DENVER — Former Fox News host Glenn Beck looked weary as he addressed reporters in a conference room of the downtown Grand Hyatt hotel and stated for the record that he no longer considers himself a conservative.
Beck had spent the past few months trying in vain to convince Republicans to stop Donald Trump’s rise to power in their party, and for his troubles found himself giving a keynote address at a conference in Colorado. Here was a state that had been more friendly to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and whose delegates fought a similarly unsuccessful battle to thwart Trump’s nomination at the national GOP convention.
And now Beck was tired.
Tired of offering advice about what conservatives should do, and tired of calling himself a conservative because of how he’s seen fellow conservatives respond to Trump, a candidate for whom Beck will not vote in November.
“In this particular election we have seen conservatives vote for things that, if [Trump] would have been running as a Democrat, a lot of these conservatives who are out stumping for him would have been horrified if he said exactly the same thing and expressed the same policies,” Beck said. “So many people have sold [conservatism] out, I don’t know what a conservative is.”
Beck was in Denver as the keynote speaker for the annual RedState Gathering, a confab of conservatives who this year chose to meet in Colorado and which peppered its speakers list with some of the loudest anti-Trump voices in national politics.
The high-profile figure on the right, who hosts a radio show and runs the multimedia operation TheBlaze, called Trump “wholly unsuitable to be president of the United States,” at the conference, and he mocked those on the right who support him.
Out in the ballroom, hundreds of conference-goers from around the country— a show of hands showed more were from out of state than from Colorado— heard from people like Beck and Trump-critic Ben Sasse, a U.S. senator from Nebraska.
Trump did not attend the gathering this year— he was taken off last year’s event because of controversial comments he made— and The Washington Post noted Cruz had promised to spend the weekend vacationing with his family.
But on Friday, the opening day of the gathering, Republican politicians who gave speeches either didn’t mention Trump by name or talked about long-term conservative goals rather than about their party’s nominee for president.
Colorado Congressman Ken Buck of Greeley delivered a speech in which he said this year’s RedState conference was a place to ponder conservative principles regardless of what happens in November. And he spoke of how down-ballot Republican losses due to Trump at the top of the ticket actually might be better for far-right conservatives in the House by giving their smaller conference more leverage.
When a man in the crowd stood up and confronted Buck, asking, “Sir, what is your perspective on Donald Trump?” the congressman paused.
“Yeah. I don’t know if I mentioned the Broncos to you,” Buck said, letting the remark hang in the air long enough for laughter and applause before providing a more serious response.
“Here’s my perspective on Donald Trump,” he said. “Donald Trump is a heck of a lot better than Hillary Clinton.”
He then mentioned the consequences of leaving Supreme Court justices up to a Democratic president, saying he believed Trump would nominate conservative judges, a common pivot among Republicans who don’t want to get into specifics or defend their nominee.
Buck’s assessment of Trump is one often offered at Colorado political events from Republicans not working for the nominee. From conferences like the Western Conservatives Summit in Denver, where Trump spoke, to rallies by Trump and his running mate Mike Pence, GOP voters in Colorado often say he was not the first, second, or even third choice for president. But just as often they say they plan to vote for him because the alternative is untenable.
One Republican congressman up for re-election in Colorado, Mike Coffman, who represents a suburban crescent moon-shaped district around the Denver suburbs, even aired a TV ad saying he would “stand up” to Trump and that he doesn’t “care for him much.”
But Coffman is still getting hammered by Democrats who want him to say explicitly that he will not vote for Trump in November.
Darryl Glenn, Colorado’s Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, gave his typical stump speech at RedState without mentioning Trump. In recent weeks, Democrats have tied him with Trumpism in an attempt to sink him in the plummeting poll numbers of his party’s standard bearer.
Democrats similarly are linking Trump to Congressman Scott Tipton who is in a re-election fight on the Western Slope with former Democratic State Sen. Gail Schwartz.
At the weekend RedState gathering, Beck said that the significance of Trump’s nomination in modern American politics is clear: “The GOP is over.” And the man who once led an “All Lives Matter” rally also said that during this volatile year he’s come around on using the phrase, “Black Lives Matter.”
If, he said, at a dinner table with friends, someone doesn’t get a slice of pie for dessert and that person says “my pie matters” and those with pie at the table respond with “all pie matters,” then “at some point you’re like ‘What the hell is wrong with you people? You all have pie, I don’t have pie, I’m saying my pie matters right now.’ It’s because we’re not hearing what they’re truly trying to say.”
But not long before Beck’s news conference, Glenn, who is African American, and who Republicans hope will unseat Democratic incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet in November, gave a speech in which he said, as he often does, “All Lives Matter.”
Asked if Beck would counsel Glenn not to say that anymore, he said, “I’m done counseling anybody.”