For better or worse, and most activists on the right would say “worse,” no one else in conservative media could have pulled this off or even would have thought to try. Imagine Rush doing this bit with, say, Stephen Colbert. You don’t pause to have cake with the enemy when you’re fighting a war for America’s soul. But then, that’s the point, Beck would presumably say. It’s not a war. Or, if it is, the enemy isn’t necessarily whom partisans think it is.
A liberal writer said of this clip earlier on Twitter that all Beck is doing nowadays is exploiting anti-Trumpism to rebrand. Could be. He’s a hell of a performer; it’s possible that his earnestness is itself a performance. I think he’s on the level, though, which is what makes him uniquely interesting as a political media personality. You never know which way he’s going to go because Beck doesn’t know himself. At any given moment he seems to be doing what he thinks is right, even when that’s not so consistent with things that he used to think were right not long ago. That makes him a bad partisan and a sometimes unreliable ally in the endless war with the left but unusually compelling as a broadcaster in a field where you can predict with 99 percent accuracy the line any given person will take. I don’t know how one “exploits” anti-Trumpism either without renouncing all sorts of things that Beck continues to advocate for, like smaller government, gun rights, faith, and so on. His critique of Trumpism has been reliably from the right. Aligning yourselves with conservatism but against Trump is not a comfortable place to be these days. If he’s planning to abandon the right and reimagine himself as a liberal radio host in the age of Trump, that case needs more evidence than a sitdown with Samantha Bee or a few public “sorry for having been such a bombthrower before” apologies in the press.
That said, I think this will grate a bit even on people who like him simply because Bee hasn’t gone as far as Beck has in confessing her partisan sins. They’re both good sports here, but Bee’s taken no stances against her own side’s orthodoxy as bold as Beck’s stance against Trump. Beck is a guy who’s spent years now lamenting that he helped “tear the country apart” during his time at Fox News. Bee tries to show off some of her criticism of the left at the start of this clip as a nod to the same spirit of self-reflection, but the shots are so minor that the “highlight reel” operates as a joke on the idea that she’d ever sharply criticize the left. (One gag involves her correcting herself after saying she hates Mitch McConnell to emphasize that she merely hates what McConnell stands for.) All of that is beside the point in a way — the central joke of the segment is that it shouldn’t be hard for two political media celebrities with sharply different views to get along — but watching this as a conservative, you do so knowing that Beck will go back to being unorthodox tomorrow while Bee will go back to being very, very orthodox. Even the political common ground they find is on Bee’s terms: It’s the left that will be the main force against Trumpism over the next four years, notwithstanding a few outliers on the right like Beck. Oh well.
The profanity that would have ended up being bleeped out on Bee’s show is unbleeped here in its YouTube incarnation, so here’s your official content warning.