The Beto Hangover: Liner Notes

I have another column up this week at The Federalist, “Beto O’Rourke Is A Perfect Picture Of Democrats’ Misalignment With Voters.” To be frank, I thought that maybe they had taken a pass on this one, inasmuch as dumping on Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke and those with a crush on him suddenly became an entire subgenre in the days since I submitted it. But this piece has a little bit of a twist, so I’m glad they ran with it, quite apart from the payment.

To be sure, some of the other coverage of this topic focuses on the media’s love affair with #ElectoralJesus on a partisan or ideological level. But what has struck me is that this time is how much the media’s mania dovetails with their current tendency to pretend that the United States is not a union of states. Granted, the left has been tired of states since the New Deal — and Jim Crow seems to have discredited the idea of federalism entirely on the left. The stain of segregation, however, does not change the structure of the country or the structural barriers that render changing it a near-impossibility. Perhaps even more relevant here, the fact that we have a national economy and the ability to transmit the same popular culture throughout has not completely erased cultural differences in states or regions in a vast, sprawling nation of hundreds of millions of people. In this piece, I focused on the Hispanic vote because that is one of the main ways in which the political press tended to analyze Beto’s plight, to the extent that they recognized he had a plight — but the same principle largely applies regardless of demographic.

Yet the left’s dominance of establishment journalism and their general impulse to nationalize all the things tends to dull their senses when it comes to figuring out that a politician marketable in Massachusetts might be less so in Texas, even in a political year that’s likely to be bad for the GOP in the House and even governorships. They occasionally seem to get this on an intellectual level, but fail to truly internalize it. If I’d had more space, I probably would have expanded on the theory that the left is simultaneously running against Trump while adopting attitudes that seem pretty nationalist (in the sense of rejecting federalism and the union) and populist (in the sense of rejecting anti-majoritarian institutions). But maybe I can get a column out of that phenomenon later.

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