Beck’s brand of conservatism could scarcely be more alien to a Brit. Its startling popularity in the United States would once have been an underground phenomenon; now, thanks to satellite television, the issues and attitudes that animate the conservative base can be seen, in all their gruesome glory, across the world.

Of course, not all American conservatives worship at the shrine of Brother Glenn, but voices like his carry loudest. If a mere foreigner may say so, it is striking how little faith Beck and his followers have in the country they profess to love so much. Beck may shed patriotic tears on a near-nightly basis, but he treats the American people as though they are a peculiarly wretched breed of lemming, hell-bent on their own destruction and powerless to resist the evil machinations of a far-left international revolutionary brotherhood. On Planet Beck, the map is littered with dark places warning Americans that Here Be Monsters…

In the end, I wonder if Beck even wants to win. Like most cult leaders, he is happiest playing the role of the Great Misunderstood Prophet, whose people are forever consigned to roam the wilderness. Occasionally, they may glimpse the Promised Land, but they can never make it their home—for if they did, they might realize that they need a new leader. In a curious way, then, Beck’s status depends on Obama’s success. Nothing else can advance his agenda as effectively as the president achieving his goals.