Monday, March 1, 2010

The usefulness of Glenn Beck

David Frum, the very thoughtful, centrist-leaning conservative thinker, had a bit of a happy hour after CPAC, and he said to me: The thing I respect about Glenn Beck is that he managed to take hard-money crankery away from anti-Semitism.
That's from Dave Weigel of the Washington Independent on a recent episode of the NPR program Fresh Air.

If Frum is correct in his analysis of Beck, I think it's hard to overestimate the value of such a contribution.

Separating a healthy skepticism about the limits and proper role of government from anti-Semitic or racist notions that people of good will rightly find distasteful, is an important function. A function critical to the revitalization of the Republican party and the nation as a whole.

Even Sarah Palin is getting in on this act. In this National Journal article, the author is equating Palin's anti-intellectualism with that of George Wallace, but takes great pains to point out that she in no way shares the racism that figured so prominently in Wallace's life. Beyond pains really. If nothing else, we know by the end of the article that Sarah Palin is no racist.

While I personally would prefer that the current conservative movement was characterized more by Russel Kirk book clubs than Glenn Beck's chalk board, I'll take what I can get. It is important that suburban Minneapolis soccer-moms realize that skepticism about the federal government's ability to remake healthcare in this nation does not make you some sort of raving tinfoil hat wearing anti-Semite.

If Beck and Palin really can separate these two competing strands of thought, then perhaps all the Levi Johnston drama, crying, and misspelling will have been worth it.

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