In 2016, right-wing talk radio gave Donald Trump the boost he needed to put him in the White House. The hosts loved him and promoted him relentlessly. The same goes for George W. Bush. And why? Every weekday, all across America, people get into their cars and drive to or from work listening to the radio; as the nation’s largest statistics organization, Statista, notes, “During an average week in September 2020, radio reached 90.9 percent of all American men aged between 35 and 64 years of age.” It also reaches women, but the audience for the talk version of radio, according to the Radio Advertising Bureau, is 65.4 percent male to 34.6 percent female. And listenership is overwhelmingly white.
Right-wing talk radio has been integral to Republican strategy for decades. In 1994, when Newt Gingrich took control of the House of Representatives, he understood the power of talk radio. “For the first 100 days of the congressional session,” writes Randy Bobbit in his book Us Against Them, “talk radio hosts broadcast live from the capitol building…. When the talk radio throng outgrew the working spaces available, Gingrich allowed some hosts to work in the extra space in his office.” George W. Bush repeatedly invited talk-radio hosts to broadcast from the White House; Trump has continued this Republican tradition. And when Mitch McConnell was thinking about letting the Senate consider a minor “red flag” gun control law, he first ran it by the most influential talk-radio host in Kentucky. Small wonder McConnell steamrolled Amy McGrath.
Combine this with right-wing billionaires’ funding of conservative state–based think tanks across the nation—a steady source of research and preformed opinion for conservative talkers—and you have a potent combination to influence local elections, something totally lacking on the Democratic side. There is literally no American population center of even minimal consequence without right-wing talk radio, and most cities have multiple right-wing talk stations.