Glenn Beck Begs/Harangues Libertarians to Accept Him & Others Who Are 'trying to honestly learn'


Is this a libertarian diagram? ||| Wikimedia commons
Wikimedia commons

Ann Coulter's libertarians-are-"pussies" remark provoked a lengthy, rambling, and very interesting response recently from broadcasting provocateur/entrepreneur Glenn Beck.

I recommend you listen to the whole 18 minutes, in which Beck, who has been identifying more and more with the "libertarian" label, complains bitterly about being subject to withering philisophical "litmus tests" by skeptical libertarians and Ron Paul supporters (some of whom he calls "more fascist than anyone in the Republican Party"), declares his full-throated support for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) as a presidential candidate ("Rand Paul is your best shot right now"), apologizes for originally being in favor of the PATRIOT Act and warantless wiretapping ("Boy, what a fool I was"), mentions that he's been having plenty of off-air conversations about libertarianism with Penn Jillette, and above all beseeches libertarians to take advantage of their historic opportunity to change the direction of the country. This excerpt captures the spirit:

Libertarians, I'm begging you, please: See the opportunity you have with about thirty percent of this nation; maybe sixty percent of this nation. They will come your way. They live in that space. Until you go and say, 'There's no other way but this way!' No one wants to hear that. You don't want to hear that from the people in Washington in the Republican or Democratic Party. Don't give us another choice where it is all or nothing […]

And recognize that we're not always perfect. Some of us are coming a little late to the game. And we apologize that we're not as smart as you are.

Some of this comes as a response to an open letter last month written by Mediate's Andrew Kirell entitled "Dear Glenn Beck, Please Don't Call Yourself a 'Libertarian,'" and also to Students for Liberty President Alexander McCobin's  recent statement that "If Glenn wants to call himself a libertarian, I am happy to accept him as one…on the condition…that he comes here to our community and proclaim 'mea culpa' for his past defenses of social and neo-conservatism." Kirell has responded to Beck's comments here; McCobin here. Excerpt from the latter:

the substantive point I was trying to make was apropos: for more than a decade, you worked very hard and very successfully at branding yourself as a key figure in conservatism, not just economic conservatism, but also social and neoconservatism. Not only are these not libertarian positions, but to associate libertarianism with them makes it that much harder to introduce libertarianism to more people, especially young people who are turned off by conservatism. After you spent over 10 years denouncing libertarianism, actively working against our causes, and building up a certain reputation for yourself directly opposed to our ideas, I think it's reasonable for me and other libertarians to be skeptical when you suddenly claim to be a libertarian. I really hope you have changed your views and that you are committed to libertarianism (your segment on Friday included more renunciations of your past conservative positions than I have ever heard from you, which I admire). However, it's going to take more than new window dressing for me and many others to believe that you're a libertarian. Show us that you're libertarian through the positions you take beyond conservatism, the groups you support, the people you invite to your show, indeed, even just in the conversations you are willing to have.

Some links before I add my own two cents after the jump: Greg Beato on "Glenn Beck's Experimental Melodrama"; Michael C. Moynihan on his "reductionist view of history"; Tim Cavanaugh defends "the sense that he's bringing you his findings as fast as they come in," I attack his "ridiculous misreading" of George Soros, and Nick Gillespie reports for Reason.tv on what he saw at Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally in Washington, D.C.

My feeling on Glenn Beck and his now-more-libertarian The Blaze network (where I guest semi-frequently on the nightly newscast, including tomorrow), is basically the same as whenever I hear anyone embracing or engaging more libertarian viewpoints: Cool. I like libertarian ideas; am eager to see them discussed widely, and I'm confident that the basic broad philosophy will withstand association with anyone claiming all or part of the word. I understand that many libertarians, particularly the ones who (unlike me) are grounded more squarely in a philosophical strain, have the interest and occasionally the incentive to engage strenuously in quien-es-mas-libertarian debates, but that's not my bag. Neither is dropping the self-descriptor just because this or that unclean person or faction is waving the flag.

An overlapping personal feeling here regards the uses of hyperbole, a bread-and-butter staple of Beck's in all his political permutations, but also a habit for a non-trivial number of libertarians. I'm agin' it. I think a lot of seemingly philosophical intra-libertarian divides quickly boil down to how much rhetorical bomb-throwing and conspiracy dot-connecting you can comfortably stomach, or conversely, how much ceding of the offensive status quo you can tolerate.

I think the far more interesting question here isn't whether Glenn Beck can or should use the L-word, it's whether he's right about the 30-60 percent number and libertarianism's "historic opportunity" to win hearts and minds right now with political tactics that resemble Rand Paul's more than those of his father. I'm too old to be optimistic about politics, but I agree that it's at least a fascinating story to watch.

Original link (whatever it was!) via the always-interesting Twitter feed of Julie Borowski.