Caitlyn Jenner: The Personal Isn’t Political

 

bruce-caitlyn-splitBruce Jenner’s decision to transform himself into Caitlyn means the end of the Republican Party. So implies the Washington Post in an article tut-tutting social conservatives who don’t think an old guy dressing as a lady is the single most heroic moment in human history.

Robert Costa, who seems desperate to run from his past as a National Review reporter, speaks of the recent Vanity Fair cover as a GOP apocalypse:

In the four days since Bruce Jenner came out as a woman named Caitlyn, many Americans have celebrated her transformation as a courageous and even heroic act.

But among the social conservatives who are a powerful force within the Republican Party, there is a far darker view. To them, the widespread acceptance of Jenner’s evolution from an Olympic gold medalist whose masculinity was enshrined on a Wheaties box to a shapely woman posing suggestively on the cover of Vanity Fair was a reminder that they are losing the culture wars.

Across social media, blogs and talk radio this week, conservatives painted an apocalyptic view of America. They said they felt frustrated and increasingly isolated by the country’s sudden recognition and even embrace of transgender people. They see it as immoral and foreign. They drew comparisons to two grimly futuristic novels, George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.”

It’s hardly news that many cultural conservatives disagree with some trends in modern culture. They think college hook-up culture will lead to unhappiness, believe binge drinking is unhealthy, and are annoyed that you can’t watch a football game without shielding your kids’ eyes every commercial break. (Or is that just me?)

On the political front, many conservatives have sought to protect the millennia-old definition of marriage and the centuries-old religious freedom not to participate in activities contradictory to their beliefs. Those last two debates continue in the political arena and will ultimately produce changes to our laws and our government. But Jenner’s transformation has little to no impact on either.

Costa worries (for the Republicans’ own good, of course) that GOP presidential candidates can’t appeal to both SoCons and moderates on the greatest issue of our day: The fact that a cable reality star likes to look pretty.

The GOP’s struggle with the issue was evident by the fact that — although President Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and other Democrats uniformly praised Jenner’s bravery — no top-tier Republican candidate had anything to say about her this week. Even Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has made a point of reaching out to people who are normally resistant to his party, declined to comment…

The Jenner episode is the latest national touchstone that has proved treacherous for the GOP, a party especially wary of being seen as intolerant or insensitive going into a big, national election.

“Treacherous?” Immigration policy is worthy of that description, not some magazine cover. Why is it newsworthy if a candidate doesn’t mention Jenner? I doubt they said anything about the latest Taylor Swift video, the sequel to Magic Mike, or the weather in Tallahassee either. That’s because these stories have nothing to do with being President of the United States.

Of course Democratic candidates felt the need to applaud themselves on how hip and with-it they are, unlike those L7 squares in flyover country. Journalists did the same, falling over themselves to praise Jenner’s Courage™ and Bravery™ in letting Annie Leibovitz take his photo to promote a new reality show. (They’ll also feign offense that I used “his” in the previous sentence.)

What Democrats and the media (but I repeat myself) don’t get is that every cultural story is not a political one. No conservative politicos are outlawing reassignment surgery or banning trans Americans from public office. There is no effort to toss Jenner in jail or force E! to drop their latest reality show (unlike similar leftist demands about “Duck Dynasty” and the Duggars’ program).

Serious presidential candidates don’t feel the need to write press releases about every blip on the pop culture radar. They would rather focus on those issues they can affect, such as taxes, health care policy, and national defense.

Nevertheless, it’s only a matter of time until reporters demand GOP candidates take a position on l’Affaire Jenner. My recommendation is to ignore them completely. However, if pressed, just say this:

“The Declaration of Independence talks of the pursuit of happiness. Caitlyn Jenner and every other American can pursue theirs in the way they see fit. Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll get back to talking about ISIS.”

Members have made 43 comments.

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  1. Profile photo of Nick Stuart Inactive

    If the electorate decides they want a president who applauds gender-reassignment (as the Democrat is likely to be) over a president who is good on national defense (as the Republican is likely to be, or at least be better than the Democrat), we are well and truly —–.

    • #1
    • June 5, 2015 at 3:37 pm
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  2. Profile photo of Aaron Miller Member

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: “The Declaration of Independence talks of the pursuit of happiness. Caitlyn Jenner and every other American can pursue theirs in the way they see fit. Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll get back to talking about ISIS.”

    Don’t you mean, “I [am] cis”?

    Or perhaps, like a typical misogynistic conservative, you have already taken to addressing Jenner by monikers like Sis, Baby, and Sweet Thang!

    • #2
    • June 5, 2015 at 3:43 pm
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  3. Profile photo of Vance Richards Inactive

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Democrats uniformly praised Jenner’s bravery

    Since when did “bravery” become a synonym for “mental illness”?

