For a long time now -- really ever since Arianna Huffington inexplicably gave up her right-wing politics -- KCRW in Santa Monica has been trying to find a conservative willing to take a permanent place on its talk show, "Left, Right and Center."
It hasn't been easy. Perhaps that's because Santa Monica is unfriendly territory for our kind of people. Or perhaps the conservatives who went on the show got tired of being shouted down by their co-panelists. Maybe they decided it was easier just to stay home and preach to the choir.
But the search is now over. I'm the new, permanent Mr. Right.
Why am I doing it? I suppose for much the same reason that 19th century Christian missionaries took creaky steamboats to the ends of the world: There weren't enough heathens left to convert in London or Stockholm back then, just as there aren't enough liberals left to convert in Washington today.
This isn't the first time I have set out to turn the liberal tide in Southern California. I was born in London, but I grew up in L.A. . And, although it was not the Democratic Party bastion it is today, the whole darn country was liberal back then. When I debated capital punishment at John Burroughs Junior High in 1960, only 35% to 40% of Americans supported it. Today more than 70% do.
I always had a taste for campaigning deep behind the lines (although this time I'm doing it over the airwaves, since I'm not actually leaving Washington, D.C.). In 1964, I went door to door passing out campaign literature in the Fairfax District and discovered just how much strength those old folks had when they slammed their doors in my face. I rarely got much past, "Hi, I'm from Goldwater for President Headquarters, and .... "
At KCRW, the audience won't be able to slam the door on me, and most people don't have mute buttons on their radios. Those who do have the fancy cars with steering wheel mute buttons probably have a latte or tofu in their otherwise free hand and won't hit the button in time.
I calculate that hundreds of thousands of liberals tune in each week to hear the eloquent words of the L.A. Times' own premier man of the left, Robert Scheer. An equal number of New Age, fourth-dimension, spiritual humanitarians tune in to hear Arianna explain her latest distinctive angle on political reality.
My strategy is this: In the brief moments I can squeeze a word in between their soliloquies, I can steal the ears of their listeners and explain the sober, rational, conservative view of the passing political parade.
The audience is extraordinary for a conservative: These are listeners who would never be caught tuning in to Rush Limbaugh. If we were on television, they would surely grab for their remotes and mute my heretical words. But on radio -- sandwiched as I am between Scheer and Arianna -- I have my chance.
If I can convert just a couple hundred thousand West Coast liberals to the great conservative worldview, California could be competitive for Republicans. Remember, John Kerry beat George Bush by only about a million votes. And in politics, the worm never stops turning. After all, when I was a boy, California, Massachusetts and Illinois were safe Republican states, while Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina were solid for the Democrats. Stability is an illusion. Change is all.
And, I'll let you in on my secret target audience: Larry David, the star of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and the co-creator of "Seinfeld." I know that he is a big liberal (married to an even bigger liberal) and that his character on the show turned down the chance for wife-approved sex with a beautiful blond simply because she had a picture of President Bush by her couch.
But if he is anything like his character, he is, at heart, a conservative: He refuses to put up with nonsense; he's remorselessly politically incorrect, and he is fundamentally sensible. If he'll just listen, I'll expose his mind to the sensible conservative explanations for the great issues of the day. He'll be my first convert deep in the belly of the liberal Hollywood beast.
Then it is only a matter of time before Hollywood returns to its glory days, when it was ruled by such Republicans as Jack Warner, Louis B. Mayer, Jimmy Stewart, Robert Taylor and Cesar Romero (the first Latino Republican). And if that doesn't work, it would still be worth doing the show, because the little secret in the industry is that the real money in Hollywood isn't in prime-time sitcoms, but is made as a weekly panelist on public radio. And the clink, clink, clink of my weekly wages will be music to my conservative heart.