The Rose Bowl, a college football game traditionally played on New Year’s Day, is a celebration of American regionalism. Historically, it pitted the champion of the Midwest’s Big Ten Conference against the champion of the Pacific Coast Conference (or its successors). The arrangement has been modified and undermined by conference realignment and college championship schemes, but most years, the premise still holds: two teams representing separate places with separate histories and cultures, West Coast versus heartland.
This year, the game featured the Stanford Cardinal and the Iowa Hawkeyes. A dilemma about which team to support existed for nearly nobody—except one person who, with the grace of a baby elephant opening a refrigerator, invented such a dilemma. That person was Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina.
Fiorina is a Stanford graduate, and a proud one, as her tech-flogging candidacy attests. But she has a vested interest in the state of Iowa, due to the impending state caucuses, at which she will not be chosen to represent the GOP in this year’s presidential race.
So, what to do? A sane person might reply “nothing?” But Carly Fiorina and the people who work for her are not those people. Instead they went with a tweet that pandered so hard it might as well have leaped through the screen and licked you on the face:
Love my alma mater, but rooting for a Hawkeyes win today. #RoseBowl— Carly Fiorina (@CarlyFiorina) January 1, 2016
People generally don’t believe what politicians tell them, but even by that standard this tweet was recognized as exceptional. Not only was Carly Fiorina telling Iowans she thought they were stupid, she was telling them she thought college football was stupid, too. In an effort to suck up to the sports fans, she made a sham of the loyalty and passion that defines their fandom. You can scroll and scroll and scroll through the responses and not find a single positive reaction.
“Oh, for heaven’s sakes, Dana — for heaven’s sakes, can’t a girl ever have a little bit of fun?” Fiorina asked. “That was a tongue-in-cheek tweet, which the people of Iowa understand, because I was asked over and over again in Iowa, having attended a Hawkeye tailgate. I was asked. They knew that my heart was torn.”
But—do they really understand? Does Fiorina understand what they understand?
Iowa lost 45-16.