adams and I (Mike Ball) — sometimes like to cover topics ourselves. We'll all highly opinionated. About every other week, there's a guest.

Lynne long ago dropped out, pleading business busyness. I generally arrange and book most guests. A few contact me, but typically I call, email or meet potential guests. Often it's a deal to dicker on a day and time, even though we long ago picked a default that works for many, Tuesday at 2:30 PM. Few pols in particularly are solidly committed then.

We also make it pretty painless. We use BlogTalkRadio, so guests don't have to travel or give us an office space to record the show. For what used to be an hour and is now a half hour, they just call in and I manage the connections by computer and the tubes.

Moreover, we're probably too nice. We don't book multiple guests, don't bring on tit-for-tat adversaries to sensationalize or conflict. We don't try to trick anyone or spring accusations. We like to get to the big ideas and help the guest develop them on air. A few listeners used to on-line bullies on winger radio, or the Bill O'Reilly and Chris Matthews shouters are disappointed that we don't badger guests.

Are Wingers Gutless?

Scan the Left Ahead archives to notice a few things. First, the topics and guests are mostly politics and politicians. Second, many big ideas are subjects. Third, many of the guests are hotshots and big shots — a current or former governor, a state or U.S. Senator, and many office seekers. Fourth, there are damned few conservatives.

That latter is not from my want of effort. Some smart, fun and provocative ones included the very conservative MA pol Karyn Polito and the now late economics and transit guru William Lind. My politics differed markedly from those two's. Yet I think we brought out good stuff. Lind in particular could not have been farther from my political views, all except for transit-oriented development and mass transit. We had met at the Rail-Volution 2009 conference in Boston and bonded over our overlaps.

In many ways, Polito was the outlier for me. She spoke with me, took my card, checked the site and said, sure, she'd talk with us in her run for MA Treasurer/Receiver General. That was not at all hard, but she is quite the exception.

Virtually all the other right-leaning potential guests I meet or contact seem terrified or at least disinterested. So, I ask myself, are they cowards or is it like Schultz said, that they don't see the upside?

This has been happening again in this election cycle, which includes MA Governor. Scan the archives again and see every gubernatorial candidate, except the presumptive GOP nominee, Charlie Baker. That includes all five Dems, the several independents or political affiliation candidates and and the other Republican, self-defined full-MA-GOP platform, Tea Party candidate Mark Fisher.

I can't quite figure out whether :

  • Baker has no guts
  • His campaign staff has no guts
  • His staff's cost/benefit analysis doesn't see the ROI on an internet radio show
  • He or his staff thinks he's too important to be bothered

Bad Manners

Having spent much of my childhood in more genteel parts of the country, I can still be surprised by the poor breeding of Bostonians and New Englanders. For example, when they do not return phone calls or emails, I have to wonder, who are their people? Were they raised by wolverines?

Baker's camp has been the worst, in both of his staggers toward the governorship. I have gotten fewer than one response to multiple voice and email requests to Baker and his campaign manager,

You can amuse yourself by calling the Baker campaign number, (617) 254-2014.There's no human and no option to speak to one...ever. You can dump your request into a voice box or punch in by last name. The communications director, Tim Buckley, does not communicate and is not even in the directory. The campaign manager, Jim Conroy, does not communicate but is in the directory. There's a slush email box, info@charliebaker2014.com and the other's is conroy@charliebaker2014.com.

Conroy has ignored 11 voice or email requests. Because Buckley hides from ordinary mortals, the closest I could get was Facebook and requests through that info box, where he ignored an FB friend request and two direct messages.

Again,who are their people? Didn't they have mothers or someone to act like a mother?

The gormless Baker-camp non-reactions are particularly noteworthy and amusing in light of Fisher's prompt and warm response. He and I could hardly differ more politically, but we had a good chat. Moreover, he clearly was raised well.

Fear of Lefties

A previous failure of booking seems to blend all the possible causes. I had Jennifer Nassour in hand, only to lose her. She chaired the MA GOP from Jan. 2009 through Sep. 2011.

I spoke with her at two political Rappaport presentations at Suffolk Law, in early 2009 and early 2011. At both, she pressed her card into my hand and told me how much she wanted to be a Left Ahead guest. She punked on both.

Most telling here is her mortal sin, in GOP eyes. She was candid.

In the April 1 (yes, that day), 2009 issue of Bay Windows, she spoke about the new Republican party here, particularly how they wouldn't be guilt tripping on marriage equality, gay rights and abortion. Honk. Wrong.

