Glenn Beck, the border crisis, and the Republican Party’s empathy gap

posted at 10:41 am on July 9, 2014 by Noah Rothman

Matt Walsh is a genius.

If you are not familiar with his work, you should be. The proprietor of The Matt Walsh Blog writes on culture and traditional conservative values in a particularly innovative fashion, and he manages with what seems like minimal effort (though that is certainly not the case) to do what conservatives regularly complain their movement so often fails to achieve: The piercing of the bubble which apolitical Americans surround themselves with in order to avoid confronting contentious social issues.

I have experienced Walsh’s reach firsthand. In early June, I was boarding a plane bound for Houston where both Walsh and I would be participating in a panel discussion at the two-day TexasOnline event. While I was waiting to board, my wife who is not political and has very little interest in elections, Beltway squabbles, or right track/wrong track trend lines, forwarded me one of his posts. It was stunningly well-written, compelling, captivating, emotionally challenging, and thought-provoking.

Needless to say, I was excited to participate in this panel discussion – and it was a lively one. While I, too, am discomforted with the way in which liberals seem to devalue Western cultural traditions, I generally fall into “the kids are alright” camp when it comes to social issues. National Review’s Jonah Goldberg sums better than I can why conservatives often fail to see that, no matter how regularly the left professes that it is winning the culture war, there is not much evidence to support that claim. This was the perspective I brought to this panel discussion.

Walsh’s performance was inspired. He articulated his point of view forcefully and in a persuasive fashion, but there was one point on which we disagreed greatly. On many subjects, ranging from divorce, to gay marriage, to abortion rights, Walsh maintained a dogmatic stance and insisted that those who do not hold traditionally conservative positions on the above issues are simply not welcome in the conservative movement.

Not only did this small-tent strategy strike me as counterproductive, it also reminded me of a problem the conservative movement has faced for some time. Generally, conservatism struggles with the perception that it is a purist movement, one which looks down on the life choices of others. Its detractors believe earnestly that conservatives are rigid, ideological, and uncaring. Democrats enjoy the advantage of being perceived as more empathetic and are less likely to alienate prospective voters before they have had a chance to evaluate their party’s policy prescriptions.

This is a measurable phenomenon. According to the 2012 exit polls, President Barack Obama lost to Mitt Romney on virtually every issue of importance to voters. On the economy, the issue voters rated as the most important issue in 2012, Romney was cited by a plurality of voters as more capable. On the candidate who “shares my values,” Romney beat Obama by 13 points. Where Romney was trounced, and I mean brutalized inhumanely, was on voters’ beliefs about which candidate “cares about people like me.” Obama beat Romney by 63 points.

The most frustrating thing about this belief among voters, at least on cultural issues, is that it is fundamentally untrue. Liberals care about “people like me,” so long as they are liberal, too. On issues ranging from same-sex marriage, to abortion, to divorce, to immigration reform, to gun ownership rights; the GOP is a coalition party where widely divergent views on these and other matters are condoned and debate is encouraged. This is not the case on the left. Inflexible, dogmatic, monolithic liberal positions on all of these issues is not only encouraged but policed.

Take, for example, the story of Brandon Ambrosino. This 23-year-old aspiring writer was tapped by Vox.com just prior to its launch for a one-year fellowship – an announcement which resulted in a campaign on the left to force Vox to fire him. Ambrosino’s offense? He is an out gay man who attended Dr. Jerry Fallwell’s Liberty University and not only didn’t experience any discrimination but had the temerity to write about it.

“The world and the people in it are really wonderful with just a smidge of ugliness about them. I think the really vocal anti-gay Christians display this smidge, but I also think the really vocal anti-Christian gays display it as well,” he wrote in The Atlantic.

This experience did not conform to the left’s view of how the world should be; conservatives are bigots, they believe, particularly towards gays. Vox.com founder Ezra Klein was attacked for helping “conservatives seeking to legitimize their homophobia.” To his credit, Klein did not back down, and Ambrosino still writes for his site, but this is just one of the myriad examples of left-wing intolerance.

