Jonathan V. Last notes just how much of the politics of members of the contemporary community of fashion consists of nothing more than signals affirming loyalty and group membership.
Why do reporters ask politicians what they think about evolution? Practically speaking, no one really cares what a senator or a congressman-or even a president-thinks about evolution. But what a politician says about evolution is a handy signal to certain types of voters telling them what they’re supposed to think. So if you’re a nice, well-educated cog in the Goldman Sachs machine who thinks that, generally speaking, public-sector unions are harmful, that the federal government is operating in a suboptimal manner, and that the mullahs of Iran probably shouldn’t be allowed to have nuclear weapons, you might consider voting for someone like that tough, can-do governor from Wisconsin.
But then someone asks the governor whether or not he “believes in evolution” and he doesn’t answer by jumping up and down chanting and “Darwin! Darwin! Darwin!” And suddenly you understand: This guy isn’t really like you. Better to let Iran have nukes.
You got the signal loud and clear.
President Obama has always been skilled at sending out very precise, targeted signals, whether it’s to mainstream swing voters or to his liberal base. But the group Obama works hardest at signaling to is the young, Millennial hipsters who were so vital to his 2008 victory over Hillary Clinton.
As a substantive matter, Obama’s presidency has been terrible for these people. High unemployment numbers for recent graduates. No bending of the curve on college tuition prices. An entitlement system that gets less solvent by the day. And a new healthcare regime that’s an explicit transfer of wealth from younger, healthier workers to older folks and the unemployed.
Yet Obama has made sure to signal that, despite everything, he’s really on their side. We see these signals in the big show he makes each year of filling out his NCAA bracket. (It’s not like there’s a war on or anything.) We see it in his choice of bffs. And above all, we see it in his TV habits, where Obama goes out of his way to let it be known that he’s a huge fan of HBO and Millennial darling shows such as Game of Thrones and True Detective.
Read the whole thing.