I got a mass email this morning where someone from a Democratic party committee referred to the Duck Dynasty guy as the GOP cause celebre after “Joe the Plumber” ™ and before Cliven Bundy. Pretty standard partisan snark. But it got me thinking because I hadn’t really thought of the phenomenon in quite these terms before. And, man, there’ve been a lot of them – all following a relatively consistent pattern.
I told one of my colleagues that it might be interesting to assemble the list of all these guys. He suggested Ben Carson, the famed neurosurgeon turned Republican crazy guy, as another example. But I’m sort of on the fence on whether he fits the category.
Usually you have someone who becomes a favorite on the right basically for hating or insulting some historically or currently discriminated against group, which certainly makes sense. Other times, the fame originates for just being kind of nuts and then it later comes out that the new hero hates some historically or currently discriminated against group. But the hating some historically or currently discriminated against group usually surfaced pretty fast.
By this definition, Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty is perhaps the archetypal example – shooting to fame among the conservative faithful as a martyr on behalf of hating on gays and arguing that blacks were pretty happy under Jim Crow.
He’s speaking today at the Republican Leadership Conference.
Bundy became a hero for grazing his cattle on federal land and skipping out on the grazing fees. His theories on “the Negro” only emerged later. And somewhat breaking the mold this actually seemed to diminish rather than enhance his stardom. And that’s now seemingly led to his leaving the Republican party.
I’m not totally sure Carson fits the model since his frequent condemnations of gay people only surfaced relatively late in his stardom. Joe the Plumber started as an advocate for lower tax rates on companies he might one day own, his flirtations with saying weird things about black people only surfaced later.
So who else goes on the list? Perhaps George Zimmerman? Definitely Bundy and Robertson. What say you?