As I noted previously, writer Matthew Continetti objects to Glenn Beck’s vigorous daily thrashing of progressivism, a political ideology that Continetti (inexplicably) considers to be sacrosanct. Continetti, whose work I used to respect, must feel that leftists have a long and honorable history in America. Good for him.
After Continetti labeled Beck a lunatic in “The Two Faces of the Tea Party,” a recent article in the pro-big government conservative periodical known as the Weekly Standard, Continetti then laid out a particularly offensive false dichotomy that pits one part of the right against another.
Beck is a lunatic like Barry Goldwater and if we listen to him we’re doomed but if we emulate Ronald Reagan and Rick Santelli then we’re going to be OK, he argues. It’s Goldwater versus Reagan, which really translates to Beck versus Santelli. What BS.
Continetti is incredibly dishonest. He writes
It is harder to integrate the Beck face into mainstream politics. It is harder to imagine even a unified Republican government being tempted by the Beck program. Entitlements are not about to be abolished. The Federal Reserve is not going away. A flat tax is a long-term goal not a short-term fix. The budget will not be balanced by cutting pork-barrel spending alone. America is not about to renege on her international commitments.
The tensions within conservative populism are durable and longstanding. Consider two other faces. The first is Ronald Reagan’s: sunny, cheerful, conservative. Yet it is often forgotten that Reagan was the first Republican president to identify with FDR. He drew support from unions and other parts of the New Deal coalition. He left Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid intact. He was less concerned with undoing the work of his predecessors than he was with implementing reforms that promoted competition, investment, and growth. Not coincidentally, he was the most successful Republican president of the 20th century.
The second face is Barry Goldwater’s, circa 1964: tart, dyspeptic, radical. For Goldwater, “Extremism in the defense of liberty [was] no vice.” For Goldwater, the aim was “not to pass laws, but to repeal them.” It is no wonder that conservatives are attracted to such a message. But they are often the only ones who feel this way. Goldwater lost in a landslide.
The Tea Party cannot choose one face over the other; they are both part of the same movement. But the Tea Party can decide which face it puts forward. And in the coming days that decision will be of great consequence. It is the choice between Reagan and Goldwater. Santelli and Beck. Reform and revolution. Common sense and conspiracy. The future and the past. Victory—and defeat.
There are so many fallacies, so many ridiculous assertions, that it’s difficult to know where to begin.