Saturday’s “Restoring Honor” rally at the Lincoln Memorial, featuring a deluded Glenn Beck cheerleading his equally deluded if devoted followers, wasn’t really a rally, not like you and I understand rallies to be. It wasn’t political, Beck insisted — calling on his followers not to bring signs so as to avoid the racist bullshit his folks generally bring with them to such events.
So, no, not a rally. What it was was a wedding, the glorious union of the Tea Party and the Religious Right. Kinda like one of those Moonie weddings from way back.
Dave Neiwert at Crooks and Liars tipped me off to this realization.
Previously, most of the Tea Party debate focused on secular matters — taxes, health care, immigration. As Digby points out, the religious elements were always present as an undercurrent, but they had been mostly suppressed as the movement initially attempted to sell itself as a “spontaneous” and secular response to Obama’s policies. Now, they’re out in the open.
That is a deeply disturbing development, and one that will bear heavily on the direction this metastasizing madness takes.
Worse than the wedding itself was the reception the night before at the Kennedy Center.
Dubbed “America’s Divine Destiny,” Beck used the event, according to AlterNet’s Peter Montgomery, “to portray himself as an instrument of God prepared to lead America out of its spiritual darkness.”
Beck, who seems to view himself in increasingly messianic terms, says he is helping to launch another religious “Great Awakening” that will shape American history and promised attendees that on Saturday they would be “fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”
Beck has plenty of company among those who saw Barack Obama’s election as a sign that politics is failing America, and that a religious revival is the only real hope for its future. In fact, it’s become practically routine at Religious Right events for leaders to announce that history would view their event as the spark of a new awakening. But none of them have had an audience near the size that Beck does.
Divine Destiny was a three-hour mix of gospel music and patriotic songs from an “all-star” choir of local singers and dancers, inspirational exhortations for people and churches to do good work in their communities, and speeches by Religious Right figures about America’s need to repent for the nation’s sins and turn back to God.
Beck, who says he had no idea Saturday was the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream speech,” said it was “divine providence” that his wedding ceremony would happen that day. I rather think it was more Beckian manipulation, but that’s just me.
He also said he would be “fundamentally transforming the United States of America,” only to be disputed the very next day by Sarah Palin who said we shouldn’t be transforming the United States of America. Guess they should have compared notes.
But despite the happy nuptials on Saturday, there are a few problems in paradise. Some of the Religious Right are a little squeamish about Beck, a converted Mormon. Here’s Russell Moore, writing for the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow:
A Mormon television star stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial and calls American Christians to revival. He assembles some evangelical celebrities to give testimonies, and then preaches a God and country revivalism that leaves the evangelicals cheering that they’ve heard the gospel, right there in the nation’s capital. The news media pronounces him the new leader of America’s Christian conservative movement, and a flock of America’s Christian conservatives have no problem with that. If you’d told me that ten years ago, I would have assumed it was from the pages of an evangelical apocalyptic novel about the end-times. But it’s not. It’s from this week’s headlines. And it is a scandal.
We used to sing that old gospel song, “I will cling to an old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.” The scandalous scene at the Lincoln Memorial indicates that many of us want to exchange it in too soon. To Jesus, Satan offered power and glory. To us, all he needs offer is celebrity and attention.
Mormonism and Mammonism are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They offer another Lord Jesus than the One offered in the Scriptures and Christian tradition, and another way to approach him. An embrace of these tragic new vehicles for the old Gnostic heresy is unloving to our Mormon friends and secularist neighbors, and to the rest of the watching world. Any “revival” that is possible without the Lord Jesus Christ is a “revival” of a different kind of spirit than the Spirit of Christ (1 Jn. 4:1-3).
Whew. He all but calls Beck the Anti-Christ there. But maybe it’ll work out for the Beckster. The AFA is mainly a bunch of elderly Americans swindled by Don Wildmon and his family into giving them a bunch of their money in return for being recruited to watch the devil’s box (television) and count the number of awful things that happen on the screen.
On the other hand, wonder how many of those 87,000 folks at the Lincoln Memorial even know that Beck is a Mormon? He sure doesn’t look like Mitt Romney.
So the families don’t really get along. A little like a Hatfield marrying a McCoy maybe, for those of you who remember hearing about that legendary Appalachian feud.
And … some of the more “mainstream” Republicans, if it can be said there are any left, aren’t that fond of him either. Former Bush II press secretary Ari Fleischer, while admitting he likes Beck’s “small government point of view,” wrote on his Facebook page that Beck is “a little weird and a little creepy” and “too zany and apocryphal for my taste,” adding that “he acts like he’s the second coming.”
Them’s fightin’ words for Beck fans. But for non-Beck fans, it’s right on target.
Paul Rosenberg, at Open Left, delves into the history of the Know-Nothing Party, which at one time was neck-and-neck with the nascent Republicans to replace the Whigs, who were rapidly fragmenting into an anti-Andrew Johnson, anti-Democrat party with nothing to offer.
The Republicans won, and the Know-Nothings disappeared. Until now.
Historically, the Know-Nothings represent a road not taken in American politics (fortunately). As Catholic influence grew in the Democratic Party, the nativist sentiment purveyed by the Know-Nothigs was attractive enough that for a while they battled with the Republicans to see who would replace the Whigs. But they really had nothing in the way of a positive platform. This weekend, reflecting on the increasingly obvious incoherence of the Beckopalooza, I was struck by the thought that what we are seeing now is the return of the Know-Nothings. Over the past 30-40 years the Republicans have shed virtually everything that they originally stood for, and have turned most of the rest ihto a caricature. What’s more, the policies they have stood by have utterly failed — though of course, Versailles will never admit as much.
And so it makes perfect sense that they are now a party totally lacking in any coherent body of ideas. Slogans, fine. Arguments, not so much. Sarah (no interviews) Palin is their perfect embodiment. Glenn (endless hallucinatory monologues) Beck is even better. The emergence of an alter-ego, the Tea Party, is a logical outgrowth of this underlying incoherence as well. And thus it’s no accident that the GOP now appears to have much more in common with the Know-Nothings who lost out in the 1850s than it has in common with the Republicans who emerged triumphant.
Is it any wonder that incoherence runs so deep in the GOP today? They are indeed reinventing themselves — as their yahoo loser rivals from the 1850s.
Sounds fine, but the Republicans have two things that the Know-Nothings lacked — a finely tuned propaganda machine and an electorate that has forgotten how to reason.
The Religious Right forgot how to reason a long time ago, making it the perfect partner for the Tea Party. And Jerry Falwell may be gone, but there’s a whole new crop of religious zanies who know how to organized. With the added clout of the TeaPublicans’ media monstrosities, we’re in for a helluva ride before they finally figure out that they’re both in the backside of their horse costume.