    • #3
    • June 5, 2015 at 3:51 pm
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  4. Profile photo of EJHill Contributor

    Robert Costa: In the four days since Bruce Jenner came out as a woman named Caitlyn, many Americans have celebrated her transformation as a courageous and even heroic act.

    Courage

    • #4
    • June 5, 2015 at 3:52 pm
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  5. Profile photo of billy Member

    Can we amend the Ricochet Code and ban any further discussion of the Kardashians? I need a safe place to get away from these wretched people. At least a trigger warning, please?

    • #5
    • June 5, 2015 at 4:07 pm
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  6. Profile photo of John Walker Contributor

    National Review is the front porch between the erstwhile home of hard conservatism and the RINO squish swamp outside. Shplork, shplork, shplork.

    • #6
    • June 5, 2015 at 4:13 pm
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  7. Profile photo of Hammer, The Member

    Double like.

    • #7
    • June 5, 2015 at 4:13 pm
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  8. Profile photo of Dave Sussman Contributor

    Sorry in advance as this won’t sit well for a some Ricochetti:

    As long as the Santorums and Huckabees run and win caucuses (ed. cauci?) as Republicans, the Left will gladly pervert their message to scare independents and squishes.

    Of course Conservatives have the right to not like cultural trends, but winning the Presidency will not reverse such trends (nor should a President want to focus on such). In fact, raising these issues in a political environment only hurts the cause. Our Rico bubble is far from representative of the general election voting block.

    The moment the GOP can get votes without pandering to the 700 Club is the moment they start winning national elections.

    • #8
    • June 5, 2015 at 4:13 pm
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  9. Profile photo of Dietlbomb Member

    If the Republicans don’t applaud each important episode of shameless exhibitionism, why should the people of the United States tolerate their continued existence?

    • #9
    • June 5, 2015 at 4:17 pm
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  10. Profile photo of Basil Fawlty Inactive

    By her actions, Caitlyn Jenner has exemplified the spirit of the Republican establishment.

    • #10
    • June 5, 2015 at 4:19 pm
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  11. Profile photo of Bob Wainwright Member

    Jon Gabriel:
    Nevertheless, it’s only a matter of time until reporters demand GOP candidates take a position on l’Affaire Jenner. My recommendation is to ignore them completely. However, if pressed, just say this:
    “The Declaration of Independence talks of the pursuit of happiness. Caitlyn Jenner and every other American can pursue theirs in the way they see fit. Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll get back to talking about ISIS.”

    I would add this:

    Anyone who feels they need to physically change genders is by definition suffering from a serious disorder. Either they really are in a body of the wrong gender, or they have a serious mental disorder. Either way, they need help and sympathy.

    That falls under the heading of “compassionate conservatism”.

    • #11
    • June 5, 2015 at 4:19 pm
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  12. Profile photo of Leigh Member

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:“The Declaration of Independence talks of the pursuit of happiness. Caitlyn Jenner and every other American can pursue theirs in the way they see fit. Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll get back to talking about ISIS.”

    Next morning’s headlines are dominated by the fact that Walker/Rubio/Bush carefully evaded the use of any gender-specific pronoun in reference to Jenner.

    Seriously, that’ll be the point they’ll try to pin a candidate down — the litmus test for acceptance or “bigotry.” But I agree with the strategy of refusing to take the question, and any other such celebrity question. We have a country to govern. Let Vanity Fair play with the vanities of the age.

    • #12
    • June 5, 2015 at 4:21 pm
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  13. Profile photo of Nick Stuart Inactive

    David Sussman:The moment the GOP can get votes without pandering to the 700 Club is the moment they start winning national elections.

    Not a 700 Club viewer, really wish Robertson would retire and stop sucking oxygen out of the room.

    That said, the moment the GOP blows off the religious component of their base is the day they never win another national or statewide election.

    • #13
    • June 5, 2015 at 4:30 pm
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  14. Profile photo of Belt Member

    David Sussman:Sorry in advance as this won’t sit well for a some Ricochetti:

    As long as the Santorums and Huckabees run and win Caucuses as Republicans, the Left will gladly pervert their message to scare independents and squishes.

    And just what GOP message would the Left be incapable of perverting?

    • #14
    • June 5, 2015 at 4:35 pm
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  15. Profile photo of Dave Sussman Contributor

    Nick Stuart:

    David Sussman:The moment the GOP can get votes without pandering to the 700 Club is the moment they start winning national elections.

    Not a 700 Club viewer, really wish Robertson would retire and stop sucking oxygen out of the room.

    That said, the moment the GOP blows off the religious component of their base is the day they never win another national or statewide election.

    That’s the point. They can’t blow them off because they haven’t cracked the code to win without them. But, now they are not winning with them either.

