What’s up with Glenn Beck? The Washington media were shocked by the
religiosity of his “Restoring Honor” rally last Saturday–but what do
you expect from a press gang that only knows how to fight the last war. It overlooked last year’s Beck rally–and so hyped this one as Beck’s Second Coming. (See Douthat, Ross). But according to the professional crowd counter hired by CBS, less than 100K showed up. And what transpired on stage lacked the populist zip that we’ve come to expect from Glenn & Friends. It was a pretty feckless show, if you ask me.
Maybe the problem was that Glenn told them to leave their placards at home. What’s a Tea Party Rally without placards? Sarah Palin was scripted into portraying the mother of a combat vet, and sounded like her heart wasn’t in it. As Glenn said, this was a rally not about what’s wrong with America but with what’s right about America. How the hell do you get to restore honor when you don’t talk about how “they” took it away?
Michael Sean Winters has noted that “Restoring Honor” harked back to the “I Love America” rallies that Jerry Falwell held at all 50 state capitols in the mid-1970s, and indeed there was something retro about the God-and-Country themes that Saturday’s event endlessly hammered home. But the Falwell rallies came in the wake of the Vietnam war–and the anti-war counterculture. They were Nixon’s Silent Majority gearing up for the Reagan Revolution. The Beckian summons came with the other side–the Democrats–doing their level best to embrace God and conducting the war that the Republicans started with more vigor than the country appears to want. Except for some professional atheists, no one is disrespecting God. If there’s an antiwar movement, it’s keeping to itself.
Sure, Glenn has moved from fixing on “social justice” to identifying liberation theology as the fly in Obama’s religious ointment–but denouncing liberation theology is a pretty 70s thing too, and too fancy for one of those Tea Party placards. “Obama is a Liberation Theologian”? I don’t think so. Pace Douthat, but I’d say that Glenn Beck the Preacher of Spiritual Uplift is not what his fans want, nor what the GOP needs. To me, he seems like one Fox guy who actually believes what he says–and at the moment what he’s saying is off message.