The cool kids are back in town!
After four years under Trump, the Biden administration is bringing celebrities back to DC. God help us.
US singer Lady Gaga looks at US Vice President Kamala Harris as she arrives to sing the US national anthem during the 59th Inaguruation of the President on January 20, 2021 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP via Getty Images)
Of all the collectibles from Barack Obama’s years – the Obama phones, the cluster bomb shards from Yemen – I think my favorite is one New York Magazine Piece from 2016. When the drama turned to Hillary Clinton’s emails, when the presidential campaign lasted into the summer, the Ace journalists were there new York had something else on his mind: President Obama was on a Martha’s Vineyard vacation! And wasn’t he fair? such A dad! “If we had to guess,” the magazine said, “right now the president was doing a bit of the cha-cha slide, a heart-to-heart conversation with Malia Obama about how proud he is of her and not but one thing two Gin and Tonics. “
Obama got this kind of drooling coverage because he was cool. He was so cool that he was even cool doing things that weren’t cool, like wandering an affluent coastal village with daughters in tow. And it wasn’t just him: his entire administration was cool, a collection of chirping optimists who wanted to save the country after lame cowboy George W. Bush steered it into a Texas ditch. Team Obama was so cool that their coolness acted like a kind of Teflon over a real and occasionally scary dark streak. Even when they were caught arming the IRS and checking in journalists’ phone records called the 2013 “Scandalabra”, their cool never completely faded. They might have become antiheroes for a short time, but still cool, always cool.
Now, after the inauguration of Obama’s former Veep, Joe Biden, one thing is clear: the cool kids are back in town. And if Wednesday were any sign of it, it would make the next four years profoundly unbearable.
That Joe Biden is even considered cool is quite an achievement of airbrushing. It’s easy to see why Kamala Harris is cool, as she reviews most of our cool boxes today: progressive woman with color, bored no one with substance, spends most of her time playing for GIFs and slapping back on the furniture. But Biden? He is a 78 year old Irish white man from a state that people usually forget to exist. He enjoys driving trains, working with segregationists in the Senate, and warns of the creeping threat of Indian accents at Dunkin Donuts. Part of Biden’s coolness certainly stems from his group, including his wife Jill, who like all cool celebrities once played a doctor on TV. Biden is also replacing someone whose idea was to have McDonalds host a banquet, so the bar is admittedly on the low side.
American politics were often downright uncool. Just turn the calendar back to the 1990s, and being cool meant being a slacker, even a nihilist, not worrying about anything bigger than yourself while you giggle along with you Beavis and Butthead. Washington, D.C. was for geezers like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Even Bill Clinton, with his saxophone and his sexual psychoses, could not quite overcome the indolence – in the 1996 election, in which Clinton was re-elected, the turnout was lowest since 1924. Then came the Aughts, George W. Bush, that croaking Texas twang, years of pointless war. Political awareness was raised among the cool kids. Jon Stewarts Daily showA brilliant, if cynical, parody of the evening news turned into a self-righteous polemic against the Bush administration. Aaron Sorkins West wing It even managed to glorify civil service and turn some of the vanilla people in the world into polymathic hipsters.
It was suddenly cool to take care of government, and when Obama won in 2008, all that hip social awareness reached an idealistic peak. The cool kids weren’t in opposition anymore; Now that the President knew Beyoncé, anything was possible. In the next eight years politics became a kind of self-deprecating, hip spectator sport, similar to a friend who likes to watch ice stock sport. The economy might have been in the doldrums, the constitutional law professor might have been thinking about the espionage law, but wasn’t it fair? ingenious that the real C.J. Cregg held a press conference at the White House? And wasn’t that as much doper as the wrongly tanned John Boehner or the amphibian Mitch McConnell? Even one of my few favorite moments with Barack Obama joking about the roar of the Jonas brothers – talking about the unification of the country! – was itself a function of coolness, a regressive wink to America’s love of celebrity.
Yet all of this hip cunning was also largely superficial. Politics was only cool when filtered through presidential jokes and simple signifiers, just as science was only cool through the reducing speed of Neil deGrasse Tyson. And there was another wrinkle: the whole arrangement was parasitic. Political coolness depended on the other, namely an imaginary Greek chorus of limp-jawed Jokels, drawn gun owners and climate change deniers who weren’t in the club and didn’t get involved in the joke. It wasn’t about being smart per se – it was certainly not about reading books, even though you saw it, by the way The Handmaid’s Tale– It should feel smarter than a conjured up class of screaming right subhumans. Then came the unthinkable. One of those idiots won a presidential election. Donald Trump was every heavily edited Fox News clip Jon Stewart ever had destroyed by grinning. The cool kids were highlighted by a gilded idiot with a muskrat for hair who mockingly blew up “God Bless the USA” at every rally.
Hence the immense relief when Joe Biden finally corrected this delicate mistake. The kind of cool he’ll restore to the White House is different from the radical 1960s chic that I recorded last week as a kind of random prequel. Today’s cool kids are calmer, more pragmatic and digitalized. Her hero is Steve Kornacki, who looks life-threateningly dehydrated in front of a voting card, not Ken Kesey, who works in a broken down van across the country. And while the ’60s rebels proudly rejected authority and fashion, today’s political hipsters love them as celebrities. Stars who emerged for Biden’s big day included Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga, Tom Hanks, John Legend, Justin Timberlake, Eva Longoria, Demi Lovato, Katy Perry, and Jon Bon Jovi – the list goes on and on. It was a win-win arrangement: the association made the Biden team glamorous, while the A-listers felt more socially conscious with no meaningful offering.
And since journalists like to participate in the cool too, my point is: get ready. The President’s iTunes playlist will soon revert to breaking news. So did the Vice President’s yoga routine and Fitbit model. Jen Psaki’s boring layoffs from Fox News reporters will spawn a thousand YouTube videos, highlighting the real content of the questions she was asked. Late night hosts celebrate the second husband like he’s the next Frank Sinatra. The thrill will rise, the President’s karaoke attempts will end, various White House employees will be extradited. Also, thousands of Keystone pipeline workers will be unemployed and troops in Afghanistan and Iraq will remain in the swamp. But you have see Kamala was slowly disrupting the Fallon news last night? I mean … I just … I can’t … it’s like …What a kween!
Yes, the cool kids are back. By 2024 we will wish we could put them in a locker.
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