This hasn't always been true, as the cycle of politics demonstrates. In recent decades, politics seems to have been governed by physics for every action, there's an opposite and equal reaction. William F. Buckley Jr. started The National Review in the 1950s to rebut what he saw as the dominance of liberalism in the academy and opinion journals like The Nation and The New Republic. From 1970-72, Public Citizen, Common Cause and the NRDC were all created in reaction to Nixon's depredations. Similarly, People For the American Way grew out of the rise of the Religious Right under Reagan in the mid-80s.
New progressive think tanks over the past 10 years, most recently and prominently the Center for American Progress, were created to counter AEI and Heritage. And of course, the Huffington Post and Air America were born in reaction to the electronic propaganda of Drudge and Limbaugh et. al.
Air America was a large, smart idea to counter the near-monopoly on talk radio by the far (f)right. But like most start-ups, the business plan collided with reality. Six CEOs over its first three years and various missteps and misspending sent it into Chapter 11.
It's now ready to go from The Perils of Pauline to The Little Engine that Could. How? First, by focusing on the radio fundamentals of making a strong line-up even stronger; second, by connecting to other major progressive organizations to be mutually fortifying; and third, by being a multi-media content company involving other information platforms mobile, video, broadband, blogs, websites. It's time to think outside the (radio) box.
The twin goals are to make it profitable and influential. One without the other won't work. If it's not a business, it'll go out of business.
But it'll be a business with a sharp point of view. The era of on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand liberalism is over -- or as Robert Frost once wrote, "a liberal man is too broad-minded to take his own side in a quarrel." For all those who worry about messianic misleaders governing on a right wing and a prayer, Air America 2.0 will be an answer. For all those fearful of plutocracy and theocracy, the pro-democracy hosts of AAR's programs are the answer. If the conservative media continue to spout propaganda and call it news, we are the alternative of truth, justice and the Air American way.
It's no longer enough just to hope that The New York Times will cover a rally or press release. The relatively new combination of The Huffington Post, Alternet, MoveOn, Center for American Progress and Campaign for America's Future, The Nation and The American Prospect, DailyKos and Talking Points Memo and so many labor unions means that Air America will be part of a larger progressive infrastructure heard by a widening audience. For if we can't now grow and prosper as Democrats -- given the 110th Congress, given the unmitigated disaster that's Iraq, given a slew of top-quality presidential aspirants -- when will we?
So Air America will aggressively cover national politics and policies in ways that will be informative, opinionated and entertaining. All three. We'll be full of news and views. Two views especially. First, America should stop attacking Muslim countries in ways that multiply terrorism. Second, instead of only talking about exporting democracy, Washington should begin practicing it here at home, for example by making sure elections aren't auctions, which means the public funding of public elections.
Speaking personally, my brother and I are excited by this important challenge and look forward to working with the Air America professionals in front of the mic and behind it who have held this dream together. Steve Green has been a very successful businessman accustomed to making money -- and he doesn't intend for AAR to be an exception. I've been an author, public interest lawyer and the NYC Public Advocate; for me this feels like a continuation of so much I've done for the progressive movement over three decades. Air America is like a public advocate for the country, exposing problems and offering solutions.
So we're both optimists in the spirit of Walt Whitman, who wrote that "America is always becoming." Well, Air America too is always becoming.
But that requires a conversation called democracy. In the spirit that dialogue beats monologue, I am today contacting the New Hampshire Republican Party and the New York Post editorial page. Since the Democratic Party of Nevada actually invited Fox News to host that state's Democratic debate, I asked if Air America could host the first Republican debate in New Hampshire, assuring them that we too can be fair and balanced.
And to Bob McManus, editorial page editor of The New York Post, I proposed that he come on Air America to discuss his views and that Air America commentators would in turn once-a-month write an op-ed on his pages, because it's better to exchange ideas than insults. His 720,000 readers should hear from us and our 2 million+ audience should hear from him.
We have many fresh ideas for programming, for technology, for partnerships with sister organizations. But it's this conversation called democracy that's the cornerstone of Air America 2.0. We intend to listen to our listeners; to increase our listeners ; and hope they will join our journey to a better network, better programming, and a better country. To tell them that it's your America, and your Air America.
Originally Released on The Huffington Post (March 6, 2007)