Did Zac Petkanas, the Democrat tasked with facing Carlson here, actually prepare for this interview? The segment was a hit on conservative social media last night not so much because Tucker bombarded him with a string of brilliant questions as because Petkanas struggled to answer even the most basic one, which is what happens to various lines drawn by society between the sexes if gender identity is suddenly a pure matter of say-so. Carlson offers the most mundane variation of the question, whether a man should be entitled to compete in women’s sports leagues simply by calling himself a woman, and Petkanas … can’t give him a straightforward response, resorting at one point to telling Carlson, “You clearly have some issues around this.” Which would be fine — bad interviews are known to happen — except for the extreme outrage Petkanas professed on Twitter that very morning over Trump’s decision to let the states make their own rules on transgender issues, a national policy that existed as recently as a year ago. (Progressives going ballistic over reverting to the recent status quo on this is the cultural equivalent of them going ballistic when the GOP attempts to roll back federal spending to what it was, say, 18 months earlier.) Carlson’s point is to show that Petkanas’s position, at least as articulated here, is 99 percent echo-chamber posturing and one percent thought through. Petkanas does nothing to disabuse the viewer of that.
How hard would it have been to improvise an answer to the “sports teams” hypothetical even if he didn’t have one prepared? He could have said, “Look, nearly the entire population identifies with their biological gender. Men aren’t going to claim to be women to play in women’s sports leagues because they don’t want to be called ‘sissies’ or treated like women in other cultural contexts. In that sense, the culture itself will police for fraudsters by putting pressure on them. Trans protections are designed for the tiny minority who genuinely are conflicted about their identity.” That answer could be attacked too (are we sure the culture will police for fraudsters diligently over time if the idea that gender is fluid takes hold among the public?) but at least it’s an answer. What was this guy doing on this show of all shows, knowing how much Tucker likes to make viral content out of him getting the better of a guest, if he wasn’t ready to engage on substance?