The Morning Jolt

Elections

Brace Yourselves for Betomania

Beto O’Rourke speaks with reporters after voting in the 2018 midterm elections in El Paso, Texas, November 6, 2018. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Happy Pi Day! Making the click-through worthwhile: The insufferable tidal wave of Betomania is coming, why the college-admissions scandal is strangely reassuring, a horrifying statistic illustrating the extent of our partisan political rage, and a window of opportunity closing . . .

The 2007-2008 Hit Show ‘Obamamania’ Gets a Slick Reboot with a New Lead

Ah, here we go again.

The magazine covers and posters . . .

. . . the graffiti murals . . .

 

 . . . the gushing media profiles, the adoring interviews with late-night hosts, the hagiographic documentary, the t-shirts, the celebrity endorsements and appearances, the social-media mania, the volunteers creating their own designs for posters and logos and campaign imagery . . .  we’ll probably get the flash mobs from 2018 restarted, too.

Except the last time we did this, all of the hype and hoopla was for a once-obscure slender guy in his mid-to-late 40s who had been in the legislature for a while, hadn’t been able to get many pieces of legislation passed whether his party was in the majority or minority, who boasted about his across-the-aisle friendships but who had never really defied his party’s orthodoxy, who had little or no executive experience, who could do mundane tasks such as driving or sweating and have them described by political reporters like he was completing the 12 labors of Hercules, who was full of charisma but vague enough in his answers and agenda to be a blank slate to everyone looking for an ideal candidate. Same script, slightly different leading man.

We’re doing all of the Obamamania stuff again, except this time with a white guy from Texas. It’s all starting up again: the retro hipster t-shirts, the bracelets on Etsy, the votive candles.

Once the progressive-media industrial complex decides that some guy is a hero, it’s difficult to derail that train. They’re convinced they can conjure that courageous and intrepid narrative into existence through sheer willpower, facts be darned. O’Rourke’s recent defeat is just reinterpreted as a historic victory, a key turning point, a promise of things to come. There’s a paperback book of photography from Beto O’Rourke’s 2018 Senate campaign: “When I first showed up to see Beto OʼRourke he had 63,500 followers on Twitter. Eleven months later on election day, he broke the 900,000 mark. And it’s all because he showed up and left us all with a feeling that doesn’t go away — hope.”

This presidential campaign is a rerun.

What will rankle conservatives — and perhaps have the Trump campaign licking its chops — is that if Beto O’Rourke had an “R” after his name instead of a “D,” the world would know a lot more about the less-appealing aspects of his life story. Not just the DUI, but his private-sector development career that used eminent domain and gentrified poor Latino neighborhoods, and marrying into a billionaire’s family. The image celebrated in these gushing profiles doesn’t match the reality. He was never in the military but talked about veterans’ issues so much that some people think he was. He’s not Latino, but his “rise fuels hope for Latino Democrats.” He’s the outsider who was in elected office from 2005 to 2018. He’s the modest everyman with a net worth of $9 million. He’s a boarding-school-attending son of a judge who escaped serious consequence for not just the DUI but also burglary charges.

Is Beto O’Rourke’s skateboarding “cool”? Or does a 46-year-old aspiring commander-in-chief look silly doing it in the parking lot of a Whataburger? Does wearing a pig mask and onesie while playing guitar onstage in 2003 at age 31 reflect O’Rourke’s creative, artistic, rebellious spirit? Or does he just look like a guy who really wanted to be a rock star, and is settling for being a political rock star?

The College Admissions Scandal: Fyre Festival for Snobs

An observation about the reaction to yesterday’s Jolt about the celebrity college-admissions scandal: An enormous amount of people who are generally happy and successful in life still have some lingering resentment about how the college-admissions process worked out for them. Some folks who didn’t go to college feel that they didn’t get a fair chance to pursue that option. Some folks who did go to college felt like they weren’t given fair consideration by another college they preferred — or they were accepted by some school that they would have loved but couldn’t afford it. Some folks who went to a good school feel like they could have thrived in a top school if given a chance, and almost everybody has run into an employer who overvalued which school you attended. Almost everybody has run into at least one idiot who got into one of the top schools, and frequently reminded everyone about it.

