It’s beyond dispute that the tea party owed its rise in large part to Glenn Beck. It’s also beyond dispute that the alt-right–the white supremacist and Islamophobic movement that helped power Donald Trump’s campaign–is a direct linear descendant of the tea party. For most of the presidential campaign, however, Beck has fallen all over himself to cut any tie between the alt-right and his brand of conservatism. Just last month, for instance, he declared that the alt-right represented nothing less than a threat to our democracy.
Well, on Monday, Beck ramped up his war with the alt-right. Less than 12 hours after Trump named the alt-right’s eminence grise, Breitbart News chairman and Trump campaign chairman Steve Bannon, as his chief strategist and senior counselor, Beck unleashed a blistering attack on him. People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch got a clip.
Beck’s attack on Bannon began 17 minutes into Monday’s show. He denounced Bannon as a “nightmare” for this country, due to his stated desire to burn the entire system down. He denounced Bannon as a right-wing anarchist who wanted to take this country back to the days of the Reign of Terror in France–an era in which anyone even mildly opposed to the Revolution was snuffed out. This parallel makes sense; the alt-right thugs on Twitter who attack Trump’s critics sound a lot like the sans-culottes of the French Revolution.
Later, Beck mused that Trump wanted to name Bannon as chief of staff rather than Reince Priebus. Co-host Pat Gray, however, suggested that Bannon actually wanted to be senior adviser, since historically he has more influence than the chief of staff. He and Beck agreed that as chief strategist, Bannon would not be accountable to anyone.
Beck then said that all those who are outraged over Trump giving succor to racism–and in many cases, blowing racist dog whistles himself–ought to turn their focus on Bannon. After all, he argued, the man about to become Karl Rove to Trump’s George W. Bush has documented links to some of the worst people in the world.
“You know, if people really want to, in the press, would like to call Donald Trump a racist, you might want to stop on that one and spend a little time on Bannon. Because Bannon has a clear tie to white nationalists. Clear tie.”
In case you missed it, Bannon had no qualms about giving succor to the worst elements of the alt-right. That’s not just us saying it. His former underlings are saying it as well. According to former Breitbart reporter Kurt Badella, Bannon is so xenophobic that editorial calls at Breitbart sounded like “a white supremacist rally.” Bannon’s former editor-at-large, Ben Shapiro, says that Bannon has no qualms about promoting white nationalism and letting the comment sections turn into a toxic waste dump of hate.
From where Beck is sitting, this is exactly what Bannon wanted. After all, he is “on record as defining the alt-right”–and the fact that he has defined it as a cesspool for some of the worst people in the world makes him “a terrifying man.” He believes that it “speaks volumes” about what Trump’s White House will look like that Bannon was even considered for a senior position.
For me, all I needed to know about Bannon is that Milo Yiannopoulos is still on Breitbart’s payroll. This is the same guy who led the disgraceful trolling of Leslie Jones–an episode that got him banned from Twitter. And he’s still on the payroll after claiming that Harvard has no business rooting out the rape culture on its men’s soccer team.
Beck has been in a feud with Bannon for the better part of a year. Back in February, he accused Bannon of turning Breitbart into a subsidiary of the Trump campaign–a sentiment shared by many others, who nicknamed it “Trumpbart.” When Bannon became CEO of the Trump campaign, Beck branded him “the most dangerous guy in all of American politics.”
And now Bannon is about to become one of the most powerful men in Washington. The fact that Trump has anything to do with a guy with any kind of tie to racist knuckledraggers makes his recent pleas for unity sound like just another con.
Last month, Beck claimed that Bannon and the alt-right were taking a lot of cues from the European far right. He planned to do chalkboards on these links sometime after the election. I never thought I’d say it, but I’m actually looking forward to this.
For all the talk about the Democrats being in soul-searching mode, it says a lot about the GOP when the man who was one of the architects of the tea party is now coming out as a voice of sanity on the right. Maybe Beck has a guilty conscience. But let’s give credit where credit is due.
After all, the Republicans have spent the last decade and a half on a quadruple-time march to the far right–and that isn’t good for democracy in the long run. As someone who has a number of friends who are very conservative, but not as unhinged as Trump and Bannon, I know it may take sane people on both sides of the spectrum to stop a man who is a clear and present danger to the very foundations of this country.
(featured image courtesy Gage Skidmore, available under a Creative Commons BY-SA license)