I had the pleasure of hearing Glenn Beck's speech at CPAC
last Saturday. (A transcript
is here, but I would recommend watching the video, as the delivery is as good as the speech itself.) It was a great speech and well worth listening to. Beck is a really smart, self-educated fellow, so there is a certain clarity to what he says that all of us as citizens can understand. In the speech, he talks about the principles of the American founding as well as the progressive movement's efforts to critique and transform those principles, and he talks about these things in ways that are clear and effective. One part of the speech, however, seems to have created a small stir:
Dick Cheney, a couple of days ago was here, and he says it's going to be a good year for conservative ideas. That's true. That's very true. ... It's going to be a very good year. But it's not enough just to not suck as much as the other side. ... I have not heard people in the Republican Party yet admit that they have a problem. And when they do say they have a problem I don't know if I believe them. I haven't seen the come-to-Jesus moment of the Republican Party yet. I've voted Republicans almost every time in - every time I've gone. I - I don't know what they even stand for any more. And they've got to recognize that they have a problem. Hello! My name is the Republican Party and I've got a problem. I'm addicted to spending and big government.
[F]or him to continue to say that he does not hear the Republican party admit its failings or problems is to ignore some of the loudest and brightest lights in the party. ... [T]o say the GOP needs to hit a recovery-program-type bottom and hang its head in remorse, is to delay our own country's recovery from the problems the Democratic left is inflicting. The stakes are too important to go through that kind of exercise, which will ultimately go nowhere anyway -- because it's already happened.
I generally find myself agreeing with Bill Bennett, and he makes some valid points about Beck's message. I would have thrown in Beck's comment about the purpose of government, where Beck says, "As I read the Constitution -- as I read the words of the founders, really, the only job of the United States government is to save us from bad guys." Of course, that is only partly true, and founders nicely summed up the pupose of government in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence
: to secure our natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But this is getting nit-picky, but so is Bennett. He is beating up Beck around the edges and on some minor points, and he is missing the big ones.
The Republican party has a couple problems: (1) making sure the Tea Party movement doesn't fracture the party and (2) preparing to not only win elections this fall but also after the elections, preparing to lead in a way that helps build a stronger Republican majority (or as Beck might put it, to do more than just sucking less than the other guys). These two things are very closely related. The Tea Party movement's fast growth is a clear message that there is something lacking in the rhetoric or actions of many in the Republican Party. Whether or not you support the Tea Party movement, it is something to pay attention to, and for Republicans, it requires some action.
Writing today over at the WSJ, John Fund
suggests that Members of Congress should be mindful of Beck's message. I agree. Nothing in Beck's speech suggested splintering the Republican party. His speech was clearly friendly advice for those in the party for what to do and how to talk about it. Giving Bill Bennett the benefit of the doubt that the "loudest and brightest lights" of the Republican Party are already practising what Beck is calling for, the Tea Party movement proves that Republicans are not getting their message across. Beck offered up some good and effective ways for Republicans to talk about themselves and what they believe, and more importantly, advice for how to teach and talk about the principles upon which our country was founded. Republicans shouldn't view Beck's speech as an attack. If they want to avoid a third party being created and work to build a larger Republican majority, they should listen to what Beck is saying and learn from the rhetoric in his speech.