NPR’s Talk of the Nation devoted a segment on Tuesday afternoon to the question “What Happened to the Political Left?” For answers, host Neal Conan brought on the leftist professor Michael Kazin and Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation magazine. It didn’t get hilarious until Kazin made the claim that nowhere in Flyover Country -- in Iowa or Nebraska, for example -- can you hear a left-winger on the radio.
Somehow they all forgot that NPR stations are taking our tax dollars and insuring these left-wing voices are on the radio, including Iowa Public Radio and Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (NET) Radio.
Somehow, the network motto isn't "NPR: Where Leftist Hosts Talk to Leftist Guests About Where All the Leftists Went." This is where the laugh track should begin:
MICHAEL KAZIN: But I think one of the things I stress in - both in my book "American Dreamers" and also in the article in the [New York] Times last Sunday, is the kind of institutions that people on the left need to build are institutions which really get out to what we call ordinary Americans, average Americans.
You know, I'm struck whenever I go to Iowa, Nebraska, that you turn on AM radio or even most FM radio, and you hear mostly evangelical stations, country stations and religious stations. I love country music, but, you know, you don't hear a left point of view there, and you don't have people who are, you know, left-wing activists who for the most part are really active in those areas.
NEAL CONAN: Air America was not a great success.
As he said these words, this leftist was being heard on hundreds of NPR stations in rural areas and small towns. Air America was not a great success in part because there was already a left-wing NPR station in many hundreds of cities. They had to raise capital. They couldn’t just tax the people and then smear some of the taxpayers footing the bill.
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There was also this hilarious exchange about how leftists don't spread a message to college students:
CONAN: I was interested in your piece, Michael Kazin, when you wrote that the more conservative colleges are presenting a more coherent narrative to their students.
KAZIN: Yeah, I'm not sure it's the job of universities or colleges to present a narrative to their students. You know, I teach at a fairly liberal Catholic college, Georgetown, and I don't feel like I want to organize my students to believe one certain thing or another, but it's clear that conservative Christian colleges especially believe in a certain point of view about the Bible, about morality generally, and also about politics.
Neal Conan set it up this way, which studiously avoided the question of the leftist president sitting in the White House and how he’s performed:
CONAN: The economy stinks. Unemployment hovers above nine percent, banks foreclose on more and more houses, the income gap continues to widen as the rich get richer, and too many in the middle class slip down the economic ladder.
People are frustrated and angry, and nearly all the political energy comes from the right. The other side mounted protests in Wisconsin earlier this year, civil disobedience at the White House over the XL Pipeline, and rallies continue on Wall Street, but there's a difference between protests and a movement. Conservatives have shifted the middle, and they dominate the dialogue. What happened to the left?
NPR should know better than to say conservatives dominate the dialogue. They certainly can’t get their "fair share" of air time on NPR.