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Why So Little Progressive Radio?

We go radio gaga as Ralph welcomes iconic progressive radio host, Thom Hartmann, back to the program to discuss what it will take to hear more progressive voices on talk radio to counter the overwhelming influence of right-wing radio.

Thom Hartmann is one of America’s most popular progressive talk radio hosts, a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute, and the author of more than thirty books, including The Hidden History of Monopolies and The Hidden History of American Oligarchy. His show is carried on Pacifica radio Monday through Friday, and he recently published an article entitled “Talk Radio: Democrats Can’t Win if They Don’t Play”.

“Even the most skeptical perspective would indicate that right-wing talk radio has put Republicans in the White House at least since Ronald Reagan. And had there been an equal presence in left-wing talk radio, I don’t think Bush or Trump ever would have made it to the White House.”

Thom Hartmann, author of The Hidden History of American Oligarchy

“For a right-wing or a left-wing talk show host, who is talking one on one to their audience three hours a day, five days a week, for years… you build a relationship that is a relationship of trust. And what comes out of that is that when you endorse a particular point of view or a particular candidate, it’s enormously powerful.”

Thom Hartmann, author of The Hidden History of American Oligarchy

“We own [the public airwaves]. We’re the landlords. The radio and the TV stations are the tenants. They pay us no rent, they get the use free 24/7 compliments of Congress and the Federal Communications Commission. And they decide who says what and who doesn’t on our public airwaves.”

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader Radio Hour Ep 363 Transcript (Right click to download)


  1. Don Harris says:

    Waiting for millionaires /billionaires to buy up media to benefit ordinary citizens will only result in more waiting.

    Why don’t you, Thom Hartmann and some others set up a non-profit corporation to buy up and/or start media (radio, TV, newspapers) and create a media conglomerate that provides real news.

    Shares would be sold for 100 dollars each. They could only be owned by American citizens and no citizen could own more than ten shares. The shares could only be sold for 100 dollars as the purpose of owning the shares is to control the media and not to make money off the price of the stock.

    Just 10% of the 150 million 2020 voters investing just 100 dollars would total 1.5 billion dollars to get this going and could be just the tip of the iceberg on how much could be raised.

    There could be local control in many cases and several teams of reporters working for the national organization that could be dispatched to help the local stations/newspapers when needed.

    We could call it Patriotic Peons Unlimited.

    How to fund it has been provided.

    Now it is up to you to found it..

  2. Don klepack says:

    Listened to Air America back in the day and I do feel that Radio did help Obama win and probable helped Trump win by giving the votes necessary in the swing States (Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio). I still don’t understand how a great talent like Thom Hartmann can not get air-time in the New York Metro area.

  3. John Puma says:

    Re: the claim that “NPR bends over backwards to be apolitical” (paraphrase).

    I beg to differ! “Political” is not merely restricted to “telling people who to vote for,” as was implied. It has to do with who/what is covered, how it is covered and, as is characteristic of the pernicious US main-stream-media, who/what is NOT covered. The last category includes about 99.99% of the people Ralph Nader thinks are important according to his asking his guests specifically if NPR has had them on the air.

    • Don Harris says:

      It always annoys me when Ralph asks about his guests being on NPR and talks about other media and what they don’t cover.

      I have been trying to get Ralph to cover One Demand for over five years. Ralph has said that politicians want our votes more than big money. One Demand is way for citizens to work together on the common goal of getting the big money out of politics by committing to only vote for small donor candidates to test that theory.

      It forces candidates to choose between taking big money or getting our votes. Basic democracy.

      Yet Ralph will not put me on the Radio Hour to discuss it as he said he would on Washington Journal (10-24-2018) or tell me why he has changed his mind.

      I have made the suggestion in my earlier comment to Ralph before, when he did an segment on the Time’/Warner merger.

      Why does Ralph keep complaining about not having good media but not take advantage of an opportunity to do something about it?

      It is one thing to complain when the people/ideas that “you” want covered are not covered by other media. But it rings hollow when “you” do the same thing to other people/ideas.

      This is expected from the MSM and even most alternative media. It is especially disappointing when it is done by someone like Ralph. And even more disappointing when it is an idea to achieve the same goals as Ralph with a different approach to achieve the same goal.

  4. Susan Odegard says:

    My husband calls NPR Not Particularly Relevant radio. You only have to look at their advertisers to understand why many stories don’t make it to NPR’s airwaves.

