Monday, August 30, 2010


I know it's absurd to take a Ross Douthat column seriously, but I want to talk about the opening paragraphs of his latest effort anyway:

Entering this weekend, I was convinced that Glenn Beck's star was about to go into eclipse.

Just as Michael Moore, amid Democratic disarray, became the unlikely face of liberal opposition to George W. Bush, the mercurial, weepy, demagogic Beck has spent the last 18 months filling the void left by the institutional collapse of the Republican Party. And just as Moore's influence diminished as the Democrats came roaring back, it seemed plausible that Beck would matter less and less as the midterms and then the 2012 election re-empowered actual Republican politicians....

Douthat attended Cirque du Beck this weekend and decided Beck is clever enough to avoid slipping into obscurity, but I don't understand why he ever thought that Beck's star would fade, or that Beck was anything like Moore.

Moore faded because "Democrats came roaring back"? Yeah -- remember how Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid got us completely out of Iraq in the first half of 2007? And then went on to impeach and convict George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzalez, and half a dozen other administration officials? And hasn't it been great the way Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress have closed Guantanamo, withdrawn from Afghanistan (after catching bin Laden), and thrown all those bankers and mortgage fraudsters in jail? And now everyone in America has really affordable first-rate health care, at great cost to the insurance industry and Big Pharma? Roar, Dems, roar!

Moore stopped being a superstar because he was never meant to be a superstar in the first place -- he's a documentary filmmaker, fer crissake. He happened to catch a national moment: large numbers of people from the left to the center-right had really, really soured on the war, but conventional wisdom-mongers hadn't grasped that fact yet. Even talking about health care or fat cats, he hasn't made a movie that captured the zeitgeist that way since.

Beck, on the other hand, is a right-wing radio and TV talker -- it doesn't get more commercially viable than that. Is he likely to fade in the next few years after "the midterms and then the 2012 election re-empowered actual Republican politicians"? Ask yourself -- did Limbaugh go away in the Bush years?

Even if President Palin, with the help of Attorney General Cuccinelli, Homeland Security Secretary Dobbs, and Fed chairman Ron Paul, nukes Iran, privatizes Social Security and Medicare, abolishes the income tax, and puts all U.S. Muslims and illegal immigrants in internment camps, Beck will almost certainly have an audience. Why? Because even under those circumstances, right-wingers will still feel persecuted -- hey, there's an online photo of two gay people kissing in West Hollywood! Hey, somebody just recorded a song with dirty words in it! Hey, it's still legal in America to be an atheist!

So don't fret, Ross -- Beck isn't going anywhere. He doesn't have to be clever. He just has to keep sustaining right-wingers' unquenchable sense of persecution.

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