Just returned from a family vacation to the Midwest (Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota), which might help explain the paucity of recent posts to this blog (I'm sure readers could have used the break as well). But it was during one of several driving legs of the journey that clues were uncovered to one of the great mysteries of American political life.
I have long wondered why the otherwise intelligent, prudent, disciplined, down to earth and thoroughly decent people of Minnesota -- people who would seem, in terms of fundamental outlook and inclination, to sit comfortably with small C conservatives on the political spectrum -- consistently elect liberal Democrats, ala Al Franken, Paul Wellstone and (of course) Hubert Humphrey, to high office. I've developed a few pet theories over the years, but none satisfactorily solved the mystery.
Then, while channel surfing in the rental car, as we meandered through rural stretches of eastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin, the answer came to me with a jolt, like a fat black "moosquito" hitting the windshield.
It's NPR. National Public Radio. The network that doesn't just bring you the homespun musings of Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion" radio show, but dishes up great spoonfuls of left-wing pabulum each day with "Morning Edition," "All Things Considered" and a host of other predictably left-of-center programming, which comes courtesy not just of "listeners like you," but of the taxpayers, too, since it is "publicly supported."
The airwaves out there are saturated with it, leaving locals with no where else to turn on the radio dial for balanced, politically-neutral, intellectually-honest news and analysis. At one point, while scanning for anything other than the fishing report or Casey Kassem's American Top 40 to listen to, I found that every third station I hit was broadcasting the same NPR show, in which the interviewer and a guest (an academic, of course) talked in the usual sonorous tones about the guilt we all feel, deep down inside, as participants in the dog-eat-dog free-market system.
In fact, looking back on my radio walkabout in that part of the country, I heard little else in the way of news or information, except for NPR. And this, according to my new theory (which I'll stick with until someone with more smarts comes up with something better), helps explain why otherwise sensible, salt-of-the-earth Midwesterners elect so many raving left-wing loons to high office.
Relentless, day-to-day exposure to NPR agitprop incrementally kills off the common sense they're born and raised with. Over time, it seeps into their pores and poisons the bloodstream, robbing them of the power to resist, to question, to debunk the distorted view of the world they get from listening to NPR. And this translates at the ballot box into votes for complete yahoos like Al Franken.
I was cruising the FM dial almost exclusively, it's true, and it's possible that the AM band was just as saturated with Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and other conservative commentators (not that I count these people as reliable sources of unbiased information, mind you). And it's not like there aren't TVs and PCs out there, which might provide Minnesotans with more balanced sources of information than NPR, if they sought it out.
But these points seem to poke holes in my premise, and I'm still not fully recovered from my "vacation," or thinking clearly, so let's set them aside for now and go with the theory we have.