The Editorial Page Editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette, Wayne Laugesen, caught my attention last month when he pointed out that talk radio is "viewed, right or wrong, as part of the GOP, a big part of the GOP."
This, he said, has hurt Republicans among Hispanics.
I asked Laugesen whether the damage caused by talk radio goes beyond Hispanics, to women or environmentalists, for example.
"I think a lot of good comes out of conservative talk radio," he told me "But it can be a double-edged sword. That which gets ratings is not always in the best interest of those trying to win elections. Trying to find a niche on the radio is different from trying to put together a coalition of voters to win an election."
I called Laugesen after listening to him on a talk radio show yesterday, where he had this exchange with radio host Jason Worley on KLZ's Grassroots Radio Colorado yesterday:
Jason Worley: Environmentalism is a religion today. If you compare it to Judaism, Catholicism, Christianity, Hinduism, it has the same tenets, the same ideas. The problem is, the people who follow it, don't have to actually ever suffer the effects of it. Go drop them off in Borneo in the middle of the rainforest with no mosquito protection repellent, no sunscreen...see how long they could last. They wouldn't.
Laugesen: Right. If they ever got their way. If they were ever successful at stopping all this progress they intend to stop, they'd be miserable.
Worley: Wayne, you and I share a lot of beliefs. We're right there on libertarian-leaning conservative beliefs.
Laugesen: Sure. I love progress. Almost 100 percent of the time, with some exceptions, when someone creates profit, which is really just the cost of capital, that person has improved the human condition. Because what are we willing to pay for? What makes us part with precious capital? An improvement to our lives. That's the only thing that makes us part with capital. Human beings are not intuitively into destroying their lives, or the environment that supports their lives.
Lots of people, like swing-voting soccer moms, consider themselves environmentalists.
Could this conversation possibly make them feel good about the GOP?
To be fair, there was a lot more to the KLZ radio segment, including Laugesen's audio of a group of anti-fracking protesters saying some silly stuff, but still, if you're the kind of person who feels warmly toward environmentalism, and you listened to this show, you could easily have felt personally attacked.
But that wasn't Laugesen's intention, he says.
In fact, throughout his radio appearance, Laugesen directed his critique at "radical" environmentalists, not all of them.
On the radio, here's how Laugesen described the radical environmentalists he was talking about:
Laugesen: Believe it or not, there is a lot of left wing activism in this town. We are a majority Republican, conservative town. But that doesn't mean that, you know, forty, 45 percent of the town isn't on the other side. And it's a big town. I mean, there's 600-plus thousand people in the metropolitan Colorado Springs area. So, several hundred thousand of those people are left of center. And of those several hundred thousand who are left of center, you know, a significant number are radical left-wing activists. So, you'll find that in any large city. These are the same activists you see who will protest any form of human progress you can think of. They will - you know, if somebody finds a way to feed famished children in Africa through a new agricultural practice, they're going to be there with - you know, they're going to be on the streets with signs telling us how this is a bad thing.
...the people who lack religion, who have no religious belief, they need something. They need a cause. They need something outside of themselves that seems like a good thing, to worship, to work toward. And I think that's what you -- you know, we joke, some of us on our side of the equation, jokingly use the term "tree huggers" "Tree worshipers." But I think there's a lot to that. I think that activists who -- their activism is directed against progress -- it is doing for them what religion has done for thousands of years for most people.
So those are he folks Laugesen is talking about. He says it's a "significant number," but why I'm skeptical. But anyway...
Laugesen told me he believes that rules and regulations are necessary, so he doesn't put profit above common-sense safety and environmental regulations. That's how I interpreted his statement above, but he straightened me out when I talked to him.
He also said he thinks "organized religion is far more legitimate than extreme environmental activism."
But if they happen to be listening to talk radio, do everyday environmentalists hear the distinction between the environmentalists conservatives support and the ones they hate? Or do they just feel attacked, like Hispanics?
Laugesen and I agreed that amplification overpowers details on talk radio.
"Dwelling on the nuances does not win the favor of dittoheads," he said.