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Posted by on Apr 10, 2009 in Media, Politics | 9 comments

Quote Of The Day: Is Glenn Beck Becoming A Patron Saint Of The Republican Party?

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Our Political Quote of the Day comes from First Read’s Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro who raise the issue of whether Fox New’s hottest new property Glenn Beck is now The One To Watch in terms of whether has an ideological influence over the Republican party.

They see signs that may be starting to happen:

*** Republicans Gone Wild, part II: Back in late February, a month into the Obama presidency, we noted how a couple of GOP senators said some outlandish things — first when Richard Shelby seemed to question Obama’s citizenship, and then when Jim Bunning predicted Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg would be dead in nine months. Well, now some of their House colleagues are giving those statements a run for their money. Presumably doing his best McCarthy impression, GOP Rep. Spencer Bachus said there were 17 members of the U.S. House who are socialists but didn’t name names, the Birmingham News reported.

And that came after the always-controversial Rep. Michele Bachmann called for an “orderly revolution” against Obama’s policies. (“We can’t let the Democrats achieve their ends any longer,” she said.) Just five months after Obama’s decisive 53%-46% victory, we’ve got to ask: What is going on with some Republican elected officials? Are they watching too much Glenn Beck? Seriously, could the bizarre rantings of this new darling of the right have something to do with this? GOP lawmakers, when speaking to supporters at home, are getting more odd questions. Could this Beck phenomenon be the reason? He truly has a “middle of the night” am radio quality to some of his rants.

Info outlets and talk show hosts have and should have a perfect right to exercise free speech. But that doesn’t negate the fact that to many listeners the host to whom they bond becomes a kind of trusted friend. They like him (or her) and will trust what the host says or at least give it more serious weight. If the host is outraged or fearful, many listeners will be, too.

There are several dangers here. One is the obvious danger of hammering home a message that someone you voted against isn’t just offering different policies but virtually threatens the existence of the country as you know it, your security, and even your guns.

And another danger for the GOP seems more evident each day, particularly to independent voters, baby boomers who aren’t proud of our hubris-bound generation’s impact on the quality of American political debate, and those of us who were around during the Vietnam war:

More and more the GOP seems to be moving now in the direction of how the far left moved during the Vietnam war. To some on the far left, the United States was “AmeriKa,” LBJ was some kind of war-and-blood-loving dictator and the government itself became the enemy. Talk of demonstrations and resistance was commonplace. The Democratic party staggered under the strain generational differences and policy disagreements plus a more basic divide on how government itself was perceived.

More and more the the-Republic-is-falling Beck, Hannity and Limbaugh fans are resembling some on the far left during the Vietnam era. And what happened to the Democrats then? The split led to the McGovern faction getting the nomination — and to a Nixon landslide. Even though history has proven George McGovern correct on the war (we will soon do a review of a new book on George McBundy which is one of several that vindicate McGovern), his nomination helped Richard Nixon peel off Democratic moderates and conservatives and build a new coalition — a task later solidified by Ronald Reagan. It took the George Bush years to tear that coalition asunder.

The GOP faces the same danger now: by embracing some of talk radio’s more alarmist and extreme narratives, language and assumptions, it could continue to lose independent voter support and whatever number of RINOS it still has. This could create a solid coalition for Obama of Democrats (he already has huge approval among them), independents, and more moderate Republicans (who many believe are actually now describing themselves as independents). Some claim Obama is polarizing, but others contend the GOP is shrinking.

Of course, Obama could overreach, poorly explain his policies or stumble and thereby convince more Americans that conservative talk radio political culture rhetoric is correct. But so far he hasn’t — or, at least, so far there is no indication that the vast majority of Americans are anywhere near being on Beck’s increasingly-out-there wavelength, even as some Republican politicos seemingly frantically scramble to adjust theirs.

UPDATE: NBC’s Chuck Todd answers accusations by GOPers and Karl Rove that Obama is the most polarizing President ever. Among his points: a)the Republican pool has gotten smaller, b)some Republicans who aren’t in sync with the present Republicans are now independents, c)Obama is not as polarizing as Bush was the past two years and d)Obama won the middle during the election and he has the middle now: