Advice to Democratic pundits
: The NYTimes today sums up the Democrats’ media lament that they don’t have their own FoxNews or Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, and it reports on nascent efforts to start a liberal foundation a la Heritage; find liberal broadcast pundits; and maybe even start a cable channel.
1. Go to Roger Ailes at FoxNews and call his bluff about being the “fair and balanced” network by pushing him to try out an unabashed liberal on his air. I’d bet he’d do it because Ailes knows good TV; he knows entertainment and he knows that entertainment — whether politics or a love story or professional wrestling — needs two sides to succeed. This gives his stars a new opponent right on their air and vice versa. I don’t mean they should recreate the old CNN right-v.-left shoutouts; I mean they should create a new show and build up a new O’Reilly. It will only strengthen Fox (and O’Reilly).
2. If Ailes won’t do it, then you need to find your own political impressario. Go back and read Michael Wolff’s superb column on Ailes and you will realize that Fox started with the vision and visionary, Ailes, not with its on-air talent. Who is that person? Sadly, I don’t know. It is NOT any of the usual suspects from Hollywood (where liberal cliches are born). If you have trouble, call Ted Turner; he’s liberal now; he knows TV; he is surely frustrated being trapped in the company of fools at AOL; he’d be eager to help.
2. Find a liberal pundit who is telegenic, intelligent, entertaining, funny, self-assured, and outspoken but is not (like, alas, too many liberals) pompous, esoteric, dutiful, politically correct, cautious, droning, and dull (read: No Al Gore!). You want the smug self-confidence of an O’Reilley — not, for God’s sake, the oozing superiority of Phil Donahue. And you want someone new and fresh.
3. Look to weblogs for that very pundit. I’d start the search with Joshua Micah Marshall; after watching him at Yale not long ago, I’d say he fits the bill. There are others (perhaps Atrios would take off the mask for a camera). The advantage of searching among weblogs is that you can find out what the candidate has to say about most anything; you can decide whether he or she is quick afoot (as bloggers must be); you can see whether they know how to interact with the audience and take and give punches. Weblogs should be the farm team for TV punditry — and, of course, newspaper columnizing. (That’s why I’ve been playing with vlogging and that is what I think the relationship of vlogs to blogs will be, to answer Glenn’s question.)
4. Search your Democratic soul (and search hard for your liberal sense of humor) and build up the courage to create a new kind of liberal (or return to an old kind): Abandon political correctness with dispatch and disdain. Hold to your convictions without fear of offending even your fellow party members and especially your (dull) party leaders. This tiptoeing has made liberals boring and unresponsive (read Wolff’s column again and, if you feel like it, read my take on fun conservatives vs. dull liberals). And at the very same time that liberals beccame dull, media (thanks to a new generation in the audience and thanks to the audience having a voice in the Internet) have become blunt and direct — and entertaining. That is the gap you have to close: not the credibility gap, not the generation gap, not the gender gap but the entertainment gap. You have to be willing to say something!
5. Or just call me.