Though Beck's visibility on television has decreased since his contract with Fox News expired at the end of 2011, his paranoia-fueled flag waving has already earned him a fortune; the passion he puts behind his message--of "self-empowerment, entrepreneurial spirit and true Americanism--the way we were when we changed the world, when Edison was alone, failing his 2,000th time on the lightbulb," as he puts it--is clearly heartfelt. But why does it resonate so powerfully with so many ordinary Americans who, lacking his extraordinary vocal endowments and his vast talent for self-promotion, can ill afford to give up such government entitlements as Social Security and Medicare?
Richard Hofstadter provides historical perspective. In his essay "Pseudo-Conservatism Revisited" he cited Symbolic Crusade (1963), Joseph R. Gusfield's study of the temperance movement, for its insights into politics that are driven by status values rather than economic ideas. Gusfield distinguished "between the political aims of those he calls 'cultural fundamentalists' and 'cultural modernists' . . . Both are engaged with politics, but the fundamentalists have a special edge because they want to restore the simple virtues of a bygone age and they feel themselves to be fighting in a losing cause."
On many occasions they approach economic issues as matters of faith and morals rather than matters of fact. For example, people often oppose certain economic policies not because they have been or would be economically hurt by such policies, or even because they have any carefully calculated views about their economic efficacy, but because they disapprove on moral grounds of the assumptions on which they think the policies rest.
A prominent case in point is the argument over fiscal policy . . . As a matter of status politics, deficit spending is an affront to millions who have been raised to live (and in some cases have been forced by circumstances to live) abstemious, thrifty, prudential lives. . . when society adopts a policy of deficit spending, thrifty small-businessmen, professionals, farmers, and white-collar workers who have been managing their affairs by the old rules feel that their way of life has been officially and insultingly repudiated.
Like Father Coughlin, Billie James Hargis, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and so many other right wing media crusaders before them, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and Laura Ingraham understand that for many religious Americans, "evil" is not just an adjective but also a noun. When the Puritans first arrived in New England, they believed they were reclaiming a wilderness from Satan. Many traditionalists on the right, whether Christian Millennialists or not, feel much the same way.
To them, Godless Communism or Secular Humanism isn't the absence of a religious orientation so much as they are Satanic religions in and of themselves, whose acolytes glorify evil, promote the slaughter of innocent, unborn babies, and persecute believing Christians. Blue State America is Rome in the time of Christ. Whether its depravity is manifested in the form of sexual libertinage, income redistribution, spiritual or economic incontinence, blasphemy, women's and gay rights, or the threat of "race mixing," anathema and even violence are completely appropriate responses to it.