Doubtless it marks me out as a member of the uncomprehending godless elite, but I find the popularity of Glenn Beck very hard to understand. Sarah Palin's popularity, I think I do understand. However much of an illusion it may be -- all politicians deal in illusions -- she projects an appealing, proud, self-sufficient ordinariness that makes her a credible spokesman for many Americans. Beck sets himself up not as a spokesman so much as an inspirational teacher and guide, blackboard and all. There he stands, with the answer to everything, gravely propounding his theories of life, the universe and everything that surrounds it. Wrapped up in his own psychodrama, his self-regard seems limitless.
He strikes me as a huckster drunk on his own pitch, a true believer in his own cult, ready to hurtle off the rails at any moment -- and all of this seems obvious. Yet he, not Palin, was very much the star of the rally in DC on Saturday. They love the guy.
And so many of them. It is a sign of something I suppose that the National Park Service no longer does head-counts for events like this. (They were accused of deliberately understating the turn-out for the Million Man March in 1995. No doubt they would have been accused of bigotry if they had tendered a disrespectfully large number for Beck's event.) Reports cautiously said tens of thousands. It looked like 250,000. A huge area of the Mall was packed.