Filibustered is Alex McLevy’s column about the overlap between politics and pop culture.
The people have spoken, the votes have been counted, and the results are clear: Everyone wants this unpleasant election to be over. For many, the end couldn’t have come soon enough, with the experience of living through the previous seven or eight weeks yawing vertiginously through their minds, sending them reeling from any comfort or stability, just hoping they could hold on until last night, and then blissfully watch the clock run out. Followed by roughly a metric ton, if Twitter is to be believed, of alcohol consumption per person of voting age in America, and more than a few younger than that. Of course, those kids were going to get their hands on wine coolers regardless of the outcome. (For others, including anyone with the slightest history of being oppressed on the basis of color, creed, gender, or ability, the nightmare might just be beginning.)
But there’s one population that fervently wants the election to go on forever, and unsurprisingly, it’s the people whose jobs have become intertwined with the presidential campaign. The talking heads of the cable networks are possibly the only people in America outside of the campaign staffers themselves who wish the race for the White House were waged 24/7, 365 days a year—with breaks every third Tuesday so they can hit the salons and keep their appearance consistent. It has been a boon for the personal brands of people like Scottie Nell Hughes, Newt Gingrich, and others who have dedicated their lives throughout most of 2016 to being at the beck and call of cable talk shows, hoping their devotion would result in a post-campaign job offer. Admittedly, the channels themselves wish the good times could keep on rolling, too, if by “good times” you mean “a screamingly depressing national campaign.” Which is why, even during the 11th hour, CNN was touting the election results like they were the Muhammad Ali-George Foreman bout.
So now, in the sober (or, more likely, hungover) light of morning, it’s time we look at those folks who are suddenly deprived of their primary source of media exposure. These are the people we’ve spent the past year watching justify appalling statements, scuttle bad polling data, dodge uncomfortable questions, and do it all while appearing engaged and just pleased as pie to be talking to you, Anderson, thanks so much for having me on the show! And now they find themselves off camera, their phones no longer ringing, wondering if anyone is looking for someone to talk about how Trump could still pull this thing off. So let’s assess them each in turn, and then give odds on the likelihood of the pundit continuing to have a steady career in talking-head performances. As always, these odds are rigorously scientific and 100 percent infallible, because The A.V. Club’s number crunchers make Nate Silver look like Lloyd from Dumb And Dumber.
Jeff “Lord, I Love To Hear Myself Talk” Lord isn’t going anywhere. The man has been a Republican commentator since the Reagan years. And yet, he threw himself into the role of Donald Trump defender with a gusto that suggests he’s been learning all the wrong lessons from Chris Christie over the past year. He’s a smooth operator, the kind of speaker who, as shown above, is capable of accusing democrats of hypocrisy while almost defiantly refusing to concede the reality that people running for higher office should maybe be held to a higher standard. True, surrendering the moral high ground was de rigueur for anyone defending Trump this election, but Lord did it with such magnanimous gracelessness, he’s surely on Sean Hannity’s speed dial.
Odds of still being on TV a month from now: 95 percent
Nothing says “future Fox News host” like an ability to remain irrepressibly upbeat in the face of all facts and logic. McEnany has repeatedly taken the dumbest of the dumb defenses for Trump, often getting shown up by fellow conservatives in her efforts to parrot the Trump strategy of calling anyone who criticizes the candidate an evil liberal enemy, and then having to be walked through a lesson in basic argumentation. But through it all, she has smiled and returned to her resting pose of a rictus grin and near-beatific acceptance of her fellow pundits telling her she has no clue what she’s talking about. It’s a Teflon-strength denial of the state of the world that should serve her well in the days to come—but her potential Achilles’ heel could be the legions of saner conservatives she’s pissed off over the past months.
Odds of still being on TV a month from now: 75 percent
Newt Gingrich is like the Christmas fruitcake of the punditry class: No one really likes it, you’d never go near it in a million years, but you just sort of accept it’ll always be around, thanks to tradition or some dumb reason. He dropped off the map for a few years, even joining forces with (gasp!) Hillary Clinton in the mid 2000s to promote a health care reform plan. But he’s back and bloviating harder than ever, even saving his most audacious plan of “coming across like a raving lunatic” for just two weeks ago during a verbal brawl with Megyn Kelly, who at this point could probably demand to be driven to work each day in a car made of solid gold and receive it. Sadly, Gingrich will probably continue to float, wraith-like, from TV camera to TV camera, proclaiming any cockamamie thing that’ll keep his face in the studio.
Odds of still being on TV a month from now: A woeful 80 percent
Scottie Nell Hughes
Mazel tov indeed, Scottie. Mazel tov.
Odds of still being on TV a month from now: 8 percent
The former mayor of New York City has successfully dethroned Clint Eastwood as the face of the grumpiest old man willing to say the most bonkers thing in service of propelling forward his status as “potentially unstable icon.” Needless to say, that’s the kind of character that puts butts in seats. Forget a month from now—Giuliani might well be hosting his own reality show a year from now.
Odds of still being on TV a month from now: 85 percent
Ha! We try to have fun around here.
Odds of still being on TV a month from now: The more compelling statistic would be, “Odds he’ll still be on planet Earth a month from now, rather than having wafted into interplanetary orbit on the back of a unicorn that vomits rainbows.”
Ultimately, there’s no positive way to spin what happened yesterday. But perhaps there’s still a chance to move forward, secure in the knowledge that maybe a few positive things can come from the events that… on second thought, let’s just be happy for the workers at the Canadian immigration bureau, who are probably all getting raises right about now.