Reagan's Big Tent vs. Beck's Straitjacket

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Ronald Reagan wanted the Republican Party to be a big tent. If Glenn Beck had his way, the Republican Party would be a straitjacket, open only to drones who adhere to his narrow ideology.

Not even Reagan himself, the most highly regarded Republican president within living memory, would be welcome in a party reconfigured to Beck’s specifications. As he told USA Today Weekend this past week: “I’ve always said I was a Reagan-style conservative. But I don’t think Reagan was a real Republican. He just maintained some shared values.”

Theodore Roosevelt wouldn’t be welcome either. At last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, Beck scorned the Rough Rider as the spear carrier of a “socialist utopia.”

Actually, if Beck cracked open a history textbook, he would find that TR loathed socialism. Roosevelt fought to smooth the rough edges of industrial capitalism, in order to head off what he feared would be a socialist revolution.

As Washington Post conservative columnist Michael Gerson wrote February 26: “(Roosevelt) sought to preserve the market system by regulating its health, safety and fairness. This is not laissez faire, but it is an authentic conservative tradition – the use of incremental reform to diffuse radicalism.”

Would Beck and his brigades accept Barry Goldwater? Not likely. After all, Mr. Conservative once said: “While I am a great believer in the free enterprise system and all that it entails, I am an even stronger believer in the right of our people to live in a clean and pollution-free environment.”

One can only imagine how hard Beck’s temple would throb at that notion.

Even Abraham Lincoln’s bona fides might be called into question. Among Lincoln’s vast contributions to America, he protected Yosemite Valley, setting a precedent for establishing national parks owned in common and open to everyone, rich or poor, to enjoy. No room for that sort of communitarian vision in Beck’s world.

In Beck’s world of circular firing squad litmus tests, there is no room for anything that resembles traditional conservatism

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