Mention Ronald Reagan and most people immediately think of the conservative icon who was President of the United States during most of the ’80s. Add a “Jr.” to the end of that name and a whole different array of associations come to the fore.
Air America’s The Ron Reagan Show started off last September when he took over an hour of Rachel Maddow’s show as she made the move to MSNBC. That lasted four months before he started running three hours a day, Monday through Friday on Seattle’s KPTK-AM (1090). Air America has the show syndicated into more markets than any of their other progressive hosts.
I found a terrific interview with Mr. Reagan on The News Tribune recently. Ernest A. Jasmin talks to him about his father, radio, politics, and more. The entire piece is well worth your time, but right now I’d like to share his observations on talk radio and why it seems to be a predominantly conservative phenomenon:
You mention some of your counterparts on the right. For many people, right-leaning talk radio is still synonymous with political or talk radio in general. What needs to happen for progressive radio to gain the same sort of traction?
I don’t know that we really can get the same kind of traction as right wing radio – certainly not in the same way. I think a lot of conservatives need to be told what they already think. They need to just have their ideology reinforced constantly and repetitively over and over again. [...]
Liberals by and large – judging by my audience, anyway – tend to be more independent minded. I’ll get called on the carpet by callers coming from the left, coming from the right. And even people who agree with you, they’ll find something to disagree with you about in there somewhere. So we’re a much more contentious lot, I think. [Full Interview Here]
Reagan is known for taking a much less combative stance than most political talk show hosts. Tina Note, the show’s producer sums up the approach thus, “We are kind to our callers. We don’t hang up on people. We don’t bash them.” She describes Reagan’s show as more nuanced in its deconstruction of the political landscape, particularly his counterparts in right wing talk radio.
Reagan minces no words when talking about hosts like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, applying descriptors such as “ugly and dishonest” easily. Dissecting their on-air statements is a consistent theme of his show, a show that is steadily growing and attaining more reach.
Could we be seeing the rise of a major left wing voice in talk radio? Reagan’s name recognition alone gives him quite an edge, and it seems that his work on the air is solid enough to attract a steadily increasing stream of listeners.
We’ll check back on Mr. Reagan in a few months and see where things stand.