Posted Monday, Dec. 13, 2010, at 11:27 AM
I'm in D.C., not New York, but in slow moments I've been checking in with the video feed for the launch of No Labels, the most important post-partisan trojan horse for generic liberal politics since either Unity08 or HotSoup.com. It's easy to mock -- I notice that the mountains of derisive Twitter comments are not being quoted when moderators dip in to quote from social media -- but what strikes me is how the rhetoric for a bland, good government-and-handshakes "movement" is identical to the Glenn Beck 9/12 movement.
Contrast this with Evan Bayh's comments at the event -- his first since disclaiming interest in a 2012 comeback bid for governor of Indiana. Bayh, who suggested that the problem with the Senate was that members of different parties gathered in caucuses ("it's almost tribal"), cited a few examples of Republicans and Democrats coming together for the greater good. He cited the aftermath of September 11 and the financial crisis of 2008. He described a scene from 2008 where Ben Bernanke warned senators that the sky would collapse if the banks weren't rescued. "We looked at each other," said Bayh, "and said, okay, what do we need."
This made me double back to the March 13, 2009 launch of Glenn Beck's "We Surround Them" movement. Beck told viewers that if they remembered how they felt in the grip of an existential crisis, they would be inspired to come together.
On September 10th, Americans were playing politics and they had chosen to bury their heads in the sand and ignore the coming threat. I remember how picture perfect the day was. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and America seemed invisible, and yet, in the blink of an eye. That airplane appeared to hit a little bit down the building around the 50th or 60th floor. Again, it struck flush. The skies were filled with black cloud and our hearts were full of terror and fear. We realized -- for the first time how fragile we really were. Then something happened. We came together. We promised ourselves that we would never forget. On September 12th, and for a short time after that, we really promised ourselves that we would focus on the things that were important -- our family, our friends, the eternal principles that allowed America to become the world's beacon of freedom. So once again, America has a choice. Tonight, we can choose to be the Americans of September 10th with our heads buried in the sand. We can be the Americans of September 11th who were unprepared and then paralyzed by fear, despair or anger. Or, we can choose to renew the promise that we all made to ourselves.
It sounded exactly like Bayh, who fantasized again and again about what sort of apocalyptic events could force politicians to be bipartisan. "Look to the vote on the debt ceiling or a run on the dollar," said Bayh. "It may take that kind of exogenous event, that kind of forcing event, to make it happen."
The comparison is actually a little unfair to Beck. The Fox News host, at least, is intellectually clear and consistent about how he wants Americans and politicians to act, and what policies would work in the long term, when the crises come.