The Kool-Aid Cult

No longer a nation . . . and more than an idea . . . America must become a religion. Its martyred savior is MLK. Its sacrament is “Holocaust Remembrance.” Its crusade is to save, convert, and redeem the powerless, colored masses yearning to be brought into the Light.

The profit . . . er, prophet . . . who will lead us on this sacred quest is none other than the avatar of the Third Great Awakening, the chosen one indwelt by the Holy Founders, Glenn Beck.  

Beck’s self-image as an Incarnation of the American Creed was spectacularly revealed when he recently endorsed Ted Cruz. As part of his speech, he asked Cruz, “What is the oath of office you have to take?” For once, the sociopathic, calculating Cruz looked utterly nonplussed and remained silent, eliciting a “What, what?” from Beck.

But when Beck asked again, Cruz, one hand stuffed in his jeans, another raised as a pledge of his sacred trust, dutifully responded, “I pledge to honor and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.”

The crowd cheered.

Beck beamed.

But it wasn't the Oath of Office . . .

No matter. The incident is a perfect example of Beck’s approach. His entire career has been to create a fantasy version of U.S. history and identity, which has proven powerfully resonant among confused White Americans. As every traditional institution and moral authority turns against the White people who created them, Beck assures them that this is simply a kind of test. He styles himself as a legitimate American authority in exile, even to the extent of creating a full Oval Office set and giving mock State of the Union addresses from his television studio.

Beck provides a comforting alternative to the hard realities of demographic dispossession, arguing that it is not American ideals that have failed but simply our collective adherence to them. Like a preacher who tells us a plague or military defeat has been caused by our lack of faith, Beck is calling us to repent and believe, not just in God, but in an idiosyncratic political creed that seems to exist only in his ever shifting imagination.

It wasn’t long ago that Beck was being denounced by the American Left not just as crazy but positively dangerous. One could even see glimpses of Beck playing footsie with the the emerging Alt Right and Liberty movement, by investigating certain premises of the Establishment consensus, including Franklin Roosevelt’s efforts to get America into World War II, the role of the Federal Reserve, and the legality of secession. Beck’s habit of educating his audience via his famous chalkboard gave the impression that he was operating as a political autodidact in real time and his ideological evolution could take him in any direction.

But Beck proceeded to reinvent himself, not so much as a political commentator as a spiritual leader. More accurately, he reinterpreted politics in spiritual terms. One could argue this was done out of necessity. Beck is, after all, a Mormon, a faith the overwhelming majority of American Protestants do not consider part of Christianity. Instead of urging American evangelicals to get on their knees and discover the wonders of the Pearl of Great Price, Beck reinterpreted American history in religious terms, with the Founding Fathers serving as the original apostles who spread the true faith.

Thus, at Beck’s “Restoring Honor” event in 2010, hundreds of thousands of White people gathered to seek political salvation through a vague plan of spiritual renewal mixed with patriotic nostalgia. Portraits of Samuel Adams, George Washington, and Ben Franklin (exemplifying, apparently, Faith, Hope, and Charity) beamed upon the proceedings. The late Christopher Hitchens recognized the gathering as the first faint stirrings of White racial populism . . . though accurately summarized the message as “a call to sink to the knees rather than rise from them.”

Though Hitchens (unlike many alarmist liberal commentators) saw Beck’s limp-wristed rally for what it was, he still argued a European-style nationalist movement was inevitable in the United States. As he put it in words that now seem prophetic:

It will be astonishing if the United States is not faced, in the very near future, with a similar phenomenon [to European nationalism]. Quite a lot will depend on what kind of politicians emerge to put themselves at the head of it. Saturday's rally was quite largely confined to expressions of pathos and insecurity, voiced in a sickly and pious tone. The emotions that underlay it, however, may not be uttered that way indefinitely.

I’ll say.

Also observing the rally, Samuel Phillips at The Occidental Quarterly speculated that the Tea Party/Beck strategy of a faux populist strategy limited to goals like “cutting spending” is dangerous to its organizers. Such an approach can’t help but tread on “dangerous territory,” taking only a spark to move towards nationalism, and eventually, explicit identitarian politics. That moment has arrived.

But Beck’s entire ideological and spiritual program depends on steering people away from such impulses. The natural and inevitable conflict of interests between different peoples is incompatible with an American Creed that supposedly holds all problems will be solved if we adhere to “limited government” and the Constitution. Thus, Beck has always been focused on the element of conspiracy to explain what he sees as the heretical deviations from the American faith.

