In case you missed it, Glenn Beck appeared on FBN’s Freedom Watch with Judge Andrew Napolitano and had some provocative things to say about Newt Gingrich. Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com has the story on what Beck had to say to the Tea Party with respect to their potential support of Gingrich. Beck asked the following question of Tea Party folk who support Newt: “Ask yourselves this, Tea Party: Is it about Obama’s race? Because that’s what it appears to be to me.” Now, while this is going to require some background context, what you should understand is that Beck is making a point, but I think he chose the wrong way to make it.
Beck’s known for his bombastic remarks and challenges, and it’s fair to say that this is his stock in trade, but let’s give the man his due, because he is making an important point about Newt. His allegation is that in interviewing Gingrich, he decided that Gingrich is a Republican Progressive after Gingrich referred to Teddy Roosevelt as his favorite President. When Beck challenged Gingrich on this, Gingrich backed away a little, qualifying his statement by saying that he liked Roosevelt before his Osawatomie, KS speech in which he came out as a full-blown progressive. Here’s the real problem with that, and to his credit, Beck picks up on it: Theodore Roosevelt was ever a progressive. He merely came out as a progressive, basically a socialist, in that speech. What Beck contends is that he cannot support Newt Gingrich because he is like Roosevelt before that famous speech. On this point, Beck makes perfect fence, but like so many other instances, this is also where he “jumps the shark.”
In speaking with Napolitano on Freedom Watch, Beck explains his view on Gingrich, but then takes it that next step: He challenges the Tea Party by asking: “Is it about Obama’s race?” Here’s what Beck is really asking: Since Obama is a leftist Democrat progressive, and Gingrich is a Republican progressive, both are nevertheless progressives, a.k.a. “socialists,” so if the Tea Party will support one, but won’t support the other, what is the real difference upon which that support turns? Here is where Beck wrongly plays the race card against the Tea Party. He offers that it must be about Obama’s race. While I understand the point he is trying to make, I think he could have made it without dragging the race card into this. There are other simpler, more plausible reasons than race for this seeming contradiction on the part of Tea Party members who support Gingrich, but not Obama, and in order to help Beck, I’ve made a list of them:
- Gingrich is a Republican; Obama is a Democrat: While Beck can gloss over this difference as insignificant, and in some ways he’d be right, the truth is that the people who he is challenging don’t see the difference as entirely meaningless. They have some perhaps reasonable expectation that there is a difference between Republicans and Democrats.
- Gingrich is smarter than Obama: Many, in the Tea Party and otherwise, see Gingrich as a more thoughtful fellow, and if faced with a choice, would rather have the smarter of the two.
- Gingrich and Romney appear to be leading: Both men are progressives, and of the two, Gingrich is at least willing to talk to the Tea Party and reach out to them. Tea Party and conservative folk are likely making a judgment about the reality they see developing, and responding accordingly.
These are only three of a whole range of reasons you would naturally come to long before you get to some cock-eyed notion about Obama’s race, as Beck has managed to do. I think it is folly on Beck’s part to try to play this angle on the Tea Party patriots, and rather than trying to make a point by suggesting that supporting Newt Gingrich is some sort of back-handed admission of racism on the part of those conservatives who are supporting Gingrich, he ought to instead try to educate them about the history of progressives without insulting the motives of Tea Party conservatives, or giving leftists a video clip they will later use to assail the Tea Party.
Beck’s basic point is sound: Gingrich is a progressive, and always has been, but if he’s a progressive, why should Tea Party and conservative folk support him any more than they would support Barack Obama? One could make this same argument about Romney, and it would fit just as well. What Beck should have done is use the moment to explain his meaning, rather than throw down the race card. He would have served his audience and the debate in a more positive way, and we wouldn’t now have this additional distraction from the cause for which we begin now to gather: To select the candidate who will face Obama next November. Challenging the Tea Party by suggesting their choice of Newt Gingrich is evidence of racism is simply deplorable. I understand what he was trying to say, but I think he could have found another device for demonstrating his point. The race card is over-used in American politics, and to see Beck making this argument was disappointing.
You can watch the video here.