To American progressives he is a main street nightmare, to the conservative right he is a savior with near messianic charisma and appeal. But to the mainstream public, the everyday Joe or Jane with only passive interest in politics, not withstanding his sometimes weepy and often sappy rhetoric, Glenn Beck makes uncommonly good sense.
Beck is an American firebrand. Beck is also one of those uniquely American enigmas: a rightwing pundit who has crossed party, racial and social boundaries to become a movement within himself.
In little more than a year at Fox News, after making the jump from the low-rated CNN venue, Beck has struck fear into the heart of American progressives. In his first week at Fox he drove rating through the roof and he has continued to do so with feverous campaigns like his 9/12 project. He backed the Tea Party protests from their inception. And he is not finished.
This weekend, on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Had a Dream” speech, Glenn Beck will take to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. for his “Restoring Honor” rally. And he is raising the ire of his detractors as never before in doing so. Beck’s critics, many of whom hold positions in the mainstream media, are now implying and in some cases accusing the Fox News counter progressive commentator of hijacking Dr. King’s “Dream.”
The op-ed columns in major city dailies are ablaze today with anti-Beck rhetoric. Bob Herbert at the New York Times says, “America is better than Glenn Beck. … This is the historical legacy that Glenn Beck, a small man with a mean message, has chosen to tread upon with his cynical rally on Saturday at that very same Lincoln Memorial.”
But is Beck’s message really mean? And does Dr. King’s legacy belong only to African Americans and Democrat progressives? Is not the Lincoln Memorial a beacon for all Americans who less than two years ago elected their first black President? Must Mr. Beck agree with Barack Obama to be a good American?
Virtually every front page story covering Beck’s rally today, quickly points out that former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin will speak. To read the coverage one would think Beck scheduled David Duke. To loosely reverse Mr. Herbert, Is America so small that we cannot endure the words of people with differing views?
I am not a Glenn Beck fan; sometimes I agree with him and often I do not. But if we live in a United States that cannot tolerate more than one political point of view, then I must suggest to Mr. Herbert and Reverend Al Sharpton and all of those who would withdraw Beck’s or anyone else’s right to speak in the public square, we are small indeed.
“Americans are going to be turned off by the sort of just outrageous rhetoric on the right – conspiracy theories, rants,” says House Democratic campaign chairman, Chris Van Hollen. And to Mr. Van Hollen I say so what?
If Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin make today’s rally about politics or brandish racially controversial rhetoric, do we have so little confidence in our nation’s foundational principals that we cannot abide them? America is strong enough to weather the likes of them … or Messrs. Van Hollen and Herbert.
Where is our faith in the American Dream? The dream that Dr. King and so many others paid the ultimate price see this nation realize?