The Republican Party has long been the safe space for aggrieved white men, the only thing that has changed is our collective name for them.
For Politico Magazine over the weekend, Derek Robertson wrote a sprawling piece about the so-called “Barstool Republican,” and how Barstool Sports founder and shitposter, David Portnoy, neatly positioned himself as a voice for white men whose entire personality and political compass is dedicated to being “anti-woke.” Robertson argues that while the nomination and subsequent election of former president Donald Trump gave these men legitimacy, there have been other iterations of them before. For example, the “South Park Republican” whose “anti-P.C., socially libertarian” politics found a home in the Republican Party even during its most neoconservative iteration in the early 2000s.
And now there’s the Barstool Republican, named after Portnoy’s Barstool media empire, which was once described by Boston Magazine as the “bastard child of ESPN and Girls Gone Wild.” That’s a far kinder description than it deserves, but nevertheless...
From Politico (emphasis mine):
As founder of the self-consciously lowbrow Barstool Sports digital media empire, Dave Portnoy has, over the past decade, parlayed an outsized, aggressively macho social-media presence into a status as a right-leaning populist champion. He threatened — via Twitter, almost certainly illegally — to fire any Barstool employees who might attempt to unionize. He went viral with his impassioned rants against Covid-19 lockdowns. He feuded with Elon Musk on the behalf of meme-stocking, little-guy day traders. (He also heads an online outlet that has shamelessly stolen content and engaged in flagrant racism and misogyny, leading harassment campaigns against anyone who would dare call them out.)
The rise of the “Barstool Republican,” to coin a phenotype, doesn’t necessarily explain Trump. It is, however, a useful way to understand what’s happened to American politics without constantly invoking the former president’s name. Portnoy’s devotees aren’t MAGA fanatics or Q fans who live to torment liberals, and they’re certainly not part of the GOP’s evangelical base. (One could imagine the last thing they’d want is a Supreme Court that strikes down Roe.) But the Barstool Republican now largely defines the Republican coalition because of his willingness to dispense with his party’s conventional policy wisdom on anything — the social safety net, drug laws, abortion access — as long as it means one thing: he doesn’t have to vote for some snooty Democrat, and, by proxy, the caste of lousy deans that props up the left’s politically-correct cultural regime.
He isn’t wrong, of course. Contemporary Republicanism is less about adherence to conservative values and more about labeling Democrats as gutless babies who are as afraid of offending people as they are of their own shadow. But Robertson spends much of the piece nibbling around the edges of what’s actually going on here. And here’s one of the biggest tells:
Oddly enough, despite the inherent thirst for conflict that it brings, the ascent of Barstool-ism within the Republican Party can be chalked up to ideological diversity within the GOP. What could unite free-market libertarians, revanchist Catholics, Southern evangelicals, and working-class Reagan Democrats but their shared hatred of… actual Democrats?”
Does anyone else see the big white elephant in the room?
These are all various stand-ins and rebrands of Angry White Men, who have long believed their grievances are best suited for the Republican party, a party that has championed itself on making white men feel safe.
Somehow, the word “white” doesn’t show up in this piece, not once. Not even upon mentioning Reagan Democrats, a phrase that specifically refers to white working-class voters who drank the Reagan-flavored Republican Party Kool-Aid in the ’80s and never looked back. While there are certainly non-white men who have allied themselves to such a group, their solidarity usually relies on how good of a sport they are about racism and xenophobia; they want to make sure the Portnoys of the world—boldly antagonistic, and racist, and sexist, with a devil may care approach to just about everything—don’t regard them as soft and humorless like the Democratic party or the weirdoes with pronouns in their Twitter bios.
In the ’90s they may have been the South Park Republicans, in the 2000s the Ron Paul weirdos, in the 2010s the Gamergate to semi-unironic Kek flag pipeline... Now, it’s the 2020s, and they’re Barstool Republicans. Is Rogan Republican next? But much of their driving force is still very much the same: sticking it to the woke police who are determined to ruin the cruelty that passes in their word for fun.