The Shift

I know I’m supposed to be reading the Beck rally like tea leaves, but, sadly, I’m cynical, I’ve seen this movie before, so I can’t.

A few weeks before organizing a massive rally on the Mall that had the feel of a religious revival, Glenn Beck sought the blessing of some of the country’s most prominent conservative Christian leaders. The Fox talk show host wanted their support as he shifted from political commentary to a more spiritual message, he told the group of about 20.

This is where God is leading me, Beck declared, according to Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, who was there, along with Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.

“We walked back to the hotel after and said: ‘That was extraordinary,’ ” Land said of his conversation with Dobson after the dinner in Manhattan. “I’ve never heard a cultural figure of that popularity talking that overtly about his faith. He sounded like Billy Graham.”

Doesn’t that story already sound like a well-worn conservative fable?

“We walked back….Billy Graham!”

We’ll be hearing that again.

“I’m a little nervous about that kind of talk,” said Janet Mefferd, a nationally syndicated Christian talk show host who said most callers Monday wanted to talk about Beck. “I know he means well and loves this country, but he doesn’t know enough about theology to know what kind of effect he’s having. Christians are hearing something different than what he thinks he’s saying.”

I think they’re hearing exactly what he intended them to hear, actually.

To some, Beck’s show of his faith was a calculated political effort to unite religious and social conservatives as the midterm elections approach.

I would be in that group, with this guy, apparently:

“No Republican is going to win the White House if those two aren’t united,” said D. Michael Lindsay, a Rice University sociologist who studies evangelical Protestant leaders. “Here’s a chance to infuse the tea party with religious rhetoric, and extend an olive branch to those not as engaged with financial issues.”

They always, always, always divide on religion before an election, and this year is no exception. If they could put ballot issues on in selected states to ban mosques, they’d do it.

Town Halls, Revisited

Some (slightly) positive news for a Monday morning:

Q: What are people in your district saying about the health care law?
A: What has struck me decisively is how the public mood has switched from sort of the 30,000 foot policy debate of last August and has pivoted to very practical implementation-related questions today. The anger has been replaced with both curiosity and the need-to-know information. So instead of people talking about socialized medicine and how we’re going to be just like Great Britain, at town hall meetings this August it’s, “I’m 62 and I run a small business and I’ve got a pre-existing condition and is there going to be some kind of gap coverage for us between now and when we qualify for Medicare? Does the [insurance] plan my kid had to go off of because they were 21 and now they’re 24, [will the new law allow me to] get her back on the plan until she’s 26?” The policy debate is over for the public. We’re now in the implementation phase. How will that work? When will that work? How much? Do I qualify? Very practical kinds of questions.

Q: What else would you like to fix in the health care bill and what on your wish list is most likely to happen?
A: I think we really need to let it marinate a bit. I think one of the problems the opposition to health care reform has is that they so overstated the case. They were so into histrionics and intemperate charges in some cases – you know death panels and euthanasia – and that the world as we knew it was going to come to an end if we passed this legislation. Well when it didn’t, it forced people to take a second look at health care reform and I think that’s going on all across the country and you’re seeing that reflected in national polling.

Q: Are your colleagues who supported the health care bill worried it will be a major factor in their races?
A: Most of my colleagues are experiencing what I am describing to you. They are pleasantly surprised that health care isn’t going to get you. Health care alone is not going to get you. It’s on a palette of other things that you have to either positively assert or you have to defend. And everyone has their own narrative going into this election cycle in terms of what they’re going to say or defend or whatever. Health care is on that palette but it’s not going to be the dispositive issue the other side was hoping for just a few months ago and the press was saying it would be.

Of course, it can be difficult to be heard over this:

“Something that is beyond man is happening,” Beck said. “America today begins to turn back to God.”

Now The Senate Is In Play

Some great news:

The Democratic majority is in increasing jeopardy in the Senate, according to the latest FiveThirtyEight forecasting model. The Democrats now have an approximately 20 percent chance of losing 10 or more seats in the Senate, according to the model, which would cost them control of the chamber unless Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, who is running for the Senate as an independent, both wins his race and decides to caucus with them.

In addition, there is an 11 percent chance that Democrats will lose a total of nine seats, which would leave them with 50 votes, making them vulnerable to a defection to the Republican Party by a centrist like Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut or Ben Nelson of Nebraska. On average, over the model’s 100,000 simulation runs, the Democrats are projected to lose a net of six and a half Senate seats, which would leave them with 52 or 53 senators. (Even though the G.O.P. primary in Alaska remains too close to call, that outcome is unlikely to alter the model.)

I simply can not believe people would vote for the lunatic party.