If the aftermath of the 2018 election cycle has had one big surprise, it has been the rise of a specific, and completely unexpected, species of Democratic 2020 candidate. No, it is not the female-centric prospective candidacies of Kamala Harris or Kirsten Gillibrand. No, it is not the rise of the Obama imitator, a la Cory “Spartacus” Booker, or possibly former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. It is not even the potentially Sisyphean return of Hillary “Jennings Bryan” Clinton to a political audience that has proven, again and again, that it does not plan to elect her president. All these developments, while amusing, were either entirely predictable, or in the case of Clinton, at least foreshadowed before the midterms.
No, against all odds, some of the attention-grabbing figures who have either declared for president, or are hoped to, are instead from the group seemingly most vilified by the Left—namely, straight, white, privileged men. Specifically, the two most prominent examples of this trend are the terminally insufferable Representative Robert “Beto” O’Rourke (D-Texas), and the lantern-jawed Dr. Strangelove of the House Intelligence Committee, Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.). Another potential figure who could join this ensemble is Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.), whose response to this year’s State of the Union was well-received, and who does not appear to possess the family proclivity for waitress sandwiches and criminally negligent homicide.
So Much for Intersectionality
Normally, any of these three men would be relegated to extreme underdog status. Congressmen simply don’t get presidential nominations anymore, and haven’t done for nearly a century. Moreover, in the aftermath of President Trump’s election, the Democrats seemingly have branded themselves as the party of underprivileged diversity, which none of these could be said to embody in even the slightest way. Certainly, Swalwell and Kennedy could very easily be disqualified by privilege, and arguably already have been, but the same cannot be said of O’Rourke. He has routinely garnered short odds on betting sites for who will be the Democratic 2020 nominee, often beating out better-credentialed prospects, and has a fanbase arguably as rabid and as annoying as former President Obama.
Whether O’Rourke’s fanbase will last into 2020, and whether he can parlay them into a movement as vibrant as Obama’s, is a matter of speculation at this early date. It is also the least interesting question about O’Rourke’s popularity. The more interesting question is not whether his fandom will last, but rather: how did he acquire it in the first place?
Put another way: How is it that the Democratic Party’s progressive base does not seem to care that “Beto” conspicuously fails to check any intersectional boxes? What is it about the O’Rourkes and possibly the Swalwells of the world that makes them able to shut off the Critical Theory-obsessed minds of their own base in favor of people whose color and sex are completely identical with the color and sex of 44 of the last 45 presidents?
The cynic would no doubt answer that partisanship is partially to blame, and it probably has some bearing, at least insofar as the Left preferred the white O’Rourke to the Hispanic Ted Cruz with such fervor. But for that fervor to translate into a primary, where other partisans who do check the diversity boxes also exist, suggests that more than naked partisan hypocrisy is to blame. Even as whiteness and masculinity are routinely denounced by the Left, there seems to be something about these particular white males that makes them immune from that sort of suspicion.
And I would suggest that, to understand what it is, we have to take a look at the qualities of those who support these men, and also at their professed reasons for that support.
Who Are These Guys?
But first, a quick word about the objects of their adoration, because we need to establish some unpleasant facts about them. These are not impressive, accomplished, credentialed, or arguably even functional men.
Eric Swalwell is a jumped-up student council president whose most notable accomplishments to this point can be reduced to permitting pocket knives to be carried on airplanes, and to being the closest thing to a high-profile supporter of Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s failed 2016 presidential bid to exist in the wild. He looks and sounds like a vapid Ken doll in his public appearances and interviews, and based on his Twitter habits, most likely possesses the sexual endowments of a Ken doll as well. Or at least, so I assume, because I cannot think of a possible reason why any congressman would let an internet troll goad him into threatening nuclear strikes, unless he had a lot (or, put another way, a very…very little) for which to compensate.
Joe Kennedy III looks and sounds like a less butch Eddie Redmayne, with the coloration of the sort of creature that harbors paranoia about mortals coming after its Lucky Charms. Except that in Kennedy’s case, his lucky charms are his genes. Everything in his life has been handed to him by the family name, from his Stanford and Harvard Law education, to even, arguably, his election to fill the seat vacated by old Democratic warhorse Barney Frank. Since defeating first a Lyndon LaRouche acolyte, in what once might have been a crowded Democratic primary, and then a standard no-hope Republican, he has won every race in which he has participated by Putinesque margins. This led to his being mentioned as a potential challenger for Republican Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, but no doubt, Kennedy balked at the thought of running a race against an actual adult, with actual accomplishments, and thus declined the chance.