    • #15
    • June 5, 2015 at 4:40 pm
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  16. Profile photo of Daniel Wood Inactive

    Agree with #13. SoCons are still the core of the republican base. This pandering talk is nonsense. We don’t demand special treatment; we are simply weary of being told what awful people we are for not swallowing every new moral trend that falls off the leftist assembly line. No, I don’t feel bad about the fact that I prefer traditions which have been the bedrock of human civilization for millennia over something hatched in faculty lounge five minutes ago, and I want political leadership in my party to respect and uphold those common sense values.

    • #16
    • June 5, 2015 at 4:45 pm
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  17. Profile photo of Jon Gabriel, Ed. Chief
    Jon Gabriel, Ed. Post author

    Bob Wainwright:I would add this:

    Anyone who feels they need to physically change genders is by definition suffering from a serious disorder.Either they really are in a body of the wrong gender, or they have a serious mental disorder.Either way, they need help and sympathy.

    That falls under the heading of “compassionate conservatism”.

    I disagree with a politician saying this. Where I see candidates falling into trouble is when they opine on subjects out of the purview of government. If a psychiatrist says this on Nancy Grace, cool. If a social commentator says it, fine.

    My point is that politicians don’t need to give their half-baked opinions on issues that don’t concern them professionally. Huckabee does this constantly, saying dumb stuff about pop culture like it’s a form of Tourette’s. Let Obama fill out NCAA brackets live on ESPN, and critique the nuances of “Mad Men.”

    GOP candidates can be the adults in the room.

    • #17
    • June 5, 2015 at 4:50 pm
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  18. Profile photo of Jon Gabriel, Ed. Chief
    Jon Gabriel, Ed. Post author

    David Sussman:Sorry in advance as this won’t sit well for a some Ricochetti:

    As long as the Santorums and Huckabees run and win caucuses (ed. cauci?) as Republicans, the Left will gladly pervert their message to scare independents and squishes.

    Of course Conservatives have the right to not like cultural trends, but winning the Presidency will not reverse such trends (nor should a President want to focus on such). In fact, raising these issues in a political environment only hurts the cause. Our Rico bubble is far from representative of the general election voting block.

    The moment the GOP can get votes without pandering to the 700 Club is the moment they start winning national elections.

    I don’t view Santorum and Huckabee as good representatives of social conservativism today, nor to I think they have a chance in 2016. Ted Cruz is far more representative of the SoCon wing, IMHO. (Correct me if I’m wrong, Ricochetti, and I know you will.)

    I don’t want a candidate pandering to The 700 Club or anyone else, but I think any GOPer would be foolish not to work hard to win the votes of evangelicals, Catholics, LDS and every other American.

    • #18
    • June 5, 2015 at 4:53 pm
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  19. Profile photo of Brad2971 Inactive

    David Sussman:

    Nick Stuart:

    David Sussman:The moment the GOP can get votes without pandering to the 700 Club is the moment they start winning national elections.

    Not a 700 Club viewer, really wish Robertson would retire and stop sucking oxygen out of the room.

    That said, the moment the GOP blows off the religious component of their base is the day they never win another national or statewide election.

    That’s the point. They can’t blow them off because they haven’t cracked the code to win without them. But, now they are not winning with them either.

    Ah, I see we have another person who is of the foolish belief the GOP has any sort of control over its political future when it comes to presidential politics. Newsflash: the GOP has no control over it future. Which means it’s high time to stop treating Social Conservatives like battered spouses.

    • #19
    • June 5, 2015 at 5:07 pm
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  20. Profile photo of Sabrdance Member

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:I don’t view Santorum and Huckabee as good representatives of social conservativism today, nor to I think they have a chance in 2016. Ted Cruz is far more representative of the SoCon wing, IMHO.

    Santorum and Huckabee represent different aspects of the SoCons -Santorum is the doctrinal SoCon, Huckabee is the cultural SoCon. Both of them occupy a space in the “compassionate society with space for everyone” corner, but in different ways. Ted Cruz probably is more representative, in that he is both less doctrinal and less cultural -I’m not sure this is actually an improvement. He has neither roots nor creed -I think the technical word for that is “carpetbagger.” But as a Republican in the Reconstruction South, I’ll take what I can get.

    On the larger issue -who is even talking about this? Most of the SoCons who are quoted are being asked questions and their responses are entirely on the fact that this is a national story at all. No one cares about Jenner, except maybe in the generalized “well, we hope things go OK for him.” Everyone is concerned about entering a world with more sexes than Heinz ketchup has ingredients, and where the jacobins take every opportunity to dismantle another pillar of civilization.

    • #20
    • June 5, 2015 at 5:10 pm
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  21. Profile photo of Autistic License Member

    Social conservatism was the root of big conservatism because it was Protestant and very involved with freedom of conscience. So conservatism doesn’t like government establishing values, aside from freedom of conscience. This country was founded by people who didn’t want to be told what to believe, only partly because they were libertarian; but mostly because your values were between yourself and God. Establishment of a state belief system was correctly seen to be the ultimate intrusion by the state. In short, do what you like; but don’t demand my participation. I already have a deal with Someone about certain things, and don’t owe the world an explanation.

