Did impotent Dems cave on Alberto Gonzales and the Ohio vote? Salon readers weigh in. Plus: Is there life after payola?

Published January 8, 2005 11:13PM (EST)

[Read "Not With a Bang but a Whimper," by Tim Grieve.]

The Democratic Party has finally done it: turned a born and bred yellow-dog Democrat against her party. I'm glad my grandfather isn't alive to see what has become of the party he was so proud of. Their actions over the past four years have truly sickened me. I never thought I would say this, but I have cast my last vote for the Democrats, and I doubt I am alone.

With their latest cowering, GOP-doormat performance, they have sounded the death knell for their party and become completely irrelevant, hanging their heads and allowing Bush to run roughshod over this nation.

Bring on the third-party candidates -- their time is coming.

-- Jamie Cantwell

Grieve fails to mention why Democrats might be unwilling to offer strong opposition to the Gonzales nomination. Efforts to obstruct the appointment of Bush's nominee for attorney general will anger Republican lawmakers. Senate Democrats must continue to work with Republicans in order to pass legislation that addresses the needs of their districts. To do otherwise hands Republicans ammunition for unseating more Democrats in future elections.

Much as I oppose Alberto Gonzales' appointment as attorney general, I prefer that Democratic lawmakers conserve their resources for more important fights, such as Social Security and Supreme Court nominations. Those are the fights for which I expect Democrats to "lay down on the tracks."

Alberto Gonzales will be attorney general for no more than four years. We will live with the effects of Bush's Social Security reforms and Supreme Court nominations for decades.

-- Jeff Pearson

In my 51 years, I have never been prouder to be a Californian. Barbara Boxer's act Thursday, to join with the House members in protest of the tainted Ohio electoral votes, was not meaningless.

The Democrats in Congress are, yes, powerless these days. Listen to the derision in the laughter of the "get over it" crowd to know just how low they have fallen. Things are bleak, and the road ahead looks full of woe. The forces for virtue recede, and the righteous seem to have lost their way. Hope is alive only in those who rise to speak truth to power, the last, bright weapon that brain has against brawn.

It is when the voices for the powerless are all, at last, silent that meaninglessness comes.

-- Linda Rigel

I agree that the Gonzales nomination was a joke, but I disagree that the Boxer rebellion was. I was ecstatic to see the voting rights issue raised. What I'm not so happy about is the way the press has covered it.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, knew that we were not going to overturn the election. That wasn't the point. The point was to take the opportunity to illustrate that not all Americans have the same opportunity to vote or have their votes counted. I find this issue to be at the top of my list. I don't think that the Democrats looked pathetic. In fact, it was the Republicans that did. They didn't debate the issue of verifiable voting irregularities and fraud. They just kept reading newspaper editorials. Like everything that is printed in newspapers is true. Not once did they directly address the charges laid out.

Personally I drew encouragement from Rep. Tubbs Jones and Sen. Boxer and the rest of their supporters. I know that we're not going to win a lot of fights right now. But on the other hand, I don't want to give up without even trying either. Tubbs Jones and Boxer showed me today that the Democratic Party will keep on fighting for me even though we know we're going to lose. That's all I can ask for right now.

The press on the other hand should be ashamed of themselves for misrepresenting the objection. Virtually every media outlet has characterized this as a feeble attempt by the Democrats to overturn the election. They did everything they could, in my opinion, to portray the Democrats as poor losers grasping for straws. This was not what we were trying to do. Election reform was the game this week, and just about every Democrat who spoke stayed on that message.

I fully support what they did today and I hope that it was just the start of things to come.

-- Lisa Dawn

Salon trivialized the objection made by Sen. Boxer, when she was the only member of the Senate willing to put her ass on the line and truly represent her constituency even in the face of partisan rancor. Purely symbolic or not, it took courage, and I for one am thankful to have her acting as my voice in Washington.

-- Erik Rivard

As I sit here after reading today's articles about Democratic congressional leaders, Alberto Gonzales and Fox News' non-coverage of the tsunami, I am entering a pit of self-pitying despair. It appears like it won't make any difference whether the Democrats show up for votes or not. I had some hope that they would take shifts to filibuster if Alberto made it to the Senate floor, but who am I kidding, right?