  5. Beto says:

    NPR is commercial radio masquerading as public–just listen to all their advertising! But my biggest peeve about it is that it has gone woke and swallowed the whole “whites are evil” claptrap peddled by Hartman and others.

  6. Karin Engstrom says:

    I wrote letters to the Democratic Party and Progressive Democrats urging them to study why the right has taken over the radio airwaves and what the party can do to make a difference for the next congressional election by planning better radio communication.
    • I suggested that they read Anne Nelson’s book, Shadow Network, Media, Money and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right.
    • That they study the regulations and propose a law similar to the Fairness Doctrine, including radio time for candidates, elections and community organizations.
    • That all stations must have local news, weather, and other local information every day.
    • That commercial stations pay a fee for their frequencies that would cover a good percentage of funds for public radio and eliminate dependence upon corporate monies. I believe in memberships and donations from the public promote community, but costs have gone up and many public radio stations are suffering.
    I cc’d everyone including my representatives.

  7. Rick Loll says:

    Why don’t we discuss getting a new constitution, like the 7C Constitution at http://bit.ly/7C42PDF The founding fathers wanted a new one every 20 years or so, but nothing changed. And the corruption flourished, and the little people’s voices were not heard, and we all failed. Our rights have been trampled on, and ignored, and progress is too slow. Within 7C, I propose over 500 right we should all have. And introduce new philosophies like abolishing punishment, and replacing it with restorative systems. The US system was designed to punish and torture us for non-compliance. This is crazy. If the people are committing crimes, the system is broken and faulty, because the crime exists. It is illogical to punish because the system makes them commit crimes. The system should apologize to the criminals because the system failed them.
    We should also have proportionate voting, and land allocation for everyone’s differing political ideologies. Sovereign Integrals (individual but united)
    We can’t introduce new radical ideas like this because the progressive and conservative media won’t let us. Both are at fault. Let me be heard! Stop silencing me.

  8. Afdal Shahanshah says:

    “Left-wing billionaires”… Whew, just goes to show that political literacy isn’t a requirement for talk radio. This is the kind of embarrassing take I expect out of conservative hosts.

    The problem with the fairness doctrine is that it always operated from a very narrow liberal view of the world where every issue has two and only two “sides”. By juxtaposing two equally myopic perspectives you can constrain the listener’s world view and invent a reality where no other kind of politics is even thinkable. When you turn on MSNBC and the debate is whether we should bomb Syria or put boots on the ground… see, it’s fair!

    And NPR apolitical? Get real! Their current CEO John Lansing came straight out of managing the state department’s overseas propaganda stations including Voice of America, Radio and Television Marti, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The letters stand for National Propaganda Radio.

    • Beto says:

      More like NWR = National Woke Radio

    • Mark Hughes says:

      America is so obsessed with amassing wealth (to wit: not creating value) that this obsession pervades all thinking. This idea that there is such a thing as a left-wing billionaire is to also believe in Santa Clause or The Great Pumpkin. This is why there is no actual left in America. Not really.

      I watch a Scottish YouTuber periodically, and he’s said something I’ve always suspected, that Brits largely hate the rich to the point it’s a cultural thing. I seem to remember reading something similar in the comments sections of various The Guardian articles years ago. Americans OTOH don’t hate the rich, they want to be them. Americans worship wealth and its conjoined twin, power. That’s a fundamental difference between America and today’s Old World. While Europe certainly has its share of major problems (ECB, Brexit, etc), it’s not the complete greasefire America is.

      And that’s just Europe. I’m not talking about East Asia for instance, where people wear masks because they don’t view it as tyrannical. In America, if your view of tyranny is being made to wear masks during a pandemic and that your candidate lost in an otherwise fair election, then you’re just the petty bourgeois.

  9. linda wan says:

    hi ralph, your constantly direct your leaders and listeners to engage with our members of congress. you tell us that this is the most effective way for us to make our issues heard. as you say, this is the smallest branch of government with just 535 members… we know they’re names… and they need our votes. so i’ve been calling and emailing these past fewyears. sometimes i get responses. sometimes i don’t. and nothing changes. we still don’t have a green new deal. we still don’t have medicare for all — not even a vote on the house floor. we all know about the famous 2014 study that states that the hopes and aspirations of ordinary citizens have zero influence on public policy. by contrast, the rich see 30% of their issues passed into legislation.

    given that i work full time and have limited time for activism, i’m beginning tofeel that my energy might be better spent using other tools. i just read a book called ” levers of power” by kevin young. he states that business holds the real power in government.it’s most effective to put pressure on them using tools such as divestment campaigns, boycotts,protests and even civil disobedience. but i feel that keeping my eye on congress and keeping up my personal contacts is also important while directing energy here.

    but i think it’s possible to use a couple of tools for political change. so i don’t want to abandon the “congressional watchdog” approach. can you offer any advice on how to do this more effectively? lastly, thank you, thank you for being a hero for the people all your life. you’re a national treasure.
    much appreciation,
    linda wan
    ann arbor MI

  10. Roxie says:

    I still really miss Air America and Progressive Radio– and am so glad we at least have wonderful podcasts like the Ralph Nader Radio Hour!!

