Beck, Palin, and 9/11 As Secular Conservative Holiday

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 2 2010 10:00 AM

Beck, Palin, and 9/11 As Secular Conservative Holiday

With not a lot of fanfare, Glenn Beck booked Anchorage's Dena'ina for a September 11 event with no announced program. When I first heard about the event, it was from Palin-watching liberals who assumed -- correctly, it turns out -- that the former governor would attend the rally. One theory I heard was that Palin would use the event to launch a presidential bid, which I don't buy at all. Nothing suggests that she would suck the oxygen out of the GOP's midterm campaign by doing that.

Instead, I think you're going to see a sequel to Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally. Like I noted in my article on that rally , it wasn't overtly political for the same reasons that his paid speeches aren't overtly political. The people who show up for these events are already converts. The point of these events is to bolster their political anxiety by telling them they are needed to reclaim America in the name of God.

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And that's how we get to the 9/11 timing. Between this event and the (fairly overblown) anti-"ground zero mosque" rally in New York, we're witnessing the end of the political truce over having rallies on 9/11. Even during the truce, however, it was assumed that 9/11 was a secular holiday for national security conservatives. Go back and read the commentary from 2004, 2006, and 2008 -- numerous people, including Newt Gingrich, suggested that the 9/11 anniversary would remind Americans that their coming electoral choice was between feckless liberals who had "forgotten" the lessons of 9/11 and strong conservatives who hadn't. Beck has been beating that drum since March 13, 2009, his famous "You Are Not Alone" episode, when he urged Americans to remember how they felt the day after 9/11. At "Restoring Honor," he didn't talk about politics. On 9/11, he won't talk about politics. But his message will be transparently political -- it's America's own fault that it handed the presidency to a liberal community organizer, because it forgot the lessons of 9/11.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.