In other words, a lot of people whose lives have turned out just fine feel like early on they were unfairly denied an opportunity at something. To hear that some shady wealthy folks managed to obtain admission, when that was denied to so many of the rest us, could be infuriating . . . or somewhat reassuring. The scandal convinces us that when we were rejected in the past, those in authority didn’t assess us accurately or fairly. Our acceptance letter was tossed aside because some Hollywood starlet threw cash at the admissions office so that she could brag to the neighbors that her empty-headed progeny had gotten into a good school.

Like the Independent Women’s Forum’s Charlotte Hays, I find this story strangely delicious. It’s got everything: elitism, academia, Hollywood, values, parenting, wealth, power, class distinctions, a bit of political-correctness madness in the affirmative action angle . . . It’s like the Fyre Festival for snobs.

As Kyle Smith observed, a degree from a good school isn’t necessarily about earning power or preparation for the workplace. It’s about the ensuing social network and lifelong reputation. “If your goal is to enhance your sense of superiority over your fellow man, a Yale education is an excellent way to do that. Unlike a Porsche or a Cartier, it is with you always. You can’t lose it and it can’t be stolen.”

NOW WATCH: “Nancy Pelosi Revokes Mike Pence’s Office Space on the Capitol’s House Side”

Inhuman Politics

How bad is partisan rage? Really, really bad, as David French reveals: “We hear quite a bit about ‘dehumanizing rhetoric’ in American public life. Well, it appears that tens of millions of Americans now have dehumanizing beliefs. ‘One out of five Republicans and Democrats agree with the statement that their political adversaries ‘lack the traits to be considered fully human — they behave like animals.’’”

If more people would crack a history book once in a while, they might realize where rhetoric like “My adversaries aren’t really fully human” leads.

ADDENDA: Schedule permitting, a taping of the pop-culture podcast is coming. Likely topics include Le’Veon Bell, Captain Marvel, Michael Jackson . . .

If you’ve been thinking about attending the National Review Ideas Summit, the window of opportunity is closing fast!

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

The Sinking Collusion Ship

The entire Trump-Russia collusion narrative was always implausible. One, the Washington swamp of fixers such as Paul Manafort and John and Tony Podesta was mostly bipartisan and predated Trump. Two, the Trump administration’s Russia policies were far tougher on Vladimir Putin than were those of Barack ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Problem with Certainty

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Including those of you having this read to you while you white-knuckle the steering wheel trying to get to wherever you’re going for the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Worst Cover-Up of All Time

President Donald Trump may be guilty of many things, but a cover-up in the Mueller probe isn’t one of them. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, attempting to appease forces in the Democratic party eager for impeachment, is accusing him of one, with all the familiar Watergate connotations. The charge is strange, ... Read More
World

Theresa May: A Political Obituary

On Friday, Theresa May, perhaps the worst Conservative prime minister in recent history, announced her resignation outside of number 10 Downing Street. She will step down effective June 7. “I have done my best,” she insisted. “I have done everything I can. . . . I believe it was right to persevere even ... Read More
PC Culture

TV Before PC

Affixing one’s glance to the rear-view mirror is usually as ill-advised as staring at one’s own reflection. Still, what a delight it was on Wednesday to see a fresh rendition of “Those Were the Days,” from All in the Family, a show I haven’t watched for nearly 40 years. This time it was Woody Harrelson ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Other Class War

There is a class war going on inside the Democratic party. Consider these two cris de couer: Writing in the New York Times under the headline “America’s Cities Are Unlivable — Blame Wealthy Liberals,” Farhad Manjoo argues that rich progressives have, through their political domination of cities such as ... Read More
Culture

The Deepfake of Nancy Pelosi

You’ve almost made it to a three-day weekend! Making the click-through worthwhile: A quick note about how National Review needs your help, concerns about “deepfakes” of Nancy Pelosi, one of the most cringe-inducing radio interviews of all time, some news about where to find me and the book in the near ... Read More
U.S.

America’s Best Defense Against Socialism

The United States of America has flummoxed socialists since the nineteenth century. Marx himself couldn’t quite understand why the most advanced economy in the world stubbornly refused to transition to socialism. Marxist theory predicts the immiseration of the proletariat and subsequent revolution from below. ... Read More