What's Glenn Beck Up To? Something Big, He Says

Hey -- we like conspiracies too! Here's one, with some fact attached to it: conservative media icon Glenn Beck is planning something big -- very big -- for 2010. On his radio show yesterday, Beck alluded to a major nationwide mobilization project of some kind that he and some colleagues will soon announce. "If you think the 9/12 project was something...you ain't seen nothing yet," he said (roughly -- I didn't have a pen handy when he uttered this).

Beck's 9/12 project brought tens of thousands of his ideological compatriots to rallies in D.C., and thousands more at rallies across the country. The event, he insisted, was "non-political" -- about sending a message to leaders that the feeling of American solidarity the day after 9/11/01 was worth fighting for. But Beck, at the time, also announced a follow-on project, "2010: In Or Out," asking people to determine whether their elected representatives support a five-part pledge. That was the first step, he implied, of several to come.

Beck appears to be building something. His television show audience is growing, despite a well-publicized boycott, and his radio show calls itself the third highest in the country. (Radio audience measurements can be fickle.) His newsletter has more than 750,000 subscribers. He's authored three best-selling books. As the attention to Beck has increased -- as Beck has become persona non grata among elites -- who, let's face it, also love to cover him as a phenomenon they can't quite understand -- Beck seems to enhanced his standing with his target audience.

Given that 2010 is an election year, it would be logical to assume that Beck is putting together a mass voter registration and mobilization project. It's a tricky proposition. For one thing, conservative talk radio audiences -- and Fox News viewers -- tend to be registered voters and tend to have a pretty good sense of which party they'll support. Growing the voter rolls has been a growth industry for Democrats, whose demographic base tends to be relatively unregistered as compared to the Republican Party's. And Beck's relationship with the official organs of the Republican Party is, to the say the least, strained. He doesn't care for the national party, and they keep him at arm's length.

And, of course, Beck claims to be non-partisan. Conservative, yes, but disdainful of the GOP, with no vested interest in seeing Republicans return to power, either. The reality is that, given how burnt-in the two party system is, ginning up enthusiasm among conservatives is going to hurt Democrats and help Republicans...but maybe Beck will try something more subtle. He'll have to draw the line carefully between exhortations to hold politicians accountable and support for particular candidates. There can't be an official "Beck" slate of independent candidates out there. And despite Beck's plea for Democrats to join him in protest, he's become sufficiently polarizing so as to significantly increase the social costs of association for anyone with non-conservative sympathies.

Still, if Beck becomes part of the apparatus that fuses into one movement irritated Republicans and angry conservatives and fickle Ron Paul libertarians -- he's going to become a major electoral player in 2010.