AMAC Exclusive – By Aaron Flanigan
For several consecutive election cycles, Democrats and the mainstream media have elevated a spirit of performance over a spirit of public service, replacing substance and integrity with hollow talking points and liberal doublespeak. As a result, the country has often been left with vain, inexperienced leaders who see their jobs not as an opportunity to serve their fellow citizens, but instead as an exercise in personal branding, marketing, and self-promotion.
The obvious example of this phenomenon in recent history was the ascendancy of Barack Obama, who began his political career as a little-known state senator with virtually no accomplishments or meaningful experience. Obama’s elevation to the national stage in the 2008 Democratic primaries was not the result of impressive resume or compelling policy platform, but rather mere stage presence. For a generation of liberals weaned on Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing, Obama fit the part.
As even left-wing NBC News acknowledged in the early months of the 2008 primaries, Obama “began his campaign facing the perception that he lacks the experience to be president, especially compared to rivals with decades of work on foreign and domestic policy. So far, he’s done little to challenge it. He’s delivered no policy speeches and provided few details about how he would lead the country.”
In the years thereafter, other Democrat phenoms followed Obama’s lead. During the 2018 midterm elections, little-known Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke—who lacked any notable achievements in Congress—was hailed by the entire media apparatus as a “rising star” during his campaign to oust Republican Senator Ted Cruz.
Unlike Obama, however, O’Rourke lost his Senate race. But the media continued to fawn over him, including a ridiculous feature on the cover of Vanity Fair ahead of his 2020 presidential run that was roundly mocked on social media. O’Rourke lost that race too, and completed the trifecta with a humiliating defeat in the 2022 Texas gubernatorial race– all while still being hailed by the media as a generational talent.
Another example of this pattern can be found in the political stardom of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who rose to national prominence as the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana – a liberal college town that USA Today in 2018 ranked as one of the worst cities in America. During Buttigieg’s time in office, South Bend saw its highest spike in violent crime in years. And among South Bend residents, Buttigieg’s tenure as mayor was known as ineffective, and at times even outright destructive.
Yet nevertheless, the national media did not hesitate to crown Buttigieg as “the future of the Democrat Party” even in spite of his inexperience and lack of any unique vision. But to the left, none of this mattered. Once again, Buttigieg seemed to look and fit the part for a Democrat Party obsessed with identity politics, and thus he was thrust to the forefront of national Democrat politics and hailed as a transcendent figure.
As political commentator Kyle Smith wrote of Buttigieg in 2019, “He gets the juices… of idealism flowing through liberal veins. He speaks in the language that they don’t merely respect, they revere—the language that hushes them up and makes them knit their eyebrows in sympathy.” Buttigieg would go on to be trounced in the 2020 presidential primary, and has since had a disastrous tenure as Secretary of Transportation.
But perhaps the most obvious example of identity politics manufacturing a narrative of a “rising political star” is Vice President Kamala Harris.
Despite being forced to exit the 2020 Democratic primaries before even a single vote had been cast, Harris made the shortlist for Biden’s vice presidential pick purely on account of her race and sex. Perhaps unsurprisingly given that even Democrat primary voters rejected her, Harris has gone on to become the single most unpopular sitting vice president in at least the last half century.
Incredibly, however, many Democrat leaders still insist Harris is the heir apparent to Joe Biden, and believe that she could win a general election.
Other notable figures like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who worked as a bartender before her election to Congress), twice-failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, and 2018 Florida gubernatorial contender Andrew Gillum have also been subjects of seemingly endless mainstream media fawning for no discernible reason.
More recently, New York City mayor Eric Adams appointed Laura Kavanagh as commissioner of the New York City Fire Department, touting her status as a woman but notably failing to mention many specifics about her qualifications. Only a few months into the job, she has already wrought havoc on her department and staff, highlighting her lack of proper experience and credentials.
As a recent essay in The Atlantic put it, “Democrats Keep Falling for ‘Superstar Losers’” who have become well-known “not by winning big elections,” but “by losing them.”
In other words, for many Democrats, politics has been reduced to a popularity contest in which running for office is more important than governing, and image cultivation is more important than building a record of achievement.
Although some leftists might be eager to point out that former President Donald Trump also rose to prominence as someone with no prior government experience, it is important to note that—unlike figures like Obama, O’Rourke, Buttigieg, or Harris—Trump succeed in spite of media coverage, not because of it. Even supposedly conservative outlets like Fox relentlessly bashed Trump during the 2016 primary. He won by winning an argument.
Trump also went on to become a historically productive president who delivered some of conservatives’ most prized policy goals—including reshaping the federal judiciary, withdrawing the U.S. from meaningless foreign entanglements, and delivering security on the southern border. To this day, Trump remains the most powerful figure in conservative politics and continues to advance the priorities and popularity of the Republican Party in unprecedented ways.
Ultimately, the left’s elevation of public image over political acumen has cost them an astounding number of critical races—and if they continue to double down, their standing in the eyes of the American public is only likely to fall further.
Aaron Flanigan is the pen name of a writer in Washington, D.C.
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