I am probably stating the obvious here and you probably have written about this, but my guess is that most Americans don't give a shit about any of this. It isn't going to affect their daily lives. It doesn't affect their ability to get to sleep at night, or drive their SUVs. It certainly won't interfere with their viewing of "Who's Your Daddy" or "The Simpsons."

Our privilege has made us complacent to the point of no possible outrage. Even me, I am outraged, but only until 8 p.m., when I fall into bed after putting my kids to bed, reading my novel, and having a thimbleful of cheap scotch.

I wonder how outrageous things have to get before our privileged lives get undermined enough to get us out of our self-absorbed routine. In the spirit of Howard Dean: BLEEEAACCCHHHH!!!!!!

-- Kristin Swanson

[Read "Payola Is Dead! Now What Will We Listen To?" by Eric Boehlert.]

I stopped listening to the radio back in the mid-1980s. The impetus was the revelation my ex-husband and I had when he won a chance to be a "guest DJ" on a popular local station (KOME) for an hour. He spent a lot of time going over his own playlist -- we thought he'd be able to pick his own songs. The disappointment of learning otherwise destroyed my belief in the medium itself.

As we walked into the inner sanctum of the DJ's booth, we walked by row after row of tapes with all the prerecorded shows we had unknowingly been listening to (for how long?). We felt ripped off until in the following weeks we realized that the real DJs were also powerless to choose their own playlists. We knew this from listening and comparing the songs that got played over and over again in the same sequence. We had just never noticed it before.

I knew what the term "payola" meant then, and it was apparent that the radio station was not "free" to offer the public any real choice of music. The fact that you could turn on the radio and hear the same lame songs played five or six times in one day had to be proof of someone in the background waving a carrot.

Since my self-imposed exile from radioland I'm glad to say I've been spared the likes of Britney, Jessica Simpson and all the other mediocre garbage pushed on the American public. Sadly, real radio stations are few and far between. If you're lucky enough to live by a college you might be able to escape the corporate control over the airwaves. You say payola is dead. I say radio is dead and has been for years.

-- Cosmo Kelleher

An anonymous source quoted in the article says:

"It seems counterintuitive, but the weakening of indie promotion is not a good thing," says the owner of a small, successful label. "It further cements the hegemony of the major labels and will definitely narrow what's heard on the radio. The short-term effect is not good for independent music."

Which is a load of crap.

The fundamental problem is this: There is some arbitrarily large number of records coming out every year, and only so many stations with so many hours in a day to play them. And if you want to hear something when you are near a radio, the number of hours decreases dramatically. The problem is the "funnel" -- how you weed out the bad stuff and get the good stuff on the air.

My proposal: All the stations have to do is hire DJs who know the music. Stations with DJs that play music the public finds interesting will succeed. The ones that don't, won't.

The indies were half the problem. The other half of the disaster is Clear Channel and their ilk who don't trust DJs, or local programming or anything else that doesn't increase their quarterly profits.

If all the stations let DJs have a freer rein on what they play, then maybe the stations won't all sound the same, and good stuff -- the unknown stuff -- might actually get air time. My dream job is similar to the one on the old TV show "Northern Exposure." Sit around, play great music all day, read the news on the radio, play a few adverts, read some poetry or a story, interview people -- use the radio as a creative medium. But Clear Channel will never pay anyone to do that. Ever.

-- Daniel Studebaker

It will be interesting to see how the public reacts when radio playlists get even worse. With all the new alternatives like Internet and satellite radio, the public -- especially younger listeners -- may end up fleeing broadcast radio entirely. That's pretty much what happened back in the '70s when young rock listeners fled calcified AM stations for freewheeling new FM stations with wide-open formats.

If and when that happens, it won't matter what Infinity and Clear Channel do, because the leading stations on satellite and the Internet will be the ones breaking new music to listeners.

-- Andrew Norris

By Salon Staff

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