And then, there is Robert Francis O’Rourke, a.k.a. “Beto,” the most popular and—somehow—also the worst of them all. Where to start with this intellectual pygmy, this mannequin for trendy corporate progressivism, this paragon of personal and political irresponsibility, this Peter Pan complex made flesh, this pretty face with an aching void swirling behind his blank, beige eyes, this mascot for slacking, sniveling mediocrity propped up by privilege?
I could mention O’Rourke’s drunk driving. I could mention his Kennedyesque decision to try to flee the scene of the crime after hitting someone while driving drunk. I could bring up the hilarious fact that O’Rourke apparently worked as a “live-in nanny” (which sounds like a euphemism for something else) in Manhattan in his early career, and then at something called “Hedley’s Humpers,” before running back to El Paso with his tail between his legs. But you know what? I’ll never be able to deliver the biggest insult to Beto.
That came from his own supporters. Specifically, the pathetically over-enthusiastic young ladies of an Austin “Comedy Troupe” called Esther’s Follies, who produced quite possibly the most terrible cringe video of 2018—the “Betomaniac” music video. The group claims it’s a “wildly popular” sketch from their live show, but having watched an actual video of a live performance, it would be more accurate to characterize it as a sketch where laughter goes to die. What possessed the troupe responsible to put it on YouTube as a campaign video is anyone’s guess.
And I don’t just say that because it’s such a cringeworthy, embarrassing video, either. I say that because, while the production quality is mind-bendingly terrible, I was weird enough to listen to—and take notes on—the lyrics to the song itself. In order, here are the qualifications that the song lists for Beto:
First, that he is “taking on the GOP.” In other words, he is a Democrat. This is the only relevant statement about his political qualifications, so enjoy it.
Second, that he does so “without a SuperPAC.” In point of fact, while O’Rourke publicly declined help from Super PACs, he still got it. Not a good start.
Third, that he “played guitar in a rock and roll band.” Only someone with the maturity and political acumen of a 12-year-old girl could mistake this for a qualification. Don’t worry. We’ll come back to that simile later . . .
Fourth, that he is “like Bernie Sanders, but he’s got a tan.” What makes Beto like Bernie Sanders, who is an open and avowed socialist, whereas O’Rourke is at best a closet one, is not explained. And anyway, the tan is clearly more important to the singers—but we’ll get back to that, too.
Fifth, that he is “like JFK with a ten-dollar hairdo.” Again, what makes O’Rourke like the hawkish, tax-cutting JFK goes unexplained, so I assume it’s another reference to his sex appeal.
Sixth, that Beto “drives a pickup.” This, at least, is cultural signaling to Texans, but on its own, that’s hardly a qualification for the U.S. Senate.
Seventh, that the singer witnessed Beto “jamming out with Willie Nelson.” See point 3.
And eighth, that “once you go Beto, you’re never going back.” Whatever that means.
I am not making this up. Not once in the song is a single, solitary policy of Beto O’Rourke’s endorsed, let alone mentioned. Not once does his experience in office come up. Not once is his ideology described. And before you say the lyrics wouldn’t allow that, here is a verse that scans perfectly with the song (and is funnier besides):
He’ll make the rich pay their share of tax (tax, tax!)
He’ll pay for healthcare up to the max (Don’t listen to the right-wing attacks)
He’s a man who I’d love to undress
A hero with a real long . . . term in Congress
I’m on my knees, but Cruz will get the sack!
Again, these women had all the time in the world to compose this song. You could argue that they wouldn’t be clever enough to come up with anything like the above, and you’d probably be right, but still, they could’ve worked in at least one reference to his policies, ideology, or experience if they’d had any inkling of it. But they didn’t bother, because—as is obvious—none of that was the point.
The point was that Beto was so dreamy, and who cares about anything else? If I were a politician, I’d find the idea that I was being elected solely for my looks more insulting than anything my opponent threw at me. If even my own supporters can’t articulate my achievements, what chance do I have of persuading skeptical voters?
What Drives the Ken Doll Mania?