    • #21
    • June 5, 2015 at 5:11 pm
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  22. Profile photo of Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    David Sussman:Sorry in advance as this won’t sit well for a some Ricochetti:

    As long as the Santorums and Huckabees run and win caucuses (ed. cauci?) as Republicans, the Left will gladly pervert their message to scare independents and squishes.

    Of course Conservatives have the right to not like cultural trends, but winning the Presidency will not reverse such trends (nor should a President want to focus on such). In fact, raising these issues in a political environment only hurts the cause. Our Rico bubble is far from representative of the general election voting block.

    The moment the GOP can get votes without pandering to the 700 Club is the moment they start winning national elections.

    So you will stand up for any principle that you are not asked to sit down about? Now that’s brave.

    • #22
    • June 5, 2015 at 5:13 pm
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  23. Profile photo of Daniel Wood Inactive

    I am not very familiar with Santorum, but Huckabee was the former governor of my state, and I know a bit about him. His appeal is largely based in southern identity politics. He’s a good ol’ boy from Arkansas, and the idioms of southern evangelicals are second nature to him. He has (or had until recently) a local radio gig called the Huckabee Report that I listened to on the way to work. As an commentator, he is first rate; down home common sense, leavened with humor and delivered in a pleasant, mildly southern baritone. However, as Jonah Goldberg and Charles Cooke have noted, when it comes to nanny state government, Huckabee is not a particularly principled conservative.
    But when it comes to SoCon credibility, there’s probably not much daylight between Cruz and Huckabee.

    • #23
    • June 5, 2015 at 5:18 pm
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  24. Profile photo of Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Cogito Ergo BBQ:I am not very familiar with Santorum, but Huckabee was the former governor of my state, and I know a bit about him. His appeal is largely based in southern identity politics. He’s a good ol’ boy from Arkansas, and the idioms of southern evangelicals are second nature to him. He has (or had until recently) a local radio gig called the Huckabee Report that I listened to on the way to work.As an commentator, he is first rate; down home common sense, leavened with humor and delivered in a pleasant, mildly southern baritone. However, as Jonah Goldberg and Charles Cooke have noted, when it comes to nanny state government, Huckabee is not a particularly principled conservative. But when it comes to SoCon credibility, there’s probably not much daylight between Cruz and Huckabee.

    Well, this SoCon has zero use for Huckabee, or Santorum for that matter. Got no use for Christian Socialists. These are the concern trolls of Compassionate Conservatism.

    • #24
    • June 5, 2015 at 5:51 pm
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  25. Profile photo of Roberto Inactive

    David Sussman:Of course Conservatives have the right to not like cultural trends, but winning the Presidency will not reverse such trends (nor should a President want to focus on such). In fact, raising these issues in a political environment only hurts the cause. Our Rico bubble is far from representative of the general election voting block.

    The moment the GOP can get votes without pandering to the 700 Club is the moment they start winning national elections.

    There are now 54 GOP Senators, 245 in the House and 31 governors (vs. 18 Democrats holding that office). Please stop embarrassing yourself.

    • #25
    • June 5, 2015 at 7:09 pm
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  26. Profile photo of Charlotte Member

    Wait. There’s going to be a Magic Mike sequel?!

    • #26
    • June 5, 2015 at 7:09 pm
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  27. Profile photo of Manny Member

    I don’t think any politician worth his salt is going to go near the Jenner fiasco, but I have to say that Costa is on to something with this:

    Costa worries (for the Republicans’ own good, of course) that GOP presidential candidates can’t appeal to both SoCons and moderates on the greatest issue of our day

    I have never seen the split between SoCons and either the secular moderates or the cultural Libertarians as in the last few years. Yeah, I know, it’s the SSM issue that’s splitting us. The divide may be reconcilable, but it has certainly grown.

    • #27
    • June 5, 2015 at 7:10 pm
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  28. Profile photo of Matt White Member

    I expect the republicans to mostly cave on the homosexual and transgender issues. It won’t matter to the left. Even if they just try to protect religious liberty a little bit they will be decried as hateful bigots.

    The recent ugliness here had me thinking it was just a preview of the upcoming presidential primaries. It will not be pleasant.

    • #28
    • June 5, 2015 at 7:19 pm
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  29. Profile photo of Doug Watt Member

    Wow, I can’t believe that there is an issue that drew a no comment from Rand Paul.

    • #29
    • June 5, 2015 at 7:34 pm
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  30. Profile photo of Steve C. Member

    I will definitely avoid any candidate who responds to a question like this with anything other than, “I hope everything turns out well, next question.”

    • #30
    • June 5, 2015 at 8:01 pm
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