In just the last few weeks, a pro-choice professor physically attacked a pro-life student for holding a sign which offended her. The women’s-rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali was forced to withdraw as a Brandeis University commencement speaker because she had the gall to criticize Islam, even though she did so from the perspective of a woman who grew up in North Africa and Saudi Arabia and experienced religious repression firsthand. Brendan Eich, the creator of JavaScript and cofounder of Mozilla, was forced out as CEO of that company when one enterprising leftist performed a search on Open Secrets and learned he had donated to Prop 8 – a 2008 ballot measure which prohibited gay marriage and passed the popular vote in California by 52 to 48 percent.

Why are conservatives labeled intolerant when there is not much evidence to support it, but liberals enjoy the benefit of the doubt even though they are constantly on the lookout for the next Trotskyite to purge? Part of it is engrained media bias, but another part is the rhetoric on the right – a movement which, while accommodating, does accurately judge right and wrong and is not afraid to speak out against permissive behavior. The left has exploited this and fostered the impression among millions of voters that the right disapproves of you and your lifestyle.

Even those who regret the choices they’ve made will defend them vigorously if they believe they are being judged.

This leads us to Glenn Beck, who is launching a brilliant campaign aimed at closing the empathy gap on the issue of immigration. “Through no fault of their own,” Beck said on Tuesday of the waves of immigrant women and children fleeing crises in Central America, “they are caught in political crossfire.”

“And while we continue to put pressure on Washington and change its course of lawlessness, we must also help,” he continued. “It is not either, or. It is both. We have to be active in the political game, and we must open our hearts.”

Amid heated talk on the right of deporting children back to strife-ridden failed states, the third world diseases they carry, and the fear of their ability to access protective and preventative medical services on taxpayer dollars, the conservative movement risks expanding the empathy gap among Hispanic and urban voters. Beck aims to close it.

“We’re going to fill some tractor-trailers with food, with water,” Beck said. “The churches have asked us if we could bring teddy bears and soccer balls, so we’ve loaded up a whole tractor-trailer of nothing but teddy bears and soccer balls. And then I’m going to go serve breakfast and lunch, and I’m going to help unload these trucks, hot meals for 3,000. That’s what we’re doing.”

Charity and kindness, asking nothing in return, can go a long way. The left’s solution to the immigration crisis is, as ever, the promise of government programs and a free ticket into a bureaucratic morass — none of which they can deliver for this cascade of Central American refugees. Conservatives can offer something better, something real, and Beck plans on doing just that.

It is a small step, but a welcome one. The conservative movement needs a bigger tent, and addressing the perception that conservatives are hard-hearted will be a step in that direction. The good news is that this condition is merely perceived, not real, and it only takes a few gestures like the one Beck has embraced in order to bury it.


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Miss Lamar

Schadenfreude on July 9, 2014 at 4:53 PM

Noah Rothman main problem is reality. While media constructs are quick and easy to do, ground truth is ugly and gray, and hard to sort out. Noah simply does not know, so he vamps. Not unusual in todays media world. If this keeps up, Ed, MKH and Allah are going to face some awful choices soon. I for one do not envy them.

flackcatcher on July 9, 2014 at 5:02 PM

Noah Rothman ‏@NoahCRothman 22m

Main concern I see about Beck’s initiative is that it plays into liberal stereotypes about conservatives. Response: rage against charity!

Bmore on July 9, 2014 at 4:29 PM

Weapons grade stupidity there. I would rather see that charity go to our vets who rightly deserve it for defending our country, not a bunch of border jumpers circumventing our sovereignty, 47% males 15-17 yo.
Keep attacking your readers.

HornetSting on July 9, 2014 at 5:10 PM

“We’re going to fill some tractor-trailers with food, with water,” Beck said. “The churches have asked us if we could bring teddy bears and soccer balls, so we’ve loaded up a whole tractor-trailer of nothing but teddy bears and soccer balls. And then I’m going to go serve breakfast and lunch, and I’m going to help unload these trucks, hot meals for 3,000. That’s what we’re doing.”

I have an idea. Why doesn’t the whole world come here.

alanstern on July 9, 2014 at 5:16 PM

And yet he still hasn’t come up with a solution to resolve the problem. OBama’s billions-request is only to service the problem, not resolve it. Which you likely already know, just saying.

