When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross, sitting in a lawn chair and eating a KFC Double Down

(For Shorter Ross Douthat, just scroll to the bottom)

Not really much left to say about Glenn Beck’s Piety In The Sky AmericaFuckYeah!!athon, but really, what more needs to be said about an event that drew slightly fewer people than an Ohio State-Michigan football game would  in a down year for both teams?

Well, that would be a job for our man Ross Douthat who had previously felt some stirring in his loins for that wild and crazy but oddly compelling Glenn Beck.

Even the thrust-and-parry sessions of “The Daily Show,” though, are limited by the left-right binary that divides and dulls our politics. They’re better than the competition, but they don’t give free rein to eccentricity and unpredictability, or generate arguments that finish somewhere wildly different than where you’d expect them to end up. This is what you find in the riveting television debates of the past: William F. Buckley versus Gore Vidal, Vidal versus Norman Mailer, anything involving Ross Perot. And it’s what you get from the mad, compulsively watchable Glenn Beck, who’s an extremist without being a knee-jerk partisan: You know he’s way out there on the right somewhere, but you don’t know what he’s going to say next.

So, when Beck took his show on the road, Ross thought he’d do his best David Broder impression (cling to the old ways, wear comfortable shoes, get lots of fiber, bed by 8) and go mingle amongst the pasty-white Popin’ Fresh patriots who were gorging down that special brand of Beck/Palin chopped platitude salad that satisfies an appetite that can’t be satisfied with fear, bigotry, and bacon grease smoothies alone.

Entering this weekend, I was convinced that Glenn Beck’s star was about to go into eclipse.


But after spending my Saturday at Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally on the Washington Mall, I’m beginning to think that I underestimated the man.

Well, yeah, I mean Beck was on his best behavior.

Now more than ever, Americans love leaders who seem to validate their way of life. This spirit of self-affirmation was at work in evangelicals’ enduring support for Bush, in the enthusiasm for the Dean campaign among the young, secular and tech-savvy, and now in the devotion that Palin inspires among socially conservative women. The Obama campaign raised it to an art form, convincing voters that by merely supporting his candidacy, they were proving themselves cosmopolitan and young-at-heart, multicultural and hip.

In a sense, Beck’s “Restoring Honor” was like an Obama rally through the looking glass. It was a long festival of affirmation for middle-class white Christians — square, earnest, patriotic and religious. If a speaker had suddenly burst out with an Obama-esque “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” the message would have fit right in.

But whereas Obama wouldn’t have been Obama if he weren’t running for president, Beck’s packed, three-hour jamboree was floated entirely on patriotism and piety, with no “get thee to a voting booth” message. It blessed a particular way of life without burdening that blessing with the compromises of a campaign, or the disillusioning work of governance.

Or the reality of reality.

But, oh, for those days when men were men, women were women, and presidents were white.

Or, Shorter Ross Douthat:

“Boy, the way Glen Miller played. Songs that made the Hit Parade. Guys like us, we had it made. Those were the days! Didn’t need no welfare state. Everybody pulled his weight Gee, our old LaSalle ran great. Those were the days! And you knew where you were then! Girls were girls and men were men. Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again. People seemed to be content. Fifty dollars paid the rent. Freaks were in a circus tent. Those were the days! Take a little Sunday spin, go to watch the Dodgers win. Have yourself a dandy day that cost you under a fin (five dollar bill). Hair was short and skirts were long. Kate Smith really sold a song. I don’t know just what went wrong! Those Were the Days!”

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Yeah. Like I would tell you....