Working in talk radio, I am accustomed to everyone sucking (yes, that’s the sort of crude language we use, in addition to rampant misspelling and bad grammar). Though I generally agree with John Derbyshire’s great TAC cover story “How Talk Radio Wrecks the Right” in February on the need for a more high-brow conservatism, talk radio most damages the Right to the extent that it is not populist. Grassroots anger at Washington officials existed long before Tea Party rallies and town hall protests and the long-established role of men like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham and all the rest has been to harness genuine popular discontent and corral those folks into the waiting arms of the GOP. Contrary to the belief of the elite media, talk radio does not drive Americans further Right – it smothers the very possibility, thanks to most hosts’ ongoing role as unofficial spokesmen for the Republican Party. Says the real “radical Right” – “Abolish the IRS!,” “End the Fed!” Says Sean Hannity – tonight we’ll be talking with our “Great American Panel” including Michael Steele, Rudy Giuliani and Karl Rove.
Does Glenn Beck say crazy things, cry-on-cue, wander into conspiracy-land and make wild accusations? Yes on each, and none of these things distinguish him from most other conservative talk hosts.
But to my knowledge, Beck is the only nationally syndicated talk host that did not endorse John McCain for president. He’s the only guy I’ve heard regret his former support for the PATRIOT Act. He’s the only right-wing pundit I’ve heard bash Bush on a consistent basis, even bringing up the GOP’s complicity in our current state of affairs to Ann Coulter and Limbaugh, giving the former pause. Alternative Right hero Judge Andrew Napolitano seems to be a permanent guest host for his TV show and I know of no other host who has given a significant platform to guys like Tom Woods, Peter Schiff, Kevin Gutzman, Thomas Naylor, Campaign for Liberty activists - not to mention Ron Paul. If in some conservative circles Beck still doesn’t cut the mustard – I can tell you that working in talk radio, his markedly different example is a godsend.
Beck, for all his flaws, faults and wackiness, is not a partisan GOP hack like 99.9% of his colleagues. This alone deserves praise, and traditional conservatives, libertarians and similar-minded folks reluctant to give him any credit should at least cut him some slack.