Fantastic interview! Really excellent. Its so nice to hear adults talking instead of childlike screaming about politics. Its no secret that I admire Charlie. This interview sums up why.
Great interview, Charlie, enjoyed it! But we've got to look beyond Trump-whoever-Biden and put more emphasis on the extreme threat posed by what the Republican party as a whole has become. It's not just Trump, it's not just the presidency and it's not just Trumpism. From top to bottom it is now the MAGA Liar Autocracy Party either with Trump or without Trump. It has nothing to do with public service and everything to do with public domination, cutting taxes on those at the top, cutting benefits for those at the bottom, cutting public services, and cutting those burdensome government regulations that protect the public.
They're following the playbook of the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda and Viktor Orban's 12-Point Recipe for Christian Conservative Success - “The first point is that we must play by our own rules. ... The fourth point is that we must have the media because we can only show the insanity of the progressive Left if we have the media to help us.”
[Sidenote: why is CPAC Hungary even a thing? This year's scheduled speakers included Mark Meadows, Kari Lake, Paul Gosar, Rick Santorum and Kevin Roberts (president of Heritage Foundation).]
The Republican party has been taken over at national, state and local levels by MAGA extremists who have left the old rules of spin in the dust as they find that they can get away with engaging in a no-holds-barred campaign of hate, lies, demonization, fraud, intimidation, threats and violence, along with their right wing ecosystem of strategists, think tanks, PR firms, media outlets, influencers, networkers, grassroots organizers, white supremacists, militias, Christian Dominionists, and so on as they coordinate and fight together in waging their outright war against the evil dems, libs, rinos and the administrative state. The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy is alive and well and operating quite successfully thank you. And their base loves it.
Having gotten a clearer taste of what they're doing and a clearer view of what they're planning, America needs to stand up against their campaign of hate, lies and public endangerment, vote them out and keep them out. From the school boards to the White House.
This interview felt like a couples therapy session, when the therapist asks each party to reminisce why they fell in love. I actually cannot recall how I found the Bulwark podcast; my first listen, the guest was a female former homeland security deputy who quit over the policy of child separations at the border. It was the first podcast I ever subscribed to. And then I became a full paid subscriber to The Bulwark. But I definitely remember the feeling, of hearing a sensible voice in the wilderness. Something that penetrated my despair with a little light. Someone threw me a lifeline.
I’ve never identified as conservative. But hearing a moral conservative voice during the vile, amoral Trump presidency was a profound rescue for me.
Thanks, Charlie and Everyone, including the whole community.
I often watch “Firing Line” Charlie and saw the show the other evening. I thought that was one of the best conversations I have seen Margaret Hoover conduct, and I was wishing it was an hour long show.
This is an interesting set of insights on Charlie's experiences with talk radio in conservative circles generally and Milwaukee/Wisconsin specifically, and I'm glad to hear him explain his feelings and beliefs in depth. But I'm also disturbed, as an informed local observer, by the amount of cognitive dissonance and situational relativism that occurs and that, upon a deeper dive, some important inconsistencies are evident. What is left unsaid in some ways is just as important as what is stated.
The discussion is grounded in the changes in conservatism and ostensibly also the pathway of the GOP since Trump and 2016. But that discourse also pretends that what happened beforehand can or should be dismissed as "nothing to see here" with little to no accountability being in order. I disagree. Vehemently so. It's not like Trump showed up on a magic carpet (or escalator) and everything suddenly changed. No, the ground was fertilized before that, and the tribalism was ongoing earlier, which in turn opened the door to Trump's excesses quite wide. Witness Wisconsin. Charlie (and others) made no bones about carrying water for Scott Walker, Robin Vos, and the Fitzgerald brothers as they remade Wisconsin virtually overnight in their own image, gerrymandering the state into safe minority majorities and ensuring legislative dominance for potentially decades to come. As Charlie served as a cheerleader for the movement I did not hear him or others like him question the legitimacy of that. They did not question or see or portray Act 10 as the ham-handed overreach that it was, unilaterally overturning fairly negotiated agreements and at the beginning of Walker's first term, when he and they did not run on doing so in the first place-- for them it was a happily unexpected consequence of literally the entire state government flipping to red overnight in a wave election. Quite the opposite -- talk radio gave cover, comfort, and a forum to the people who did much to willfully undo representative give-and-take democracy in the state, and under the worst of premises: divide and conquer.
And then there was Ron Johnson. Yes, Charlie has distanced himself from Johnson in the interim and called him out for his excesses. Fine. But that doesn't allow for pretending that he did not give him both a forum and a microphone for an extended period, under the premise that it all changed with MAGA and Trump. No. It changed before that. The tribalism. The demonization and the hyperpartisan segmentation of our political culture. And the needless antagonism toward others whose bigger picture goals were the same but were defined, negatively, by the different pathway that they chose to try to get there. From where I sit Charlie cannot in good conscience hold Rush Limbaugh accountable for making it about ratings and $$$, with the negative impact that the cumulative message had on democracy, without holding himself to the same standard when the results were often the same. Limbaugh was a self-serving schmuck but Charlie was just doing his job? No sale. One was more bombastic than the other, but in the end each of them both serviced and encouraged the same clientele, and to similarly dubious ends. Both are accountable, not just the outsized one in the room.
