Glenn Beck's lightning rod performance
as the keynote speaker at CPAC was typical Beck in many ways. He
accused Democrats of a conspiracy to destroy the
Constitution, theorized about the secret agendas of federal
institutions, and waxed poetic about the Founding Fathers. But Beck also
took an unusual turn, launching into a fierce, lengthy,
unrestrained criticism of the Republican Party. He accused it of
hypocrisy on issues such as taxes and spending. "It's
not enough just to not suck as much as the other side," he said.
Beck echoed the anti-establishment criticism of Republicans generally leveled by the Tea Party movement, of which he has been a central figure. Antagonism between Tea Partiers and the GOP has been increasing for nearly a year, threatening a rift that could tear the party apart. But Beck, anointed by the Republican establishment to deliver the CPAC keynote, is in the unique position of being able to bring the two factions together. He is enough of an outsider to win Tea Parties' trust, and popular enough to demand the GOP's attention.
On his Fox News show, Beck often guides his Tea Party-oriented viewership away from the fringe. Now he is guiding the GOP away from its less conservative Bush-era policies. To be sure, much of Beck's speech was the theater and hyperbole he is known for. But it may also be the beginning of a bigger Republican tent that encompasses both ends of the party. If conservatives listen, Beck will have succeeded where even the Republican Party's official leaders have struggled.