In one of the most embarrassing tweets ever to be published on the platform, a Twitter user posted a picture of a woman looking longingly at Beto O’Rourke while Beto has his arm around her. The caption reads: “I hope someday that my wife looks at me the way this woman is looking at Beto. BTW, this is my wife.”
This is the kind of cultish support Beto inspires, for reasons that remain mysterious to me. You can’t really call it “support” at all because support is conditional. Beto has fans, not supporters. He has shameless groupies who create things like “BetoSong,” along with all of the other Beto songs you can find online if you decide to go looking for them (I don’t recommend it). And this is why Beto will almost certainly be the Democratic nominee. He has no policy proposals, no discernable vision for America, no qualifications to speak of, but he makes people swoon and climb over each other for autographs. That’s all you need these days. It’s why Drake or Bradley Cooper or Ariana Grande or Tom Brady could all be president if they wanted to be. The only thing saving us from a Cardi B presidency is her age — and the fact that she can make a lot more money in rap.
It’s great for politicians if they can provoke this kind of reaction. But it’s terrible for America and deadly to democracy. No American should ever be a “fan” of a politician. Conditional, skeptical, critical support is the most these people should ever be able to get from us. Fandom is meant for sports and Hollywood, not politics. And I am not just applying this to Democrats.
President Trump has many fans of his own. These are sycophants who, when it comes to the president — or, as they put it, “my president” — lose all capacity for critical thought. Whatever he does, they support. Whatever he says, they agree with. Whomever he villainizes, they hate. Whomever he promotes, they love. They would quite literally drink the Kool-Aid, Jim Jones style, if he told them to. They are not “conservative” or “right-wing” but Trumpists who subscribe to Trumpism, and the doctrines of Trumpism can change from moment to moment depending on whatever “my president” happens to be tweeting.
Many of these same people spent eight years criticizing this mentality among Obama’s most dedicated admirers — and for good reason. Obama was worshiped with religious fervor. This religious devotion did enormous harm to our country and prevented the Great Hope from ever being held accountable for anything. But the celebrity-ification of DC didn’t end when Obama rode his white steed out of town. Those who had just been busy decrying the celebrity presidency became giggling school girls as soon as Trump arrived on the scene.
This is all quite sickening. It is a disorder in the human mind that causes us to venerate politicians. We should identify this disorder within ourselves and do our best to set it into proper order. Our first reaction to every politician, always, no matter their party, should be suspicion. A good American is always suspicious of any man or woman who seeks to gain power over him. It is possible that a person might seek this power for benevolent reasons, but extremely unlikely. There have perhaps been a few benevolent rulers in American history. There are none in Washington today.
The best we can usually hope for, and the best we have available on the current scene, are vain, self-serving politicians whose vanity and self-interest are regulated by certain useful positive qualities and correct ideas about policy and law. Most of them have the first base — vanity and self-interest — covered but little in the way of positive qualities or correct ideas to compensate. A few of them have an acceptable balance of the two. These people may earn our support, but if we are wise, and if we have the good of the country always in mind, then our support will only ever be shaky and cautious. We will remain ever ready to scold them like untrained puppies if they head down the wrong path, and prepared to abandon our support entirely if they reveal themselves to be vacuous fools or morally corrupt scoundrels without even a hint of the positive qualities we initially thought we detected.
That is the truly American view of the political class. It is cynical, yes, but if you aren’t cynical about our leaders then you simply haven’t been paying attention.