Lourdes on July 9, 2014 at 2:24 PM

You’re being too optimistic, I think. It’s not going to service this problem at all, but to end up in certain bank accounts. Also, I firmly believe this “problem” is of Obama and the Democrat Party’s making…it didn’t just happen.

Dr. ZhivBlago on July 9, 2014 at 5:16 PM

Why am I not surprised that this author wrote this post? Good lord help us all of “this” is the Right…

SouthernGent on July 9, 2014 at 6:58 PM

Apparently there was another side to the Loesch affair of which I was not aware. Dana’s husband got a call from Andrew Brenner (R OH) upbraiding Dana for Beck’s publicity stunt. While I will make no apologies for criticizing Beck in a public forum (which is what a public facebook posting is), I can certainly understand why the Loesches would be so thoroughly pissed about this kind of behavior coming from a politician.

gryphon202 on July 9, 2014 at 7:10 PM

Apparently there was another side to the Loesch affair of which I was not aware. Dana’s husband got a call from Andrew Brenner (R OH) upbraiding Dana for Beck’s publicity stunt. While I will make no apologies for criticizing Beck in a public forum (which is what a public facebook posting is), I can certainly understand why the Loesches would be so thoroughly pissed about this kind of behavior coming from a politician.
gryphon202 on July 9, 2014 at 7:10 PM

Two things: you shouldn’t have been banned. Second, I support the Brenners. It is embarrassing to see Dana label a phone call as “creepy” as if she were being stalked.

bluegill on July 9, 2014 at 7:31 PM

Two things: you shouldn’t have been banned. Second, I support the Brenners. It is embarrassing to see Dana label a phone call as “creepy” as if she were being stalked.

bluegill on July 9, 2014 at 7:31 PM

I was just thinking about how I would have felt in Chris’s shoes. If there is one place where a person should be [relatively] free of the predations of politicians, it should be on vacation. If there is one place that a person should not have to worry about unwanted telephone calls, it is on a private line during one’s vacation.

As for Dana’s decision to ban me, no skin off my nose. In the scheme of things, I really didn’t lose all that much except the ability to see her posts, and God help me if by now I’m unclear on where she stands on any of the important issues of the day.

gryphon202 on July 9, 2014 at 7:40 PM

To me, it seems like your entire article is starting with an incorrect assumption–that liberals are more charitable and goodhearted than conservatives. The only reason it might seem that way is if you are buying into the BS that the left spews.

Conservative in NOVA on July 9, 2014 at 1:57 PM

buying into it?
hell, purposely propagating it.
ask yourself why that might be….
rothmans a pile of crap, young idiot with no moral compass passing judgement on us, not even going to bother reading him anymore.
with people like this as “friends” who needs enemies?

dmacleo on July 9, 2014 at 8:10 PM

As for Dana’s decision to ban me, no skin off my nose. In the scheme of things, I really didn’t lose all that much except the ability to see her posts, and God help me if by now I’m unclear on where she stands on any of the important issues of the day.
gryphon202 on July 9, 2014 at 7:40 PM

How should they know when people are on vacation? Publicly characterizing a phone call from an acquaintance as “creepy” as a way to hurt them is pretty low.

It sounds to me like Dana and Chris just don’t like hearing from people who disagree with Beck’s cynical publicity stunt and his Democrat-friendly framing of the issue as “Republicans don’t care about these poor children.”

bluegill on July 9, 2014 at 8:14 PM

How should they know when people are on vacation? Publicly characterizing a phone call from an acquaintance as “creepy” as a way to hurt them is pretty low.

It sounds to me like Dana and Chris just don’t like hearing from people who disagree with Beck’s cynical publicity stunt and his Democrat-friendly framing of the issue as “Republicans don’t care about these poor children.”

bluegill on July 9, 2014 at 8:14 PM

They certainly didn’t like hearing from me. But I was never a Blaze TV subscriber anyway and they just ensured I never will be. Way to go, Loesches!

gryphon202 on July 9, 2014 at 8:17 PM

I have an idea. Why doesn’t the whole world come here.

alanstern on July 9, 2014 at 5:16 PM

Are you crazy? The continent would tip over.

disa on July 9, 2014 at 11:33 PM

wait a second – are there posters here actually blaming Rothman for perpetuating a “myth” of rightwing lack of empathy….at the same time they’re criticizing Glenn Beck for trying to help a bunch of kids?