Beck once investigated George Soros, an act which he claimed cost him his job on FOX News. Needless to say, his investigation of the “puppet master” did not focus on Soros’s Jewish heritage, except to allege Soros was an “anti-Semite” and a self-hating Jew who was acting out of disgust for “tribalism.” Beck’s own critique of Karl Popper and the “Open Society” was shallow and unconvincing. It couldn’t be otherwise, as Beck thinks of himself as a classical liberal, and is thus just as wedded to “human rights” as any member of the global elite. All Beck can manage is to draw up maps with SPLC-style “links” to various progressives who don’t scare anyone except true believers.

Becks’ book The Overton Window was similarly incoherent. A monstrous conspiracy (conveniently stored on PowerPoint) is discovered to destroy America by promoting fear and “collectivism.” The book inadvertently reveals the ultimate danger of interpreting politics through the lens of “What” instead of “Who.” Various historical figures and ideologies are lumped together with only a vague coherence. The heroic and appropriately ethnically diverse opposition to this scheme fights a shadowy elite following a plan encompassing the nefarious ideological visions of people from Woodrow Wilson to Saul Alinsky.

And in the years that have followed, Beck has resembled some crank at some Bolshevik newsletter, printing out obscure tracts on a mimeograph. Even as the actual constituency that supports American conservatism grows increasingly angry and dispossessed, Beck’s definition of the “true” American identity has grown more arbitrary and abstruse.

Since starting The Blaze, perhaps gun-shy after investigating Soros and being accused of racism and anti-Semitism, Beck has focused a great deal of his fire on the Right, especially any perceived ideological challenge to classical liberalism. Beck was especially excitable about the “truly terrifying” Alexander Dugin, sharing National Review’s weird Warhammer 40K fantasies that Dugin is the Ever-Chosen of the Chaos Gods.  Beck has sounded the alarm about the “far Right” rising in Europe, because it supposedly has an interest in “instability” and undermining capitalism. And most spectacularly, Beck insulted those in his own audience who support Donald Trump as “racists” and suggested Trump may follow the program of Adolf Hitler. 

Beck combines this policing of the Right with acts of virtue signaling towards the Left. One of the most outlandish was his recent declaration he would smuggle (supposedly Christian) Syrians into the United States. Conscious this is a crime, Beck boasts that he is willing to go to jail for his beliefs, though one can hardly picture Barack Obama serving in his designated role as Diocletian. After all, Beck’s crime of importing Third Worlders who will vote Democratic until the actual Second Coming is already official policy. But in Beck’s mind, he is a new Bonhoeffer, indeed someone who will save more people than Oscar Schindler (Peace Be Upon Him).

Bewildered conservatives told Beck Muslims are already faking conversions to Christianity in order to claim asylum and such a plan would almost certainly lead to Muslim terrorists being admitted into the United States. In response, Beck claimed, “We have former CIA people who are going over and they’re vetting everybody right now,” an assertion that raises more questions than it answers. . .  

But Beck is not a modern liberal who believes religion simply doesn’t matter. His new book is It IS About Islam, a phrase that is all but illegal in the birthplace of Anglo-Saxon liberty. As with many conservatives, Beck regards Islam is unacceptable because it has proven so resilient to assimilation by the gods of the marketplace. What Beck is trying to do is convert the entire world to a rival religion of “Americanism,” a universally applicable creed of limited government, anti-racism, and the Constitution. A non-ecumenical form of Christianity (which includes Beck’s Mormons) serving as a sacral glue holding all of this together.

Naturally, this requires reimagining the Founding Fathers as indistinguishable from modern conservatives. Beck has championed controversial “historian” David Barton and his attempts to rehabilitate Jefferson for the Religious Right as an anti-racist champion of Christianity. Not surprisingly, Barton also heads up a Ted Cruz Super PAC. And Beck has gone so far to compare Ted Cruz to George Washington.

In a recent interview with Beck, Ted's father, Rafael Cruz, waxed theologically:

The Constitution of the United States is a divinely inspired document. It is the greatest document that has ever been written, outside of the Bible.

Beck's response: "It is. It is."

The heretic to Americanism Beck targets today is, of course, Donald Trump. Beck is leading the charge against the Republican frontrunner because of Trump’s supposed lack of support for “the Constitution.” But Beck’s “Constitution” isn’t merely the Constitution. Beck isn’t talking about a document that lays out how the state is supposed to function. It’s a kind of holy text, an American Scripture, which, properly interpreted, gives us guidance on every aspect of life.

We see this in the specific accusations he’s made against Trump for not being a true “constitutional conservative.”

