Kid Rock for Senate?
Conservatism continued descent into intellectual bankruptcy and anti-anti-Trumpism took another step with Kid Rock’s proposed Senate candidacy and the immediate support from the one-time conservative intelligentsia it quickly garnered.
Kid Rock, like Donald Trump, knows nothing of policy, has no political experience, and has no real interest in pushing for legislation or truly working for the public. As with Trump, Kid Rock surely just wants to benefit himself, either by parlaying a potential Senate campaign into a concurrent marketing gimmick for his forthcoming album or simply enjoying the power and prestige that comes with serving in the Senate. But that didn’t stop a Townhall writer from immediately embracing Kid Rock and calling for his election:
“The news that Southern-fried rock/rapper Kid Rock will be running for some timeserving Dem hack’s Senate seat in Michigan should make every normal American smile and spill a 40 to his homies. The future Senator Rock deserves your eager support for two critical reasons: First, it will drive the liberals insane. Second, it will make George Will and the rest of Team Fredocon soil themselves.”
This endorsement doesn’t mention policy. It doesn’t mention how or why the writer thinks Kid Rock will help Michigan voters. The writer has shown no awe for Kid Rock’s policy know-how and his vision for America.
No, this ringing endorsement arises for one reason: Kid Rock’s anger would anger those who don’t like Trump.
Increasingly, conservatism has fallen from its intellectual bedrock to a coalition of trolls determined to stand against those who oppose the likes of Donald Trump and in favor of policies insofar as they annoy liberals.
This can be seen throughout right-wing media, with outlets such as The Federalist and the National Review, which once warned and stood against Trump, defending the president usually by pointing out liberal reactions or descending to whataboutism (“but what about Hillary and her emails?”) or, always the failsafe, attacking the mainstream “fake news” media.
Fox News is the leading example of anti-anti-Trumpism. Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson spend the majority of their shows launching diatribes against liberals and their opposition to the president. They don’t defend Trump’s ideas and policies on their merits – no one has offered a succinct or persuasive defense of Trumpcare – but rather imply that if Trump’s actions anger liberals, they must be good. QED.
This stems from and furthers tribal politics. Loyalty is to the group (in this case, the Republican Party), not some higher set of principles or to an ideology. Since Trump leads the tribe, loyalty naturally flows, by and large unquestioningly, to him and as with any tribe, an attack on the leader is attack on them all. Similarly, any actions taken by Trump that weakens or hurts the other tribe must be good – the Republican, ostensibly conservative, tribe scores a win while the others lose. Details about the supposed win be damned.
What it means
Such tribalism and a determination to defend the leader by the sheer virtue that the other side so dislikes him obviously hurts the country. When politicians focus on forcing losses onto the other side, we end up with lousy policy created simply to hurt or anger a subset of the country. Lawmakers don’t write bills to help the country as a whole; they write them to take away from the opposition.
It also means that we erode the strength of our democratic institutions. Continually attacking the press because it criticizes the president has undermined faith in an institution that exists to help inform voters and hold politicians accountable for their actions. Beyond the press, such anti-anti-Trumpism invites absurd candidates to run for office simply because their victory would really irk anti-Trumpers.
Democracy has always suffered from a demagogue problem, but throughout our history, fealty to the Constitution and not a political tribe has prevented such disastrous individuals from attaining power. Now, that’s not the case: Increased tribalism, party polarization, and geographic sorting have all contributed to a degraded political system that’s susceptible to demagogues who emerge with rhetoric and ideas aimed at identity politics and really bothering the other side. Since that now counts as a win, the most tribal voters – the most rabid partisans – now have every reason to seek out and support the candidates who will most bother the opposition.
So when populists and potential demagogues such as Kid Rock express interest in running for Senate – the upper chamber of what the Founders hoped would be the first branch among equals; the legislative body whose deliberations and grand oratory once commanded the respect of the nation and the world – rather than laughing at the very idea and condemning the political hobbyist to electoral nothingness, voters and the leaders from whom voters draw cues instead embrace the very idea and hope it will come to fruition because what could be better than angering and upsetting those who stand against you?