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November 23, 2009

Do you take Glenn Beck’s “new national movement” seriously?

Listed in: Other Domestic Policy, GOP Hypocrisies, NJDC News, Opinions

Originally published in Politico’s Arena

By David A. Harris, President of the National Jewish Democratic Council

In one sense, it’s hard to take Glenn Beck and his hopes for the GOP very seriously in Washington, given that he has demonstrated nothing but the celebrity that Ross Douthat discusses—and virtually none of the responsibility required to engage in governance. Yet it’s that same lack of responsibility that leads me to take him very seriously, and leads me and many others to be plenty concerned about the direction he’s heading in.

As my organization and groups like Media Matters have said again and again, Beck engages in some deeply offensive and dangerous rhetoric, at (thus far) little cost to him. And watching Beck’s rhetoric is important, because that’s all he does—he talks for a living, period. Yet just in the past few months, he’s repugnantly compared the Obama administration’s dealings with Fox News to the way the Nazis treated Jews during the Holocaust; he’s repeatedly compared Obama to Hitler and encouraged his listeners to “please read Mein Kampf” to learn from Germany’s mistakes; he’s suggested that health care reform plans would lead to Nazi-style eugenics; etc., etc. Whether it was the President’s work on TARP, or the automobile industry bailout, or health insurance reform, Beck has shown he has a patently vile and ridiculous historical comparison to Hitler to go with it. And he’s been condemned by the ADL and other religious organizations as a result.

The GOP establishment is clearly letting celebrities and stars set the party’s agenda. When it comes to Glenn Beck, they couldn’t do much worse. These fissures between thoughtful, responsible and perhaps more moderate forces in the Republican Party and these far-right media darlings like Beck may yield good electoral outcomes for Democrats, but the damage Beck and others do to the country—and to our political discourse—are what we should all take seriously, regardless of party.