In a long article for the latest issue of the Weekly Standard, Matthew Continetti argues that the Tea Party has two faces: CNBC ranter Rick Santelli ("forward-looking, optimistic, free-market populist") and Fox News emoter Glenn Beck (backward-facing, bleak, radical conspiracy monger). Tea Partiers can transform the country — and the Republican Party — if they put forward their Santelli face, he says, while embracing Beck will only lead to marginalization and defeat. Is ditching Beck's brand of conservative populism the Tea Party's ticket to mainstream success?
Banishing Beck is a good start: Continetti's correct that "Beck's brand of rhetoric is poisonous nonsense that does damage to the right," says Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic. But why does he stop with Beck? Fellow bestsellers Mark Levin and Andrew McCarthy, for instance, also "misleadingly" pit "a liberty loving right" against "an imagined cabal of leftists" that "seeks tyranny." You can't win a war of ideas against an imaginary opponent.
"'A long and sorry history'"
Beck's passion is a key asset for the Tea Party: "Nothing against ideas," says E.G. in The Economist, but "intelligent arguments" don't seem to matter much at the ballot box. The Tea Party will have to become less "incoherent intellectually" if it wants to develop into a "stable force in politics," but "inchoate frustration" like Beck's should be enough for the movement to "comfortably get through 2010."
Does it really matter which they choose? "Whether it's Glenn Beck or Rick Santelli or anyone else that's the face of the movement," says Kevin Drum in Mother Jones, the body's the same: "The middle class right." And that demographic seems to develop a severe case of outrage each and every time there's a Democrat occupying the White House. "There's really no need to make this more complicated than it is."
"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Tea Party"