Perhaps the weirdest attack John McCain made against Barack Obama in 2008 was his brief summer campaign charging that Obama was a celebrity. Because Americans, you know, like celebrities. And this year's Republicans have finally learned that lesson.
Americans like popular people. They like winners. "Personally identifying with the fabulously wealthy people on television" is basically our national past time.
But Barack Obama was a Celebrity in the traditional sense: he was famous for a reason (politically gifted attractive young Senator with real shot at being the first black president). He was magnetic and charming. Most importantly, his media presence was carefully and effectively managed by professionals. He was apart from the scrum and the masses.
The new breed of Republican rising stars? They are not Celebrities. They are Fameballs. Just take a gander at Hamilton Nolan's instructions for becoming a Fameball and ask yourself how many of them Sarah Palin appears to be following.
In what remains Jakob Lodwick's sole positive contribution to the culture, he defined "fameballs" (in one sentence!) as "individuals whose fame snowballs because journalists cover what they think other people want them to cover." Once again, we give you Sarah Palin.
Scott Brown is not terribly politically gifted. He does not give good speeches. At all. When he's off-the-cuff he says crazy things. But the idea of Scott Brown, this attractive regular-guy insurgent who rides a truck and who is revving up the conservative base? That idea had legs! And so the national media descended on Massachusetts to cover the story of the concept of Scott Brown, who came out of nowhere to shock the nation. And who knows, is the next stop the White House? Anything is possible if someone, somewhere, is willing to say that something is possible!
And boy, this guy! He posed naked in Cosmo in the '80s! His daughter is already a conservative sex symbol (judging by the always-reliable "someone at The National Review wrote about wanting to fuck them" index) (which also implicates Sarah Palin) (and, oddly, Mitt Romney). Did you know that before he was a naked senate candidate, Scott Brown famously read aloud from mean Facebook comments at a high school assembly? Why? Why not!
And his daughter Ayla! She was an American Idol contestant. That is the sign of a high-achieving fameball, as to succeed on that show you generally need a mixture of relentless ambition and empty-headed self-confidence.
The evidence that the modern Republican resurgence is made up entirely of fameballs is not limited to the Brown family. Just take a gander:
Sarah Palin doesn't send out press releases, she overshares on Facebook. Meghan McCain, the preeminent political fameball of our time (why do people pay attention to what she says? because she says it!) Tweeted a picture of her cleavage (while she was holding an Andy Warhol book!) to the whole internet and then went all "what's the big fuss jeez" when people asked her why she did this thing. Tired old-timey Conservative Hero Bill O'Reilly argues with people about politics. Exciting New Conservative Icon Glenn Beck weeps and mugs and vlogs from the hospital. And ye gods look at those kids from the ACORN "sting" video! Totally famous on the internet!
Political fameballs don't aspire to craft legislation or even govern the nation. They don't really have "positions" on "the issues" — their only skill is getting people to pay attention to them. They are famous for being famous. They are popular because someone asserted that they're popular. And they know the key to maintaining that popularity is to just keep doing things that will get them attention, because the thousand internet monkeys cranking out endless content need a topic for today's post on What Sarah Palin Did Now or Can You Believe Gretchen Carlson Said That? (Has anyone, ever, been like can you believe Rachel Maddow said that?)
All Hail Our New Fameball Leaders!