Wednesday, August 27, 2014  |   Madison, WI: 63.0° F  
CITIZEN DAVE: Thoughts and ideas about city building from Madison's former mayor
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Citizen Dave: Sly's layoff could signal a turn toward more civil discussion
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I never listened to talk radio when I was mayor, and I haven't since. But, of course, I'd sometimes hear about it when the hosts would go after me for one thing or another. I'd just shrug. My feeling was that if I paid them any attention at all, it would just empower them and I'd be responding to their agenda. Besides, I never thought of it as serious policy discussion, but as entertainment for people who would never consider voting for me anyway.

My understanding is that John "Sly" Sylvester has been pretty hard on me since I lost my election in 2011. So, now that he's been fired, you might expect me to be gleeful. I'm not.

For one thing, it's tough to lose your job, especially when you think you're doing okay at it. Trust me. I know how this feels.

For another thing, I didn't take it personally. Sly is in the entertainment business, and his audience skews old, male, and unhappy. I was never their guy, and he couldn't win ratings by being nice to me.

But, over the years, Sly did go over the top more than once, often in a way that was especially insulting to women. I never understood why he got a pass on this from people who consider themselves progressives.

Still, he's a talented guy in some ways, and I'm sure he'll wind up with another job probably in Madison, but if not, in another market. I wish him and the others who lost their jobs well.

What's interesting in a broader sense is that this may be another indication that vitriol isn't selling like it used to. Rush Limbaugh lost some of his sponsors after he accused a college student of being a prostitute simply because she had testified before Congress in favor of insurance coverage for contraceptives. And after the election, Limbaugh proclaimed that his side had "lost the country." Even Fox News acted more or less like a real news organization on election night, so much so that they earned the on-air ire of none other than Karl Rove.

And the Republican Party as a whole is going through some healthy soul searching, asking themselves if the mean-spiritedness of the modern Republican Party is chasing away women, blacks, gays and Hispanics, all of whom are on the demographic ascendency. The answer might be "duh," but still it's important that they're asking. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has moved quickly to carve out a more moderate, inclusive and less angry posture, and the more moderate Jeb Bush is actively considering a run in 2016. So much, it seems, for the Rick Santorums and Ron Pauls.

So, while Sly's job loss (and especially the job losses of his colleagues at WTDY) shouldn't be cause for celebration for anyone, to the extent that lagging ratings for his blustering hard-edged kind of entertainment led to his departure, that's an indication of what could be a better political environment to come.

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