ATLANTA (Reuters) - Opposition to a massive Wall Street bailout plan has quickly emerged on conservative talk radio, with hosts and callers saying the rescue undermines principles at the heart of the Republican Party.
Tens of millions of conservatives tune in to AM talk radio, trusting nationally syndicated hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Neal Boortz over media outlets they say have a liberal bias.
“I really don’t like this (proposal),” said Lance from North Carolina on the “Today’s Issues” program broadcast on Christian radio stations across America.
“This nation was ... built on individualism as far as profit and responsibility. And with us bailing these banks out we’re ... saying any time you get into trouble we’re going to come bail you out,” he said on Friday, in a view echoed by callers on several shows.
President George W. Bush has urged swift passage of the $700 billion measure. But talks in Congress have stalled on the opposition of conservative Republicans, and both parties appear wary of fully backing a measure that could prove an electoral liability.
“If this (plan) was so good, they (Democrats) should pass it. They should brag about it. They should take credit for it. But the Democrats understand that this bill is dirty,” said Limbaugh, the most popular of the talk show hosts.
Democrats are aiming to use talks over the rescue plan to get Republicans to repudiate their principles and reject their grass-roots supporters, Limbaugh said.
Talk radio in the United States features long monologues by the host and calls from listeners that often reinforce the host’s opinion.
Several conservative talk show hosts argue that they are engaged in a long struggle to return the Republican Party to its guiding ideology of small government, low taxes and strong national defense.
Some view Republican candidate John McCain as an unreliable conservative who has made too many compromises with Democrats on crucial issues such as immigration reform and campaign finance.
Boortz, who calls himself a libertarian, said both parties were to blame for the financial crisis that started in the housing market by encouraging banks to make bad loans.
But he said Democrats now want to turn the bailout plan into a “financial Christmas tree” with goodies for left-wing community groups that could help them during November’s election.
“This situation (on Wall Street) does not arise without government participation. It is not the excesses of the free market alone. It is excesses of the free market that are enabled and supported by government action,” said Boortz, whose program’s slogan is “The Truth Shall Make You Mad.”
Conservative icon and former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich told Boortz the plan was a bad idea made worse by the intervention of liberal Democrats who wished to add provisions that would enrich lawyers and further weaken the economy.
Thankfully, conservative Republicans had put a stop to it, said Gingrich.
The plan puts conservatives in a bind, and that it was proposed by a Republican president further blurs distinctions, said Alan Abramowitz, a professor of political science at Emory University in Atlanta.
Either they swallow it, violating free market principles they hold dear, or they oppose it and risk seeing confidence in the free market system evaporate.
“This is an ideological problem. If you are conservative and you believe in small government and the free market, if you fail that’s your problem. That’s the way the market is supposed to work,” he said.
Additional reporting by Ed Stoddard in Dallas; Editing by Xavier Briand