    Happy Birthday Ralph on the 27th! You are a true jewel, like Thom Hartmann–you are two of the hardest working men in political commentary and activism.

    Thank YOU so much for all you both do for US!

  11. Bruce K. says:

    Radio and media in general is not serving either side well, it serves and is the tool of a very small elite. I was just listening to Thom Hartmann and I realized that this is a guy who is not just an entertainer, or someone to deal with feelings and saying soothing or mean things. Thom knows the issues and the history – there are few like that, and can actually think and is also transparent about where his politics are ( I think … I hope ). There is at least some payback from listening to him, whereas there is nothing gained but being part of a media built constituency of whiners with Left Wing media. At least the ignorant Trumpies can feel like they are part of something bigger and more meaningful, while the Lefties are just left in the dust.

    I used to try to listen to Air America and all I got was people who didn’t know shit. I just remember one time listening, probably about the last time where a host was talking about taxes and saying such and such a company paid so much in taxes on so much profit and that was … she did it in her head … and what’s that such and such percent? She was nowhere close to the actual percentage, off by several orders of magnitude … in favor of the corporation as well. It was just stupid. First, not that hard of a calculation, second, if you don’t know – don’t say, or get a calculator if you need one. I realized that the people who went into Progressive radio … I am sure they had their hearts in the right place, at least I hope so, but they were stupid, uneducated, and basically talk show hosts and not particularly with a history or interest in political understanding or action. They were “acting” like it.

    As much as I often disagree with Ralph Nader, he knows what he is talking about on most subjects, and same with Thom Hartmann. The problem here with the competent Left is that, for example, in the case of Ralph, he has got to bring in his repulsive to most defense of the Islamic Middle East, and his hatred of Israel all the time … for no real productive reason, an it and other issues just repels people from the Left and makes them angry … so their net effect is to help the right and concentrate crazies in the Left which marginalizes the Left. I am sure Ralph is smart enough to understand this dynamic.

    The basic issue is that the “mathematics” of the technological and interconnected world makes everything different from how it has been historically, and the philosophy of the very rich has been to work to destroy government altogether … or remake it into a Disneyland facade of what our real government is and should look like that has been won over hundreds of years.

    Basically when “rich” people, and i mean the oligarch type rich people, get into government their priority is looking after themselves, and that means in general looking after their “class” where concentrated they get more and more power and money. The people who are ignorant in math and critical thinking cannot put this together in any coherent way to form a rational political outlook.

    When rich, and I mean super-rich people, and there are more of them than ever today, and they are richer and more connected, get into government … the very idea of government to them is democracy and transparency … meaning it is something else interfering with what they want to do. Taxing them and regulating them – and they hate it, and the ones who are on the leading edge of this … touched on best by the books “Democracy In Chains” by Nancy McClean, and “The Wrecking Crew” by Thomas Frank … they seek to neuter the democracy in government and use it to disempower the people which opens up whole new vistas of power to them.

    That is why you see them bring in loyalists who will do whatever they want without thinking, or incompetents who do not know what they are doing at all and … both of which make government appear bad and dangerous to the casual citizen not paying that close attention to it and history, and that even plays into the Reagan narrative of “Government is not the solution, government is the problem”, when what we are seeing is not even government at all but a controlled crash that takes out the democratic part of government.

    The best thing that could never happen would be to forbid anyone that is a rich and powerful person or strongly connected to a rich and powerful person from serving in the government. Even though there are probably many who would do a great job, they must be relegated to a transparent consulting role, not a policy role, because they all have given us policies that disempower the people, and weaken or destroy democracy.

    And then they feed us BS and fantasies to replace what needs to be hard news and intelligent editorials – that is all completely dead now. We get garbage media – from both sides. The Left seems to feel like it their job to make people feel outraged and impotent and then pat them on the head and given them pipe dreams to smoke.

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