The real action in pundit circles over the next few weeks might be less about the usual Punch-and-Judy act involving left vs. right than the pragmatic right vs. partisan right.
That schism was very much in evidence on talkradio station KABC-AM (790) in Los Angeles on Inauguration Day, when local host Al Rantel — a conservative who occupies the afternoon-drive slot following the nationally syndicated Sean Hannity — said that Hannity has “lost his mind in some respects” by declaring his program “conservatism in exile.”
Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have become the de facto voice of the opposition since Barack Obama’s election, giving not a moment’s grace period to the new president. Rantel has been more pragmatic, and during Tuesday’s program openly questioned Hannity’s motives — Input from consultants? Attempting to bond himself closer to listeners? — in promoting the notion that conservatives were somehow “in exile,” as if their rights had been revoked.
As I recently stated in a column about Hannity’s ascent at Fox News Channel before he officially became a solo act, appealing to the red-meat Republican base — the one yelling that Obama’s a wild-eyed socialist — probably bodes well for Hannity commercially, inasmuch as you only need a couple of million viewers to be a success in cable news. That said, Hannity and fellow hard-liners do figure to isolate themselves from more moderate conservates — those willing to give some latitude to the new administration — in the short term.
As Rantel implied, though, there may be some method (or at least marketing savvy) behind this madness. In that respect, Hannity could be “losing his mind” all the way to the bank.