For example, Trump is alleged to be a “dangerous man” who will abuse his power. But this charge is made in tandem with the accusation Trump has been too open to cutting “deals” with Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. This makes no sense; if Trump was actually going to govern as the fascist dictator we all wish he would be, he wouldn’t be negotiating with Congress at all, let alone with leaders of the other party.

Trump is supposedly not a “real conservative” because he supports eminent domain. But eminent domain is one of the few things the government does that is clearly spelled out in the Constitution. It is also required to accomplish projects “real conservatives” like Ted Cruz support, such as the Keystone Pipeline.

Trump is not a “real conservative” because he supports ethanol subsidies. But Cruz doesn’t want to scrap it, merely to phase it out over five years. (This is the same kind of trick Barack Obama did with his healthcare plan, making sure the costs are delayed until they can no longer politically harm him.) And Cruz supports subsidies to oil companies, perhaps because they are more important to his political base in Texas. Indeed, if you actually cared about eliminating such subsidies to local interests, the only way to do it would be to support a powerful national leader who would ignore checks and balances and eliminate such inefficiencies at the stroke of a pen.

The weakness of the arguments suggests there’s something deeper at work, something even beyond Beck’s fear of White identity politics. One’s tempted to say it’s because the point of conservatism is to lose gracefully, to honor the form while losing the substance. And Trump is actually a fairly typical “movement conservative” when it comes to issues like taxes, gun control, Common Core, and the like. Beck’s problem is not with Trump himself. It is with what Trump represents.

Beck’s strange faith (and business model) requires a political and cultural environment that allows White Americans to believe their world is coming to an end without such a cultural collapse actually occurring. It’s LARPing America, as we rally to the defense of the Republic in a consequence-free environment where we don’t have to risk anything.

But the stakes are now too high for that. Beck is appealing to symbols that have been stripped of meaning for many Americans. Absent a sizable White majority that can take the core culture and religion for granted, Beck’s entire frame of reference collapses. The fanaticism of Beck’s war on Trump suggests this deeply unstable man is attacking him as a form of denial, a way to somehow prove that rules haven’t changed and that the old slogans and the old symbols are still relevant in the Identitarian Age that is emerging.

Trump heralds a new age of identity politics that has no place for “movement conservatives,” their goofy rhetoric about the Constitution, and their hypocritical exploitation of White resentment. The reason Trump is rising is because once accepted universally White symbols like the Founding Fathers and the Constitution are being deconstructed. There is a palpable sense of an existential confrontation. A war of peoples, is imminent. Trump is only the beginning.

Of course, our time has not yet come. Perhaps Trump’s hasn’t either. Despite the polls, Trump should not be considered the favorite in Iowa. The caucus process favors Ted Cruz’s ground game and the well-organized “movement conservatives” who live for this. Nostalgia for the “old Reagan coalition” may allow Cruz to win this first contest and allow Beck to claim a victory.

But it will be a final victory, not Beck’s oft-prophesized revival. Beck’s professional collapse has already begun, as his website and television network are bleeding viewers and his staff is defecting. Trump’s candidacy has shown immigration is the defining issue for the grassroots American Right, and it has reduced the value of Becks’ moral shaming tactics. And cracks have even formed in the evangelical coalition itself, as Trump’s appeal to evangelicals shows at least some White Christians are open to an identity-based approach on the basis of opposing Islam. Beck is even warning “they” are going to shut his network down, and has floated the idea of fleeing to . . . you guessed it . . . Jerusalem.

The irony is that to survive, in the United States anyway, Beck may actually need Trump. After all, Donald Trump isn’t really a huge threat to the old American order. He’s The Last American, a “strong leader” still willing to work within the old constitutional framework. Instead of stubbornly cutting entitlements and ignoring infrastructure, and so provoking a crisis, Trump seems motivated by a genuine desire to borrow both from the Old Left and the American Right to keep the System going.

For now, Trump is fueling the rise of the Alt Right. But if he somehow makes it to the real Oval Office (as opposed to Glenn’s fantasy set), there’s even a case he’ll serve as a safety valve by reassuring White Americans they are still tied to the regime.

But if Trump fails to become President, the next manifestation of American nationalism won’t be a promise to “Make America Great Again." It will be about establishing a radical alternative to what has been proven a failed experiment deeply hostile to the founding population.

Glenn Beck, priest of a dead god, has nothing to say to such a movement. He has nothing relevant to say on the issues that matter, and he’s slowly transforming from a media personality into the leader of a cult. If we’re lucky, he won’t just be the leader but the only member. Sadly, one suspects he’ll take plenty of White Americans along with him on his journey into oblivion.