Maybe nothing better describes why I’ve been driven from the Democratic left to the center than what happens on public radio at dinner prep time on Saturday evenings.
For a couple of decades I loved chopping and simmering stuff while listening to A Prairie Home Companion. Garrison Keillor was an unabashed liberal Democrat, who often pulled no punches in his criticism of “the current occupant,” by which he meant Pres. George W. Bush. But, for the most part, especially in his early years he steered away from politics, at least overt political commentary. His humor was more generally aimed at the foibles of Midwesterners and, as one, I was glad to hear anything about me at all on NPR.
It’s true that, after awhile, he had overstayed his welcome. In his later years, he sounded to me like a guy who had become too big to have an editor. His monologues and his skits went on long past being funny or even having a point.
But he didn’t deserve the end he endured. Somebody accused him of a touch on the back, during a photo, that went on for too long. And, with that, his career was over. He was cancelled, literally, over night by public radio. PHC might have outlived its usefulness and, to his credit, by then he had finally moved on from it, but we were all deprived of his wonderful five-minute Writers’ Almanac spots because he was guilty of sexual harassment. He was. NPR and MPR had decreed it. An accusation equals a conviction. No trial necessary. That’s the new PC order. (I recently discovered that Keillor revived the Almanac on his website.)
I found Keillor’s replacement, Chris Thile, just flat out annoying. I don’t know what it is, but I cannot stand that guy. Much like many voters felt about me after eight years, I guess.
After years in the Saturday evening wilderness, I happened upon Mountain Stage, a nationally syndicated program out of West Virginia that runs from 5 to 7 PM on my very favorite radio station, WXPR -Rhinelander. (It’s a cross between WERN and WORT, but without the insufferableness.) Mountain Stage is like PHC without the skits or the monologue. Larry Gross is the host and he’s a wonderful minimalist. All he does is introduce the acts.
For a couple years I rejoiced. Once again I had background music for sipping a cocktail while I worked through a new recipe on a Saturday evening. And then Trump happened, and Mountain Stage followed the hard-left down a rathole. The program now can’t get through a half hour without some folkie preaching at me about social justice. I’m for it. But do I really have to hear about your victimhood while I’m trying to make dinner? Is there no solace? Can’t I just get a couple of hours when I’m not reminded about what a horrible oppressor I am just by virtue of being an old, straight, white guy? If you listen to public radio, the answer is ‘no.’
I’m reminded of this because, as I write this, I’m listening to “an archived edition” of Mountain Stage (archived editions are what they call reruns on NPR) from way back in February, 2003, the very month I surprised even myself by winning the primary for Madison mayor. Two decades ago the program was just about great music. It was wonderful. And there is not a single political message in any of it. Todd Rundgren was on the show. “Hello, it’s me…” Great song. No social justice message that I can discern, although maybe you’re so far gone that you can. If so, please do not contact me.
And that pretty much sums it up. I’m a 62-year old straight white guy (63 on Thursday), who has been a lifelong liberal and one-time avid public radio listener. Now, I tune it in until I can’t take it any more — usually about 20 minutes.
And that, folks, describes better than anything else I can think of why I still think of myself as a liberal Democrat, but so very much not in step with the current Democratic Party or with the world as described on public radio.
Welcome to the 360th consecutive day of posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!