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

U.S.

How to Bend the News

This, from ABC, is a nice example of a news organization deliberately bending the truth in order to advance a narrative that it wishes were true but is not: Venerable gun manufacturer Colt says it will stop producing the AR-15, among other rifles, for the consumer market in the wake of many recent mass ... Read More
Education

George Packer Gets Mugged by Reality

Few journalists are as respected by, and respectable to, liberals as The Atlantic’s George Packer. The author of The Assassin's Gate (2005), The Unwinding (2013), and a recently published biography of Richard Holbrooke, Our Man, Packer has written for bastions of liberal thought from the New York Times Magazine ... Read More
U.S.

Trump’s Total Culture War

 Donald Trump is waging a nonstop, all-encompassing war against progressive culture, in magnitude analogous to what 19th-century Germans once called a Kulturkampf. As a result, not even former president George W. Bush has incurred the degree of hatred from the left that is now directed at Trump. For most of ... Read More
World

Iran’s Act of War

Last weekend’s drone raid on the Saudi oil fields, along with the Israeli elections, opens a new chapter in Middle Eastern relations. Whether the attack on Saudi oil production, which has temporarily stopped more than half of it, was launched by Iranian-sponsored Yemeni Houthis or by the Iranians themselves is ... Read More