Glenn Beck and the Destruction of the Two-Party System: Gabbo, Gabbo, Gabbo!

Reflecting on coverage of Glenn Beck's recent book launch in Florida, Chuck Cummins of the Chuckwagon Journal wonders if the talk show host "is starting a third party." Chuck writes:
according to the [Orlando] Sentinel, Beck hopes "to transform his personal celebrity into political action and has begun to assemble a movement to 'change America's course.'" While in Florida recently promoting his new book, "Arguing with Idiots," Beck said "America, we cannot wait for a leader anymore. The people must lead, and the leader will follow." . . .

Conscientious voters across the nation should be encouraging Beck's success. Republicans made a big deal of Obama's lack of leadership experience and disparaged his community organization background. But, they had to notice that that very background led to one of the most skillfully crafted and organized campaigns in recent history. Beck seems to have taken notice, at least, and wants to organize Conservatives in a similar manner. Regardless, any attempt by any person to get Americans off their duffs and actively participating in the process of nominating, electing and monitoring our government officials has to be a good thing.
Unquestionably, Beck has shown an increasing hostility toward the two-party system. Following an interview with David Horowitz, he recently sketched out what it means to "effectively organize your community":

It's demanding sanity with spending. It's demanding that we fight to win every war we get into. It's asking and demanding that we hold people accountable, that people who break the law or don't pay their taxes go to jail, not the cabinet.

It's demanding that we call terrorists by their names, terrorists. And if we demand that people stop calling tea partygoers terrorists, angry mobs, but rather what they are, concerned citizens that have had enough, if that's what destroys the two-party system, so be it. They should be destroyed. [Emphasis added.]

In response, the dead-enders of the Republican Party have reluctantly come to the defense of the GOP. Some conservatives have even gone so far as to defend the very existence of parties as such in the face of Beck's antics. At Commentary Magazine, Peter Wehner writes:

For Beck to put forth the argument he does, in the manner he does, is evidence, I think, of a kind of animus toward political parties . . . Contrast Beck’s attitude toward political parties with those of a founder of modern conservatism, Edmund Burke . . . Burke understood that parties were not always right . . . genuine conservatives understand the important role parties play in organizing people of similar beliefs to do the practical, and often the slow and imperfect, work of advancing an agenda that can eventually be translated into governing . . . It’s also worth pointing out that many of our greatest figures in American political history were men who proudly associated themselves with political parties.

Though it may well be the case that Beck is serious when he states that we have to start "thinking like the Chinese" – he has, for instance, called for summary executions of captured enemy combatants – his most recent publicity stunt, in which he announced but did not unveil "The Plan," resembles nothing so much as it does the marketing strategy of Gabbo, the ventriloquist's dummy whose popular program forces Krusty the Clown off the air in an early episode of The Simpsons. The first five minutes of the episode are well worth (re)viewing. The parallels are striking.

9 comments:

Septimus said...

Gabbo Fabbo!

Ross Levin said...

Yeah, Beck's still crazy. Hope he doesn't do anything third party related or he'll destroy the small amount of credibility third parties have in the eyes of the chattering classes and the average American.

Liberal Arts Dude said...

Have you seen this reaction to Glenn Beck from prominent Progressive strategist Zack Exley? Highly pessimistic on the prospects of a left response to Glenn Beck's latest project but acknowledges that what he does has the potential to become wildly popular.

d.eris said...

One of the biggest problems on the left is the naivety of liberals and progressives who continue to believe, against all the evidence, that the Democratic Party stands for anything other than maintaining the global warfare and corporate welfare state. Is Exley simply not familiar with the move toward a unified party of the left?

Liberal Arts Dude said...

I am not sure if he is. You hit on what drives me crazy about Progressives. They tend to have a very good analysis and spot-on critique of what's wrong with the Democratic Party and political activism along those lines. Yet if you even bring up "third parties" and mention Ralph Nader, independent politics, ballot access reform, etc. as solutions you often get an unfriendly response at best, a hostile one most likely. Of course, that leaves us with no solutions other than continue relying on the Democratic Party to magically reform itself along Progressive lines -- highly unlikely.

d.eris said...

An attitude of resignation toward the two-party status quo is as prevalent among progressives as it is toward conservatives, despite the almost universal recognition of the failures of the Democratic-Republican two-party state. Chronic low voter turnout demonstrates that a majority of Americans have, to a great extent, given up on the Dems and Repubs. It is among these folks that independent activists need to focus their energies, imo. But how to activate the disenchanted and disillusioned? That's an important question. A first step is countering duopoly ideology every step of the way, and showing that there are alternatives and that they are viable.

Liberal Arts Dude said...

I remember reading Micah Sifry's account of Jesse Ventura's 1998 gubernatorial win in Minnesota in the book "Spoiling for a Fight: Third Party Politics in America" and being riveted at the point he made that it was new voters and the formerly disaffected and disenchanted non-voters who provided the push for a Ventura win as the Reform Party candidate. So I think there is a lot to be said for appealing to the disenchanted and non-voters. If you present an exciting candidate with a compelling vision (Ventura's personal charisma and high-profile career as a wrestler surely didn't hurt either) as an alternative to the major parties, people will find it worthwhile to vote -- and to vote their beliefs rather than resign themselves to voting for the lesser evil.

Now you have me thinking if there has been any formal social scientific research done on this population of non-voters and what its findings might be!

d.eris said...

Yes, in many ways, non-voters are a blind spot in US politics. Politicians and the MSM obviously do not like to bring up the fact that so many people do not vote, and many people likely do not want to admit that they don't vote. I'm pretty sure opinion surveys consistently show that there are more people who say they voted than there are people who actually voted. I'd be interested in hearing about anything you dig up. I'm currently reading a reappraisal of the Hicks piece on 19th century 3rd party politics I excerpted earlier today.

Samuel Wilson said...

I can't speculate about non-voters in modern times, but 100 years ago indifference rather than alienation was a major factor, and one for which an acknowledged remedy existed: money. Reading papers from the early 20th century is eye-opening because of the readiness with which they report that both major parties were bidding for the votes of the "undecided."

As for lesser-evilism, I say again that the only alternative is some kind of non-evilism, a refusal to fear any party as the worst evil whose victory would mean the End of the World. If more people were convinced that neither "liberals" nor "conservatives" (in their Democratic and Republican forms) are monsters, they might prove more willing to vote for neither. This may look paradoxical to those who see the Bipolarchy/Duopoly itself as evil, but once we purge "evil" from our political vocabulary we may find more political choices both acceptable and available.

 
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