Sunday, September 20, 2009


Oh, Frank Rich, are you joking?

Over the short term, the real economic grievances lurking beneath the extremism of the Beck brigades can do damage to both parties. A stopped clock is right twice a day. The recession-spawned anger that Beck has tapped into on the right could yet find a more mainstream outlet in a populist revolt from the left and center.

A Beck-generated left-wing (or centrist) revolt? Er, no. Not gonna happen.

Yes, this is true:

"Wall Street owns our government," Beck declared in one rant this July. "Our government and these gigantic corporations have merged." He drew a chart to dramatize the revolving door between Washington and Goldman Sachs in both the Hank Paulson and Timothy Geithner Treasury departments. A couple of weeks later, Beck mockingly replaced the stars on the American flag with the logos of corporate giants like G.E., General Motors, Wal-Mart and Citigroup (as well as the right's usual nemesis, the Service Employees International Union). Little of it would be out of place in a Matt Taibbi article in Rolling Stone. Or, we can assume, in Michael Moore's coming film, "Capitalism: A Love Story" ...

But come on, Frank -- this is (as I say over and over again) a classic strain of bigoted conspiratorialism, the demonization of rootless cosmopolitans who are at once hypercapitalists and evil communists bent on manipulation of hard-working simple folk (and on forced race-mixing). Salon's Alexander Zaitchik made that clear a few days ago, Frank, when he explained that Beck's favorite writer, W. Cleon Skousen, believed that (in Zaitchik's words) "the Anglo-American banking establishment had a long history of" pro-communist activity "going back to the Bolshevik Revolution" (Zaitchik, as I noted a couple of days ago, ultimately traces this argument to "Boris Brasol, a pro-Nazi Russian emigre who provided Henry Ford with the first English translation of the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion.'")

Yes, this line of thinking mixes ideas we think of as both left-wing and right-wing -- but this particular mix always leads its believers to march unceasingly to the right. Beck wishes all kinds of harm, up to and including death, on his real enemies, but when has he ever been pleased that Wall Street might suffer a bit of pain? When there was a congressional effort to recoup huge bonuses given to bigwigs at bailed-out companies, Beck was appalled.

Hey, I'd love to believe that there'll be a law of unintended consequences here, that Beck's crackpot worldview will get the populace riled up at the fat cats, at which time a left-leaning leader will rise up, but hell, our side couldn't even do effective pushback on the town-hall agitation. And really, what match are we for the other side? They have huge corporate lobbying organizations disguised as the grassroots, they have the only media mogul in America who doesn't fear imminent bankruptcy, and we have ... what? A bunch of kids who still have that video dowloaded to their iPhones?

(No disrespect for intended, but, really, the vaunted Obama army is no match for Dick Armey and Rupert Murdoch. Those guys have the money and the numbers.)


I'm not buying this, either, from the Frank Rich column:

Now, as then, a Dixie-oriented movement like this won't remotely capture the White House. Now, unlike then, it is a catastrophe for the Republicans.... The more the party is identified with nasty name-calling, freak-show protestors, immigrant-bashing (the proximate cause of Wilson's outburst at Obama) and, yes, racism, the faster it will commit demographic suicide as America becomes ever younger and more diverse.

Rich says this three paragraphs after he says this:

Though Beck's daily Fox News show is in the sleepy slot of 5 p.m., his ratings are increasingly neck and neck with the prime-time tag team of Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, and he has beaten them in the prized 25-to-54 demographic.

So a Beckite GOP is doomed to die off when its elderly backers die ... and yet Beck is drawing a young viewership. Which is it? Both of these things can't be true.

Besides, even though everyone outside the South allegedly hates the GOP, the GOP has a serious chance over the next fourteen months to win gubernatorial or senatorial elections in such deep-blue states as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Harry Reid, according to polls, is at serious risk of losing his seat. I'd hate to see what the polls would be looking like right now if everyone outside the South didn't hate the Republicans.

The problem is, hatred of the GOP isn't like hatred of the Democrats. Southern whites simply will not vote for a Democrat -- if Jesus Christ came back to Earth and ran as a Democrat, Southern whites wouldn't vote for him. But Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents will happily vote for Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and Jodi Rell and (in the recent past) Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney and William Weld and Tom Kean and Christie Whitman. You put a few of these in Congress and they enable the party's dominant wingnuts. I can think of one -- one --recent election in which Democratic-leaning voters turned out a Republican simply because he was a Republican and they knew he was helping make Republicanism possible: the defeat of Lincoln Chaffee in Rhode Island a few years ago. It never happens anywhere else. (Hello, Maine. Are you listening?)

So reports of the GOP's death are greatly exaggerated. And signs of an imminent progressive grassroots revolt enabled by Glenn Beck? Well, sure, that'd be nice. And I'd like a pony, too.

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