Democrats, please stop trying to fake populist authenticity by swearing

It’s not the swearing, of which I’m an enthusiastic practitioner, that grates. It’s the fakery of swearing for political effect. “Trump envy,” Dan McLaughlin calls it, although I think you could also call it “Hillary anxiety.” Clinton was a scripted robotic character even by the standards of programmatic establishment politicians. Her stiffness made Trump’s perceived authenticity even starker by comparison, which may have made a difference to his razor-thin margins in Florida and Michigan. Democrats aren’t going to get out-blue-collared as easily next time, which is why everyone from Tom Perez to Kamala Harris to Gillibrand, especially, has been F- and S-bombing their way across America this spring. You’re not really angry about what’s going on if you’re letting political politesse stifle your expressions of four-letter rage.

Gillibrand would say no way, that she’s been swearing up a storm for years and has made no secret of it. Maybe — privately, and in the occasional print or online interview, perhaps. How often has she inserted the F-bomb into a public speech, though? She does it here twice, then swears again during the Q&A until even the friendly moderator is politely asking her to chill out. Although she’s following the same basic “populism on the cheap” strategy as Perez and Harris, I think Gillibrand is a special case because of her background. She’s a Wall-Street-funded Democratic woman senator from New York; the last person to fit that profile didn’t do so well head-to-head against Trump. (Gillibrand was appointed to Clinton’s vacant seat, in fact, when the latter resigned from the Senate to become Obama’s Secretary of State.) She’s destined to suffer under endless “Hillary 2.0?” comparisons if/when she runs for president, so she’s getting out of the gate early to distinguish herself. Hillary is scripted; Gillibrand is raw. They’re totally different!

A small irony here is that Hillary’s reportedly quite the practiced swearer in her own right behind closed doors, although not in public. A much larger irony is that Gillibrand’s decision to let her F-flag fly this way is itself highly Clintonesque in that it’s transparently, insufferably calculated for political “branding” reasons. She’s straining so hard to appear unscripted and “real” that everyone who watches comes away marveling at how scripted she seems. Gonna have to do much better than this to get away from the “Hillary 2.0” tag.

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Jazz Shaw 1:01 PM on May 27, 2023