She got months of pitchfork poking from the most conservative party members and the nasty MassResistance guy, Brian Camenker pretending to be a real movement. The gist seems to be not only should she not have said the party would stop its hateful rhetoric to bring in unenrolled and socially liberal GOP voters, but she should never have even spoken with LGBT-friendly media.

Since her time, the newest MA GOP chair, Kirsten Hughes, won't respond to repeated contacts.

Well,our show hides nothing. It's there in the Left Ahead name. We're reasonable and nice but we don't pretend to be anything else.

I've lost count of the potential guests who have heard the name on a phone line or seen my card and stopped dead. "Left...Ahead...are you left wing?" is the typical shocked question.

Nothing that progressives and liberals speak with anyone, and that we are antithetical to right-wing talk radio's bullying tactics doesn't cut it. Far too many conservatives seem terrified at speaking with "left" anything. Pathetic.

Lefty Anomaly

To smooth the edges and risk being simple-mindedly even handed, I'll admit that there's one left winger's crew who is afraid of me.

Following the initial show with Elizabeth Warren, her handlers seem winger gutless. They won't return my calls or emails either. Once burned, 1000 times shy.

I was blessed or cursed with being early to the Warren extravaganza, in Oct. 2011, right after she announced for US Senate, she spoke with us. It was genial, particularly as she and I are the same age, and both born in OK.

We had a jolly time, including an exchange in which I noted that with my OK/WV background, I have heard repeatedlyfrom the provincials in Boston that I am a hick. Moreover, the local wingers had railed against her as a 17-year Harvard professor, a.k.a an elitist. She laughed, saying she was new class, an elite hick. She said something about going for the hick vote. We laughed.

Well, the plug nasties were loaded for her, just waiting. Our show was just the first Warren-hunting expedition.

The next morning, I got a call and email from her communications guy, asking if I knew of the s**t storm. Turns out, the forces of evil had tried to run with that innocuous bit of humor. Suddenly everyone from FoxNews to winger talk radio and even the likes of ABC TV and the NYTimes portrayed her as ridiculing rural America.

Of course, she didn't say anything like that. However, the imps had been lying in wait for something they could use.

In our show, she said maybe there should be a group hicks for Elizabeth. Again we laughed. I actually made some buttons (reproduced here). My wife and I, from hick backgrounds, wore them. People asked for them and I produced more. I showed her one at Boston Mayor Tom Menino's block party the next July She alleged to love it. I sent her one, but given the crap she got for moments of humor, she most assuredly tossed it.

At that party, one of her staffers, a ziftig woman actually pushed me. She muttered something about how I'd better not try to pull any tricks and insinuated that I and not the forces of right-wing evil has caused the early dust-up.


The sad aspect is that Warren's people have not responded to several show requests since. I'll try again, likely by being at one of her public events and squirreling up with her. After all, she adores my yellow glasses.

Of course the hick-vote fad disappeared months later, to be replaced by the Native-American one. Those gunning for Warren picked up her listing herself in a faculty directory as having Cherokee roots. They manufactured a fantasy that she had only gotten jobs at Pennsylvania and Harvard as a result. They morphed that with calls for her to release every academic job application she has ever made, much in the mode of birthers demanding President Barack Obama's short-form, then long-form birth certificate, and subsequently his college applications and transcripts. Pathetic. As with the President, the crazies won't let go of their silly slanders.

Common Senselessness

So there it is, kiddies. There are many variations on guest-interview shows. You might:

  • Be typical right-wing radio, badgering lefty guests and licking the hands of your own type
  • Play grade-school magazine, bringing on a balance of left and right wingers for mush
  • Let the guest shine, like Dave Leno or, dare I write, Left Ahead

There are others, but we are definitely in the latter category. So I still have to wonder why so many conservative sorts fear us.

Over the years, many right wingers have passed on coming on Left Ahead. Granted, we do not have prime-time TV or even cable reach. A small show for us gets hundreds of listeners and a big one 10,000. Those are far more than a pol talks to in a typical stump speech, plus anyone who listens live or clicks the archive play is committing to half an hour of dedicated ear time. If I were a candidate for any office, I'd chat with as many shows as would have me.

I note that the progressive and liberal pols have no problem going on hostile right-wing shows. Yet it seems rare that Republicans and self-described conservative types mirror that. Maybe I shouldn't advise them, but righties would be smart to go on pinko shows.


Patrick said...

Have you tried to get Rob Eno from RedMassGroup as a guest?

massmarrier said...

Eno, no.

I do read RedMassGroup fairly regularly. He has a big platform with his posts, his appearances as right-wing rep on TV shows and his fill-in spots for talk radio.

I don't see him as pol or policy maker.