His interest in conspiracy theories is disquieting, as is his admiration for Ron Paul and his charges of American “imperialism.” (He is now talking about pulling troops out of Afghanistan, South Korea, Germany, and elsewhere.) Some of Beck’s statements—for example, that President Obama has a “deep-seated hatred for white people”–are quite unfair and not good for the country. His argument that there is very little difference between the two parties is silly, and his contempt for parties in general is anti-Burkean (Burke himself was a great champion of political parties). And then there is his sometimes bizarre behavior, from tearing up to screamingat his callers. Beck seems to be a roiling mix of fear, resentment, and anger—the antithesis of Ronald Reagan.
At a time when we should aim for intellectual depth, for tough-minded and reasoned arguments, for good cheer and calm purpose, rather than erratic behavior, he is not the kind of figure conservatives should embrace or cheer on.
On a personal note, I find it hard to believe Beck is the “hottest” thing in conservatism right now, considering I haven’t seen a single one of his shows. I do understand, however, that he managed to scoop the traditional media outlets with his reporting on Obama’s green jobs czar and the ACORN undercover investigations.
Admittedly, there’s always been a tension within conservatism between the “Joe the Plumber” faction and the more “intellectual” base. The Friedman/Hayek wing considers their blue collar colleagues to be distant cousins that they appreciate being part of the family, but wouldn’t necessarily invite over for Thanksgiving dinner. They often times say things that are intemperate, they occasionally take conspiracy theories a little too far, and their spelling on Tea Party signs is a little hit and miss.
On the other hand, the snooty intellectuals don’t have to deal with conservatism on the ground level. Rarely do they have to stand out under a blazing sun for hours at Tea Party rallies to have their voices heard. They don’t have to raise kids while living paycheck to paycheck, watching the government take food out of the mouths of their children. To these people, conservatism isn’t about textbooks, it’s about survival – and it causes people to do things that may not be sanctioned by the elite cognoscenti. Plus, Peggy Noonan is one of them, and she makes me want to put my shoe through my television.
But in the end, the conservative movement needs both elements. It needs the bow-tie wearing eggheads to crank out the research and inform us how our liberties are being taken away. And it needs the plumbers out there to provide real-world examples of how excessive taxes and regulation stifle capitalism. (No matter how cringe-inducing these presentations may often be.) Without one or the other, conservatism will be relegated to a fringe concept, as government has the money to spend to promote its own interests.
What was the question again? Something about Glenn Beck?