Starting with the Clinton administration, you began to hear widespread criticism of conservative talk radio. Conservative talk radio was called "inflammatory," "irresponsible," and "conspiratorial." [Although it is labeled "conservative talk radio," let's call it REPUBLICAN TALK RADIO, AS NEARLY ALL OF IT IS ABOUT PARTY, NOT PHILOSOPHY]
Perhaps not coincidentally, this dovetailed with the media's general talking point about the "divisive" and "polarized" tone of the "national political conversation." You may have noticed that this talking point has been around ever since.
The inference is that something has changed to make Republican rhetoric more rabid. Maybe something has changed. Or maybe it is merely that Bill Clinton was the first Democratic President to hold office once Republican radio had become dominant.
Remember, Republicans held office for 12 years before Clinton, during which time Republican radio became a nationwide force. When Democrats had last held the White House (Carter), Republican radio as we know it today did not exist.
If it had, JUST IMAGINE how inflammatory Republican radio would have been under Carter. Just imagine what they would have accused him of during the hostage crisis. Just imagine what they would have said about his views on energy. Try to picture the surgical deconstruction of Carter’s personal habits (he wore sweaters!). I think it is fair to say the tenor would have been as “extreme” as the Republican radio that is broadcast today.
So really, the "national political conversation" may not have changed that much. It may just be that a change in medium has turned up the volume of that conversation.
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