The Los Angeles Times on Monday reports that conservative talk radio in California is steadily losing audience and advertising revenue.
Reporter Michael Finnegan offers some disturbing anecdotal evidence about the slow, inexorable slide of conservative talk radio in the Golden State. Some big name hosts that were at the top of their game five or six years ago are out of work, like Larry Elder in L.A., or stuck in lame time-slots, like Eric Hogue in Sacramento. Well, maybe this is a trend or maybe not.
I'll leave others to pick apart what Melanie Morgan's pay cut means. But I do know that Finnegan makes an enormous error describing KFI's John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou as "conservative." The L.A. afternoon drive team are not conservatives, nor are they Republicans. They are rabble-rousing "independent" populists who know a good ratings opportunity when they see it.
It's funny how political independents almost always end up supporting liberal ends. It's even funnier to watch as disillusioned Republicans eagerly join the frenzy. John and Ken undoubtedly struck a nerve with their listeners. Some 15,000 people turned out at KFI's "Heads on a Stick" rally in Fullerton a couple of weeks ago. I listened on the radio as erstwhile Arnold Schwarzenegger fans gleefully smashed "Total Recall" DVDs with sledgehammers. My friend Bill Goodwin at FreedomPolitics captured the festivities on video.
But John and Ken's crusade to oust Republican state legislators who voted to place Proposition 1A on the May special election ballot is an eccentric exercise in political retribution. Prop. 1A is ostensibly a spending cap measure, but it's really a tax increase extension that would only slow the growth of spending, not cap or reduce outlays in any meaningful way. It's a bad measure, and I hope it loses. I hope a few Republicans get walloped at the polls for good measure, too.
But the radio hosts' own rationale for seeking to punish Republicans over Democrats -- who are, after all, the majority party in the state legislature -- is arguable at best. Republicans are especially deserving of voters' wrath, John and Ken say, because they pledged to hold the line on taxes and didn't. Instead, the feckless GOP caucus concocted a way to deliver the votes to pass a $13 billion tax increase while covering the political backsides of the members who voted in favor of the budget and then the ballot measure. They've played to death the audio of Assemblyman Anthony Adams, a High Desert Republican, essentially admitting as much. They've also singled out Assemblyman Jeff Miller, R-Corona, for his support of Prop. 1A and recently issued a "fatwa" against the freshman Republican.
Adams, Miller and their state Senate colleague, Abel Maldonado, are first-rate hacks and deserve everything they get. But it's worth pointing out that John and Ken are doing nothing at all to undermine the strength and credibility of the Democrats who pushed the $145 billion budget most zealously. They are not rallying their more than 600,000 L.A. listeners (see comments) to tell Democratic leaders "enough is enough" for pushing deeply regressive tax hikes in the middle of a recession.
It could be that John and Ken seek to elect two-thirds majorities in both houses of the legislature, which would eliminate any need for Republican votes to pass the budget or raise taxes. In doing so, the Democrats would no longer be able to blame Republican "obstructionism" for the ill-effects of policies that have led to a mass-exodus of California's middle class.
That could be, but I doubt that John and Ken have thought about it in those terms -- if at all. They happen to be right about the fecklessness of the California GOP, the cravenness of the Democrats, and the utter idiocy of Arnold Schwarzenegger. But that doesn't make them conservative. It just makes them shrewd.