I love it when your complete lack of self-awareness turns into such hilarious threads to read.

I bet you guys think Beck is stupid and uppity and pretentious for wanting to help these kids, right?

you guys are so far gone its amazing.

everdiso on July 9, 2014 at 11:42 PM

I have said it before and I will say it again and I will repeat it as many times as I need to: my obligation to resident aliens of the United States of America, legally, morally and ethically, is ZILCH. If Glenn Beck disagrees with this, he’s burned away whatever goodwill he had left with me.

gryphon202 on July 9, 2014 at 1:03 PM

why stop there?

I’m sure you don’t feel you have any moral obligations to the takers, right? the 47%?

and then, when you think about it, you have no moral obligations to those damn RINOs, either, do you?

and to be honest, there’s a whole bunch of truecons who have it all wrong and don’t deserve your moral empathy either, right?

So we’re down to your own family and neighbours at this point.

But really, there’s a number of ne’er do well uncles and cousins who you wouldn’t lift a finger for either, no?

everdiso on July 9, 2014 at 11:45 PM

And yet no one ever says liberals have a small tent problem when they shun everyone who disagrees with them. Only conservatives/republicans can have a small tent problem. Everyone else is free to shun whoever they want.

If anyone has a small tent problem, it’s libs. Why do you think they’re desperate to legalize 30 million illegals? But don’t let that get in the way of you repeating faulty memes.

xblade on July 9, 2014 at 1:29 PM

Do you understand that this isn’t true?

That liberals don’t shun anyone?

This is why you guys always accuse them of “pandering” to “special interests”. Everytime libs engage a new group’s interests, you think they’re pandering.

everdiso on July 9, 2014 at 11:48 PM

oh crap, there goes Perry’s chances:

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BsIcn2jCAAQRGwC.jpg

everdiso on July 9, 2014 at 11:52 PM

wait a second – are there posters here actually blaming Rothman for perpetuating a “myth” of rightwing lack of empathy….at the same time they’re criticizing Glenn Beck for trying to help a bunch of kids?

everdiso on July 9, 2014 at 11:42 PM

So when did Beck become “not a conservative”? Yes it implicates people who bemoan the “bad rap” by liberals, but it also simultaneously refutes the generalization. And so does the fact that conservatives give more and even more if you discount the environmental and cat and dog charities that liberals often give to.

Noah, got it wrong, Beck is not “bridging the gap” on immigration , he’s just raising private money to make the kids’ stay more comfortable while they’re here.

The thing is that if I wanted to stay away from a faction that had knee-jerkers, I’d have no faction. But the conservative tradition of calm, cool deliberation–and even charity that does not pander, still keep me here–as well as all the emotionalism on the left.

Axeman on July 9, 2014 at 11:58 PM

I am disgusted that a tractor trailer of friggin toys is going to illegal aliens while our veterans suffer and die due to lack of care.

You want to feed “children”, clothe them, fine, but when you are spending money on toys while some of our military heros are homeless, in need of medical care, or suffering from conditions brought on by their volunteer service protecting our freedom….you’ve lost your dang mind.

Beck has lost his focus and become an emotion driven, out of touch, typical elitist millionaire. He has become the type of misguided do gooder who lives in bubble and is no longer anchored to reality. Ruled by his own wants and power, ie Bill Gates and common core.

As long as the VA is unable to provide every last aspirin our veterans need, citizens of other countries who illegally bust into the United States can do without a free soccer ball…im sorry.

Oh, and if you think anything Beck does will win a single drop of good will. Forget it. Until the GOP is rebuilt into a party who fights, leads, and does whats right, the media will continue to control and make the news and ignore anything that doesnt help the progressive movement.

alecj on July 10, 2014 at 2:39 PM

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