This year’s CPAC conference made it clear; Wisconsin Conservatives are leading the advance of the American Conservative movement in 2012. Governor Scott Walker, Congressman Paul Ryan, Senator Ron Johnson and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus—proud cheeseheads all— were showcase speakers at CPAC 2012 because they not only talk the talk but walk the walk of true blue Conservatism.
But Wisconsin is traditionally a blue state, “the birthplace of Progressivism,” home to “the People’s Republic of Madison,” and the legacy of Milwaukee’s “Sewer Socialists.” So how did this contingent of, thus far, exceptionally principled Conservatives come to the limelight, let alone win office? Because within southeast Wisconsin—the quadrant of the state from which Walker, Ryan, Johnson and Priebus all hail—there exists a grassroots phenomenon that, despite the Left’s relentless drive to demonize it and the local media’s best efforts to ignore it, has thrived and grown for more than two decades: Milwaukee Conservative talk radio.
Home to local power houses like Rush Limbaugh fill-in Mark Belling, nationally recognized author Charlie Sykes and others, the greater-Milwaukee area boasts one of the most vibrant local Conservative talk radio scenes in the country. Today, this scene has blossomed into a robust and multi-faceted alternative media information and action network. As a result, in the Conservative tsunami that was the 2010 elections, Wisconsin experienced the nation’s most comprehensive turnover in political power, with Democrats losing both houses of the state legislature, two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, a U.S. Senate seat and the governorship to Republicans—and not just Republicans but Conservative Republicans.
It is no coincidence that these Conservative Republicans were and are frequent topics and guests on Milwaukee Conservative talk radio programs. In fact, Ron Johnson himself has publically credited Milwaukee Conservative talk radio with not only inspiring him to run against Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold but with helping him to defeat Feingold.
Today, union leaders and Wisconsin Progressives are working frantically to undo the results of the 2010 elections through a union-funded drive to recall those Conservative Republicans. They justify the effort with clams that Walker “blindsided” them with his changes to collective bargaining privileges for state workers. Of course, had they but listened to Milwaukee Conservative talk radio, they would have known that the need for these changes has been the topic of conversation for years.
But they don’t listen. And no wonder; for years they have been telling themselves and everyone else that Milwaukee Conservative talk radio is little more than a forum for a fringe few who revel in hateful, racist misinformation doctored to reinforce their own extremist beliefs. And the Wisconsin mainstream media has been only too happy to advance this sentiment, featuring stories about local Conservative talkers when they get something wrong but rarely, if ever, when they break an important story or conduct an interview with a politician or policy analyst about issues crucial to local and national interests.
Alas, Milwaukee Conservative talk radio remains a secret. But November 2010 strongly suggests that a tipping point has been reached: more Wisconsinites know the secret than don’t, and well-informed, civically engaged, highly motivated Conservatives are now running circles around the state’s malignantly out-of-touch Progressive establishment.
Thus Wisconsin is today’s central front in the ideological war between the American Left and Right. Should Conservatives lose this front and Walker et al be recalled, the consequences will be profound. As Priebus declared at CPAC, “We have to win Wisconsin so that people of courage and conviction are not afraid to run for office. Victory in Wisconsin is victory for bold leadership across this country.” This is not hyperbole; and America needs bold leadership.
Continuing on that same theme, Walker concluded his CPAC speech with a request to the audience. “Our most powerful tool is the truth. I need everyone who is concerned about where our state and our country is going to help us spread that truth all across Wisconsin.” Walker knows of what he speaks. He has been making this same request of Conservative talk radio hosts and listeners in Wisconsin for years. They have obliged, obviously, to great effect, and will continue to do so, so long as he and others continue to provide the bold leadership Conservatives demand.
Why a documentary?
As a fan of Conservative talk radio, it has always baffled me that the genre was so meticulously ignored by any and all media other than itself. In 2009, as the full reality of the economic abyss beneath our feet became horrifically apparent locally and nationally, my bafflement gave way to astonishment. The debate was no longer academic. Debts, deficits, foreclosures and unemployment—the products of the fiscal imprudence Conservatives had long decried —were real crises affecting real lives: coworkers’, neighbors’, friends, my family’s, mine. In the eyes of a growing number of people, not to mention a swelling Wisconsin Tea Party and Conservative Internet community, the familiar claims of Conservative talkers and callers were being vindicated on a daily basis. And yet, the local intelligentsia seemed committed to maintaining its standard dismissal of the people and content of Conservative
Why, I wondered? Was it truly, as the critics claim, all just ignorance, misinformation, partisan nonsense and hate speech? Or was there something more sinister afoot: a crumbling Liberal establishment desperately trying to preserve its dominance in government, media, and education at the expense of open and informed public discourse?
With a public more politically engaged than it had been at any point in my lifetime, and a fierce election season just heating up, I realized that this was the optimum moment to exam these questions anew. “Somebody ought to make a documentary,” I thought. “Hey …why don’t I?”
-Brien Farley, Producer of Liberty or Lies?, plans to write MUCH more about the documentary here on CTRN. For now, however, feel free to watch it for yourself, here. To learn more about the project and view parts one through four of Brien’s long-from Liberty or Lies? series, go to www.libertyorlies.com.
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