Despite getting paid obscene amounts of money to espouse political analysis, pundits chronically underestimate the extent to which raw resentment fuels voter behavior. I have occasionally fallen into this trap myself; it did not seem likely to me that the GOP would score easy gubernatorial victories in Wisconsin and Michigan last week, for example. But with so much all-consuming economic misery, unrestrained animus, hyper-charged propaganda, and so forth swirling around in the zeitgeist, I now realize my error: I think it all came down to Lena Duhnam.
Dunham is someone who I’ve mostly tried to ignore, but I guess she’s some sort of unavoidable cultural emblem now, so I’m forced to pay attention. The fact that Wendy Davis, who was running for Governor of Texas, believed her key to electoral success was this tattooed Brooklynite — who enjoys dancing naked and advocating a little too heavy-handedly for reproductive rights — seems to demonstrate just how delusional most Democrat-affiliated consultants are these days. Davis doubtless shelled out hefty sums to several of them for moronic campaign advice.
A great many folks who turned out in Texas to vote against Wendy Davis and install another GOP governor (after 14 long years of Rick “Ooops” Perry) probably privately cackle about Rachel Maddow in ways you can anticipate without my having to get explicit. So the fact that Maddow and Dunham became among Davis’ most visible campaign media surrogates — bewilderingly, Wendy frequented Maddow’s MSNBC show — should give insight into why she was crushed last week. Low-information voters are absolutely enraged by this kind of stuff — an attractive, stridently pro-choice lady talking like she knows better than the Good Ol’ Boys? That just won’t do! This after a barrage of “think-pieces” about how Texas is supposedly “in play” for Democrats and “turning blue.” Give me a break. Texas ain’t turning blue any time soon. Or at least, it’s never going to be “in play” if the strategy is to trot out the likes of Lena Dunham.
The idiot overpaid consultants who advised Democrats to run on “War on Women” instead of low gas prices also tended to promulgate the racially reductionist notion that as Hispanics comprise an increasingly greater share of the electorate, they will inexorably bolster Democrats. Well, says who? There’s no reason why this should be the case. Plenty of Hispanics are just as socially and fiscally conservative as anybody else, and for Democrats to assume that their destinies lie in fortuitous “demographic” shifts is just arrogant — maybe not “racist,” but certainly racially reductionist, which is almost as bad. And wouldn’t you know it, Democrats underperformed with Hispanics in Colorado, which likely had a marked effect on Sen. Mark Udall going down to defeat. Udall also over-emphasized the Dunham-oriented cultural issues, which led to a stinging rebuke by the Denver Post Editorial Board.
Surely the set who watch Girls on their parents’ HBO-GO account and pronounce authoritatively on how politics function in the Heartland were flummoxed that predictions about the certainty of Democratic gains this year proved utterly wrong. Anyone who follows the minutiae of America’s punditocracy will recall how they howled that the 2013 Government Shutdown spelled doom for the GOP, because the voting public would supposedly determine that Republicans are simply not cut out for responsible governance. What a joke! A prudent desire for responsible governance is not what animates most voters. Ted Cruz, who masterminded that epic Shutdown maneuver, is now the front-runner for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, and helped sweep his compatriots into the Senate. (He’ll now probably act as a kind of De Facto Senate Majority Leader, needling Actual Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at every possible opportunity.)
Pundits seriously thought that most ordinary Americans would wave their fingers and say “tsk, tsk, tsk,” at the GOP for shutting down the government! What these dupes fail to recognize (although they’d profess to the contrary) is that most Americans despise politicians, and wish them ill. Why would voters care that the Federal Government was inoperative for a couple weeks? They probably enjoyed the spectacle. Most workers in this country aren’t employed by any government agency, and tend to resent public sector beneficiaries for reaping what they perceive as cushy unfair advantages. Even public sector employees themselves sometimes favor policies that directly cause them harm; that explains why cops in New Jersey still love Chris Christie despite the fact that he slashed their pensions. And that’s also why Wisconsin just elected Scott Walker for the third time in four years, ratifying his decimation of public sector unions in the state. (By the way, Wisconsin voter turnout was at a 64 year high, so Democrats cannot blame their failure on the “lackluster turnout” variable in this instance.)
Professional pundits often promote the fanciful notion that America is headed inevitably down the path to progressive nirvana, where married gays can smoke marijuana while doing yoga, then retweet Lena Dunham on their way to the free healthcare clinic. This just doesn’t jive with a reading of history. Decades of relentless propaganda and economic immiseration has bred a deeply entrenched cynicism, alienation, and (frankly) nastiness in much of the citizenry, which naturally manifests in electoral outcomes friendly to the GOP. A large portion of folks who bother to vote in midterm elections do so almost entirely out of spite. They really, really detest cultural elites like Dunham who prance around as if everyone else in the country aren’t living lives of deprivation, angst, and sexual frustration.
However, the bitter white people who turned out in droves to vote last Tuesday weren’t affirmatively signaling affinity with the Republican platform, because the Republicans ran on no platform. GOP candidates all incessantly repeated the same substance-free talking points about Ebola, ISIS, and Obamacare, none of which constituted any kind of cohesive political program, but instead offered a vehicle through which to channel amorphous cultural grievances.
As icing on the cake, Dunham also lent her edgy imprimatur to the re-election campaign of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who concocted a sham “Women’s Equality Party” in order to undermine the Working Families Party, which he had cajoled into endorsing him and then subsequently sought to destroy. (It was an impressive Machiavellian power move — Cuomo succeeded.) Apparently no one explained to Dunham that she was doing something insane. But there you have it — Democratic Party politics, Lena Dunham style.
It should be said: there is some inherent goodness in even the most ostensibly right-wing hater. But he’s not going to express that goodness at the ballot box. Pulling the lever for some GOP yahoo is an opportunity for him to send out a big ol’ FUCK YOU to the coastal snobs he so disdains. And why not? Mostly what he cares about is football, and that won’t be affected one way or another by who controls the Senate.