Another History Rhyme: The President Vs. The Talk Show Host
Vol: 108 Issue: 23 Thursday, September 23, 2010
There doesn’t seem to be any way of avoiding the Glenn Beck phenomenon. There are as many opinions about the guy as there are people to express them. (I have about three different opinions about the guy myself.)
According to the Far Left both in and out of government, Beck is a rabble-rousing lunatic comparable to the ultra-right anti-Semitic 1930’s radio personality and Catholic priest, Father Charles Edward Coughlin.
According to the Far Right and much of the middle) Glenn Beck is a political messiah whose only flaw is that he just happens to be a Mormon.
But what is important to today’s discussion isn’t Glenn Beck or his religion. Not exactly, anyway. Stay with me.
Father Coughlin was a staunchly liberal anti-Communist whose 1930’s radio broadcast made him so popular that by 1934 he was literally the second most important political figures in the United States.
He once argued that the communist government had made divorce too easy and that communist anti-family ideas were spreading to the United States. Coughlin called this process the “Bolshevism of America”.
He pointed out that more than two million men and women had obtained divorces in the preceding ten years and people had therefore “scorned the basic family and national doctrine of Jesus Christ.”
His audience was more than 30 million listeners. In 1933, his radio discourses were bound and published, with the first edition selling more than one million copies.
But Father Coughlin was Glenn Beck’s ideological mirror image. Coughlin was a rabid anti-Semite and initially a strong supporter of the Roosevelt New Deal.
Coughlin’s weekly journal, with a circulation of over one million, was called “The Social Justice Weekly.”
Huey Long’s platform was ‘Share the Wealth’ and he even wrote and performed his own campaign song, “Every Man a King” based on a 1934 speech by that name.
After Long’s assassination, Coughlin’s “National Union of Social Justice Party collapsed and was replaced by “the Christian Front.”
Coughlin admired the strong measures taken against Communism by Mussolini and Hitler and shared the Nazi worldview that Marxism was really a Jewish plot. In 1942, the Post Office banned his Social Justice newsletter. Coughlin’s program was banned by the National Association of Broadcasters as ‘enemy propaganda’.
Long-time Omega Letter members will recognize two familiar themes here.
We’ve noted literally dozens of times over the past nine years the political similarities between the first decade of the 21st century and the politics and circumstances of the 1930’s.
In so doing, we’ve also noted the accuracy of Mark Twain’s observation that history doesn’t repeat itself, but that it rhymes.
And while there is no comparison between the agendas or politics of Father Coughlin and Glenn Beck, there does seem to be a history rhyme kicking around in here somewhere.
Father Coughlin rose to prominence during the Depression as a critic of the Roosevelt government to become the second most powerful political voice in the nation.
So powerful was he that via his radio broadcast, he virtually spoke a grass-roots political opposition party into existence. He tapped into a wellspring of national discontent and focused it like a laser in support of his own agenda for the country.
Father Coughlin set up 16 Rights and Principles for his National Union of Social Justice, beginning with this one:
“I believe in the right of liberty of conscience and liberty of education, not permitting the state to dictate either my worship to my God or my chosen avocation in life.”
The rest of them sound equally fair and just when viewed from the perspective of the 1930’s.
It is important to keep in mind here that Father Coughlin’s rise to prominence was a direct result of dissatisfaction with Roosevelt’s handling of economic issues during the Depression.
Glenn Beck is not Father Coughlin, whom I believe revealed himself in later life to be a deeply evil man. But viewed from the perspective of 1935, Coughlin appeared almost an angel of light shining on what was then a very dark America.
The historical rhyming of the discontent of the 1930s with that of today is unmistakable.
Glenn Beck’s 912 Project outlining “9 values and 12 principles that embody America” led to the formation of the Tea Party. Coughlin’s list of 16 Rights and 12 Principles led to the formation of the National Union of Social Justice.
The parallels between the Roosevelt administration and the Obama administration are as uncanny as the historical parallels between Coughlin and Beck.
Beck espouses a return to God and traditional values as did Father Coughlin in the 1930’s – and, as in the 1930’s Americans responded en masse. It would be no stretch to argue that Glenn Beck is the second most important figure in the United States — more so than Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich or anyone other than the president himself.
For now, let’s set aside the whole Glenn Beck is a Mormon thing – I plan to deal with Mormonism in detail in an upcoming OL. It’s an issue still to be addressed. Just not in this brief.
Right down to the dynamic of the President vs. the Talk Show Host. Keeping with the whole theme of history rhymes, what followed the 1930’s were the 1940’s and World War Two.
Because if WWII rhymes with anything, it rhymes with ‘Tribulation.’