The interesting thing about Glenn Beck is that aside from being completely crazy, his substantive views on policy (if someone like Beck can be described as having substantive views on anything) are about as far as you can get from doctrinaire Republicanism. In a widely circulated post from last week, Glenn Greenwald explains how Beck gives voice to transpartisan anti-establishment sentiment. Andrew Sullivan has also noticed that Beck’s foreign policy views – a mish-mash or “more rubble, less trouble” and nascent non-interventionism – differ substantially from conservative orthodoxy.
So while Republican congressmen may ape Beck’s anti-establishment rhetoric, they don’t come close to endorsing the substance of his libertarian-ish views. Similarly, Beck’s newfound suspicion of the Patriot Act or his isolationist rhetoric have not exactly caught fire with the RNC.
Movement organs have been willing to promote Beck’s crusade against ACORN and his attack on former green jobs czar Van Jones, however. In the grand scheme of things, these issues are incredibly trivial, but they allow the Republican Party to channel popular enthusiasm into an issue that doesn’t highlight the profound differences between people who sympathize with Beck’s anti-establishment rhetoric and people who basically buy into Republican Party orthodoxy. Liberals have correctly noted that the ACORN sting and the resignation of a minor administration functionary aren’t really that important, which is precisely why movement operatives are so eager to latch on to them. Trumpeting Beck’s hidden camera antics is a way for Republicans to coopt libertarian/conservative populism without making any real concessions to the genuinely radical critique embodied by the Tea Party Movement.