Frum on Glenn Beck Conservatism

David Frum observes the insanity of conservative attacks on Cass Sunstein:

In other words: Horowitz agrees that Beck’s attack on Sunstein was false. Yet that falsehood does not worry Horowitz. The country is “under assault.” (As the broadcaster Mark Levin has said, President Obama is “literally at war” with the American people.) In a war, truth must yield to the imperatives of victory. Any conservative qualms about the untruth of Beck’s defamation of Sunstein amounts to “appeasement” — an appeasement that will end with the left decapitating the right. This is the language and logic of Leninism. There is no truth or falsehood comrades, there is only service to the revolution or betrayal of the revolution. […]

… even in Leninist terms, Beck’s attack on Sunstein was stupid and counter-productive. Every legal conservative who cares about the issues of regulation and deregulation agrees that Cass Sunstein is the very best choice for the OIRA job to be hoped from a Democratic president. Had conservative opposition somehow derailed the Sunstein nomination, President Obama’s next appointment would almost certainly have been worse — very possibly, a lot worse.

This doesn’t actually especially remind me of any distinctively Leninist ideas so much as Carl Schmitt’s thought on the primacy of the friend/enemy distinction. Sunstein is “on the other team” so it makes sense to try to destroy him even though his views on the issues covered by the OIRA job aren’t very liberal and some environmentalists regarded his appointment as a betrayal.


The larger issue is that it’s dangerous for political movements to let themselves be led by entertainers whose primary interest is in attracting an audience. Politics is a practical business, about accomplishing concrete goals and winning elections in an environment in which most people don’t care about politics very much. Becoming a successful cable news or talk radio host is about attracting a relatively small audience of die-hard fans and whipping them into various frenzies.