I watched almost all of Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally this past Saturday from the comfort of my living room. I’m not a conservative Christian and am obviously not the target of his speech, but it struck me as phenomenally long, rambling, and incoherent. There was no arc to it. The only takeaway in this ostensible non-political speech was that Beck thinks America is turning its back to God and, you know, America shouldn’t do that.
Greg Sargent has a great piece evaluating what Beck (and collaborator Sarah Palin) sought through their demagoguery. On the apolitical nature of the event, he writes:
Beck repeatedly claimed that his rally wasn’t meant to be “political.” As high-minded as that may sound, the real point of stressing the rally’s apolitical goals was political in nature. The idea was to relieve himself of the responsibility to pinpoint who, precisely, he wants his followers to blame for leading us away from God and for tarnishing our honor. Beck wants this all to be drawn by inference — classic political demagoguery.
I agree that this apolitical speech was actually very political in nature. But I think this isn’t about relieving Beck of responsibility for the conclusions his followers make vis a vis President Obama and the Democratic Party, though that is certainly a benefit of the speech. No, I think Beck’s apolitical rally was a massive call to the Religious Right in which Beck is saying: I am one of you, I have a soft side, I may be a Mormon, but I share the same concerns about God in American life.
It’s hard to imagine someone who is as high profile and as egomaniacal as Glenn Beck to not harbor some aspirations for higher office. He already casts himself as a martyr in waiting. Running for President (or Vice President) must not be too far from his mind. Unfortunately, the horse that is pulling his cart is the Tea Party, a political “movement” that is so far outside the American mainstream that association with it could be disqualifying for a national candidate. To soften his image and, more importantly, broaden his base, the “Restoring Honor” rally gave Beck the opportunity to embrace the Religious Right.
He’s made himself more of a mainstream Republican figure, at least on Saturday. We know that come tonight’s broadcast, he’ll be spewing the same hateful, dishonest invective against all Democrats (Christian or otherwise), labor unions, and progressive organizations. We shall see if the Religious Right welcomes him into their fold. We’ll see if his Tea Party supporters who shelled out hundreds if not thousands of dollars to travel to Washington to see Beck dish out red meat are still enthusiastic about his rambling sermonizing. We’ll see if this rally proves a jumping point for Beck to run for office. But for now, here are my predictions: The Religious Right won’t fully embrace Beck – sure, there will be some affiliation where there is common cause, but a Mormon isn’t going to become a figurehead leader of movement evangelicals. The Tea Party base that came out for Beck will stick around, because he’s going to be in Full Blown Hatred today about something or Other. And in the end, Beck will talk about running for office at some point, but like most talk show hosts from Chris Matthews to Lou Dobbs, Beck will remember that it’s a lot nicer to sit in a comfy chair and talk than it is to put it on the line as a public figure. Time will tell, but I really hope that Beck comes nowhere near even thinking about running for higher office. It’s too scary a thought.
…Adding, Steve Benen points out that the early reception from thought leaders on the Religious Right is not going so great for Glenn Beck.