All that right wing pandering and enabling was not new under Donald Trump. It just took steroids on his watch and grew openly into the monster that it was becoming under cover already. Even if on a local rather than national level, Charlie and others like him laid much of the groundwork for what came later. We're still waiting for his acknowledgement of his culpability instead of passing the buck off onto MAGA and implying that he/they played no real role in setting the table and laying out the welcome mat, years earlier and even going back into the 1990s. Sorry, not sorry, Charlie, that the teacher in me is obliged to give you a grade of Incomplete, at best, here for your selective history and lack of taking accountability for personal services rendered. The political observer in me in turn calls bullshit on the argument that it was someone else's fault and that he was just rolling with the times and trends in going from WTMJ to The Bulwark. That dog ain't gonna hunt if we look at the whole picture instead of just the one that fits the desired narrative.
Thank you for this thoughtful conversation. I agree with many of your points. I cannot tell you how much I have appreciated your and Mr. Last's posts these past couple of years. They encourage me that there are still islands of sanity to be found where people can converse civilly and rationally about issues of deep personal and national import.
I am stunned by this information. There is no escape from Mr. Sykes truth. The late Mr. Limbaugh's remarks to Wm. Buckley have struck me with the same force as the 'excuse' given by FOX executives for continuing to run libelous "information" because their "ratings" were dropping when they broadcast the truth. This must be repeated and talked about over and over. No matter how "boring" it is to the public. How ironic that one of these "Varmints" has a social media system named Truth.........
I am almost 80 years old and have never missed a presidential election. Looking back on my voting record I can honestly say that I am only proud of three votes I made for president. One for Barack Obama and two against Donald Trump. I guess if I can change there is hope for everyone. Keep up the great work.
Your points about Limbaugh brought back memories of my cousin, Ted, a self-professed born-again Christian and devoted Limbaugh fan.
In pointing out Limbaugh's unJesus screeds against the poor, minorities, and disenfranchised, Ted couldn't get his mind around that reality.
He pre-dated MAGA by 20 years along with many of the cult over the age of 50. Ted read and listened to fringe right-wing media.
Limbaugh and Trump hit gold with championing the victimization of white male Americans, decrying those responsible for the demise.
They fired-up the anger that they not only had to compete with more educated, talented, and driven white males, but also against similar white females, as well as Black and Hispanic males and females.
As well as all those immigrants coming to steal jobs and suck up welfare checks. [But don't let that contradiction get in the way of some good old victimization.]
Being told on Sundays by their Old Testament Christian pastors that homosexuals are devils was further seasoning for the stew of that victimization.
It was no wonder that Trump would so readily debauch the Medal of Freedom by giving it to a bigoted, misogynistic, drug-abusing, aChristian huckster just like himself.
The GOP knows that the only escape from MAGA is to blow themselves up and start all over again, which means many years in the wilderness; they are wholly unable to bring themselves to do so. "Party over Country" should be their motto.
I never liked Limbaugh, intuitively, from the get-go but I also never could have perceived the utter ruin that this type of "entertainment" would lead the GOP to.
"they know they’re being lied to and they don’t care. "
That really does sum it up. The pissed off far right white American male with an AK47 is pissed off at their lot in life and Trump feeds on the carcass. What Limbaugh says about the ratings is what Trump does. You hear him say "But the ratings were great" and that is the guts of policy. For Trump to win the ratings game every day he has to come up with more and more lies to keep people tuned in and he's really good at that. Quality is irrelevant, quantity is King and the media just keeps falling for it everywhere you look.
Summing up again " What they want is to win the day, no more. I mean if the immigration issue is such a big deal , how come Trump's building the wall hasn't stopped the masses at the border? It was never intended to, but it sounded really good as a slogan. He couldn't really do "Lock her Up" either, not that he wouldn't if he had another term.
Keep it coming Charlie!
Dear Mr. Sykes,
A particularly thoughtful discussion you provided. Do it again.
I didn't know Firing Line still existed. Boring of course compared to Bannon, Tucker, Hannity, et al, and truthful, so Rs will ignore it.
Even if that poll is a outlier its still going to be close. And that is a shameful indictment of the voters and our country. You can't win the presidency with just your voters. The democrats should be able to run " Bernie" from " Weekend at Bernies" and still win handily that's how bad Trump and DeSantis is. Smh..
Excellent! I’m so impressed! I didn’t realize I was STARVING for quality journalism. Thank you for reinforcing reality. I do have times where I feel I’m in an alternate universe; SCOTUS is my trigger.