I really hate Glenn Beck. Due to his rampant popularity, I've read a number of his articles, listened to some of his show, and tried to learn a little about him. All I've found out is that he is an ignoramus who substitutes pandering for argument and ignores or shouts down opponents rather than engage in a lively debate. He's not Bill O'Reilly bad, but he's still quite unlikeable.
This week, he was in Utah to raise money for yet another tiny institution of higher learning/fascism indoctrination camp. While here, he was confronted by a reporter who asked him how he felt about Governor Jon Huntsman as a rising star in the Republican Party. Mr. Beck responded by briefly complimenting the Governor on a personal level, and then saying, "But if that's the future of the Republican Party, the Republican Party is over." He goes to explain that the Republican Party needs to be led by a person of conservative conviction who does not appeal to progressives and Democrats. Because if there's one thing the Republican Party needs, it's more polarizing like-it-or-lump-it leaders.
Mr. Beck, could not be more wrong. Right now, the Republican Party is facing serious fallout from eight years of the Rove "50% plus 1" doctrine. This is the idea that to win an election, you only need 50% of the vote plus 1, i.e. this guy:
Under this theory, a party can alienate and ignore moderates and appeal directly to a core constituency of hardcore followers. This doctrine led to the last eight years of "my way or the highway" policies, which American voters seemed to reject during the last election, favoring a Democratic Presidency and majorities in both the House and Senate. Beck seems to be holding on to the idea that this 50% plus 1 approach is the key to Republican survival.
Beck is wrong for a number of reasons. First, and foremost, American political parties are built on consensus, not on alienation. Successful parties choose platforms that encompass the broadest range of people possible, so as to increase the number of voters who feel like they identify with that party. As voters' opinions change and shift, as they always do, successful parties change and shift with them, constantly modifying their platform to encompass a wider cross-section of voters. Unsuccessful parties choose platforms that polarize people and force them to choose between joining the party or not. It is this strategy that led to the defeat of the Republicans in 2008. Because Huntsman falls into the former, "encompassing" group, a party that followed his philosophy would be more likely to be successful because it casts its net wider, bringing in a higher cross-section of voters. If the Republican Party rejects the more inclusive approach, it will die or be transformed into something else.
Second, the Republican Party cannot now afford to become more conservative the way I think Beck understands the word. Beck seems to espouse selective conservatism, i.e. opposing government interference in taxes, guns, etc., but espousing governmental control in areas such as marriage, religion (i.e. creating a de facto state-sponsored religion), speech (including indecent speech), etc. This type of neo-conservatism is what led to the last eight years of increasing governmental control and spending. If the Republican Party wants to survive, it needs to distance itself from the neocons, and adopt a more traditional, pre-Reagan type of conservatism. Otherwise, people are left with choosing between the progressive style of the Democrats or the Fascist style of the Republicans. I can guarantee that Americans will choose socialism over fascism any day.
I suspect that Beck is just doing what he does best: pandering to a small constituency of hardcore neocons who want to be told they they are right and that everyone else is out to get them. He arms them with the ideas and allies they feel like they need and then profits off his imagined war. He lies and distorts facts (to get the good stuff, skip to 3:05) to suit his own purposes. Unfortunately, by playing this game, he is reducing the political debate in this country into a no-compromise zero sum game - the type of atmosphere we had before the Civl War. No, what America really needs right now is people who seek to raise the level of thoughtful debate and who believe in an America that embodies the ideals and philosophies that have made America a world leader.
America also needs Glenn Beck to just shut the crap up.
Update 7-23-09: Yup, he's a nutcase.