Which gets right to the real question at hand: why support these demonstrable failures and mediocrities, especially when better qualified and even more woke alternatives are on offer? Why doesn’t Cory Booker have an embarrassing love song dedicated to him by some airheaded starlet, the way former President Obama (or, for that matter, Rudy Giuliani) did once? What about some doe-eyed, dumb hunky tenor singing an ode to, say, Kamala Harris?
To answer that, I would suggest we have to look at who, exactly, makes up the Democrat activist base today. Because for better or for worse, it is not people who look like Cory Booker or Kamala Harris or even Julian Castro. It is, instead, lilywhite, overly credentialed, upper-class twits. And to be clear, when I say overly credentialed, I mean these people probably didn’t do much to deserve their credentials, not that credentials are themselves bad, if properly earned. To give you an idea of how monochromatic this group is, a recent study found that in the group known as “progressive activists” (i.e., the most left of the Left), only 3 percent of them are black, and were described by The Atlantic as the second most homogenous group in the country. Whatever pretenses to race and class tourism these people make in college and through postgraduate study, in other words, this is a group that likes to marry other white people.
It is also a group that, thanks to the extended postgraduate education, has deferred adulthood longer than a large swathe of their fellow citizens: a fact that, no doubt, contributes to their demands to be cosseted even after they leave the academy, and their broad-based support for political correctness. In other words, these people are almost certainly less mature for their age, because they have so many credentials. Their high incomes upon graduating, and ideological uniformity, probably harden their real-life-repelling bubble even further.
Oh, and another piece of evidence that these people aren’t maturing past adolescence? Well, it turns out they’re reading teen-oriented magazines like Teen Vogue and Elle in greater numbers than actual teenagers. Hence the humorless, ultra-woke turn taken by those magazines in recent years.
Put this all together, and add in the anecdotal evidence by the “Betomaniac” song, and you get an obvious answer for why O’Rourke continues to get traction, and why Swalwell and possibly Kennedy may get it as well: because the people who support them aren’t actually practicing politics. They’re practicing hypergamy under the cover of politics. They’re not sober adults looking for someone who can look out for the interests of the country, sometimes even in spite of their own aesthetic preferences. They’re perpetual teenagers looking for their next teen idol.
Indeed, many of the millennial-aged ones probably never got past their affection for such non-threatening Ken Dolls as the Backstreet Boys, NSync, or Legolas from “Lord of the Rings.” The Betos and Swalwells of the world fit that role, being just cool and youth culture-oriented enough to be sexy, but just bland and whitebread enough to be non-threatening. In other words, they’re the perfect blank slates upon which perpetual teenagers can project their hopes and dreams. They aren’t real men so much as they are teddy bears one can hug in bed and pretend are great kissers.
This is a trend that has implications for more than just the 2020 primaries. The teenaging of the Left has already produced a feminism that looks more like Burn Book style bitchery masked by sophomoric, platitudinous “Girl Power” than like anything resembling real women’s liberation. It has produced a political correctness so suffocating, arbitrary, capricious, and consumed with its adherents’ own fragility that the aforementioned study had to concede that even most liberals don’t want to put up with it. It has transformed the Left, as even incoming House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) acknowledged, from the party of workers to the party of “Let Me Speak to Your Manager.”
And really, who’s surprised? Only in a party that has substituted Teen Vogue for Trilling, girl power for women’s liberation, and fandom for thought could this level of asininity survive.
Yet the purpose of modern feminism has long since ceased to be the empowerment of womanhood, and has instead become the perpetuation of girlhood. The Left has fought to enable women never to age beyond the most shallow, superficial, sluttish, sanctimonious, and stupid version of themselves, and what is terminal female adolescence without boy craziness?
As a result, we now have teen-idol level visions of masculinity who are supplied as their beaux ideal of candidates or rock stars or whatever. Having been liberated to be their worst selves all the time, modern women must be given the types of men who would put up with them in that state, and so the terminal slackers, the glorified rent boys, the third-string bass guitarists, and every other directionless, useless Bad Boy archetype imaginable must be propped up as a model for masculinity, and handed the keys to the future.
If the O’Rourkes and Swalwells of the world prevail in the 2020 primary, this is the fight the country will have to look forward to: the pampered boys and girls of the Left versus the forgotten men and women of the Right. For our sake, as well as the country’s, we can only hope that the adults will remain in charge.