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Amundson appeared a mix of thrilled and nervous. It’s not every day that Vice President Kamala Harris’ husband, the second gentleman of the United States, requests a special order. Her bookstore has a modest collection. What if she didn’t have it?

But Emhoff wasn’t looking for a book about some wonkish domestic policy agenda or a foreign entanglement. He asked, instead, if Amundson had Seth Rogen’s memoir. (Yes, that Seth Rogen.)

Amundson laughed internally, she recalled later, because it was — well — all so unexpected. She definitely did not have it.

Denied his preferred literary adventure, Emhoff laughed, pulled out his credit card and told her to pick out a book for him, wrap it up, and not tell him what it was. Amundson wrapped up “Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops.”

Fun Doug had lost out to serious Douglas once again.

The tale, recounted by Amundson and the owner of the coffee shop, was a distillation of life being the first second gentleman in history. Emhoff is a historic figure in his own right, a smart and accomplished entertainment lawyer who is using his perch to get more vaccines in arms, bring more attention to food insecurity and local businesses decimated by the pandemic. But, he’s still just kind of a dude.

Aides say he didn’t want a life in the public eye. But he’s also amenable to doing the political work that comes with the post.

Each vice presidential spouse has tackled the job a bit differently. But there’s a fairly common blueprint. You support the veep, host parties (usually in clothing made in America), choose a non-controversial platform — helping disadvantaged kids or veterans or children victimized by bullying — team up with the first lady on another non-controversial policy area, and repeat for four more years if there’s a second term.

Still, if Emhoff sometimes seems like he’s making things up as he goes along, it’s because he (and every second spouse before him) is.

“There is nothing in the Constitution about the first lady and there’s certainly nothing about the second lady or second gentleman. So they have a lot of leeway to do as much or as little as they want,” said Kate Andersen Brower, author of “First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies.”

Emhoff’s staff isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. When he began envisioning what his role might look like, he met and talked with the sorority of women that came before him — especially the current first lady, Jill Biden. “He is not the first second spouse, so many of the things he will be doing are things that have been done before,” Emhoff’s chief of staff Julie Mason told POLITICO. “Some of them might be new to him.”

But Emhoff also isn’t just another spouse of a sitting VP. He’s the first with XY chromosomes. And how he adds his own “Douggie” flair to the gig will set the template not just for future second gentlemen, but also for male spouses of powerful women across the country. Aides say Emhoff is cognizant of how important it is for kids (and adults) to see a man fully embrace the concept of being a supportive husband to a powerful woman while shaking up outdated gender stereotypes. It’s given an additional weight to his role.

“I hope it normalizes that we as a country have gotten to a point where we’re comfortable seeing a man in that position supporting his wife,” Andersen Brower said. “And at the same time, we have to kind of calibrate how excited we are about it, because it is so absurd that it’s taken us this long.”

The role-modeling began after the election. Emhoff quit his high-powered job (which accounted for most of the more than $1.6 million the couple raked in last year) for a one-class-a-semester teaching job at Georgetown University; his first in-person class begins in August. And then, as he built his team — a small group of n ine — the focus was first on playing cheerleader.

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“We came in here and the first thing he did was raise his hand to see how he could be helpful with the pandemic response and recovery,” Mason said. “He was not elected to office. His No. 1 job is to support the vice president, to support the administration.”

As soon as the administration began, Emhoff was dispatched to dozens of events — many in person, including visits to small businesses and vaccination clinics. Often, he promised to take back the conversations he had there to the Naval Observatory, where he and the vice president now live. As he’s done these events, Emhoff has also worked with his team to figure out what his own platform might be. Aides say they aren’t in a rush and it’s typical for there not to be an announced initiative this early in the administration. But outside of vaccinations, there’s one policy area Emhoff seems more interested in than others: food security.

Almost every roundtable or stop has something to do with food and nutrition, something that even during the campaign was a focus. As he visited food banks, aides say he was struck by the lack of equity and access.

Back in February, when now-Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was being virtually sworn in by Harris, he said he talked to Emhoff, who had called to congratulate him on his confirmation. Vilsack told Harris, “We want to get him involved in nutrition,” to which Harris replied that her husband “cares a great deal about that.” Senior Emhoff aides say it’s almost a sure thing that food security will end up being an initiative as he charts out his role in more detail. But his involvement on the topic is still in the planning stages.

But being a supportive spouse with a passion for food security hasn’t been without its challenges. Emhoff is the only one of the “four principals” — as aides refer to the Biden and Harris couples — with limited experience in public life. And that has required some adjustments.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, who shared a coffee with Emhoff near the water in Annapolis last week, said Emhoff mentioned to him how weird he found the bubble that now surrounds him. He noted the need to make “appointments to see your children.” Even the things that look spontaneous to the outside — like a quick stop at a precious independent book store — now take extensive planning and scheduling.

“There’s definitely a period of adjustment in learning how the systems operate here,” Mason said. “You can’t always do things as much on a whim as maybe you would have before.” But, she said, Emhoff has never complained to the staff about it.

To maintain a semblance of normalcy in his life, Emhoff holds scheduled Zoom calls on a regular basis with his family, and has gone out to see D.C. on the weekends with friends, an Emhoff aide says. One of those friends is Chasten Buttigieg, husband of Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who became close with Emhoff during the 2020 campaign. Buttigieg said the two still “trade texts quite often.” They sometimes talk about the platform Emhoff plans to build (of which food security has come up) or what they’re watching on Netflix. But typically they talk about the adjustments that come with their new lives.

“There’s still got to be that holy shit cloud, hovering over them. Like, ‘Wow, we’re really doing this.’ And he has to figure out how to build a platform, an office, a team and then also, like, make sure he’s being really supportive,” Chasten Buttigieg said in a phone interview. “But he seems very peppy, like he really wants to like ‘go, go, go, go, go’ and that comes with a lot of concern for getting the moment right.”

As he plays the role of supportive husband of a powerful woman — and adjusts to the responsibilities and attention that come with it — Emhoff has garnered a group of loyal fans of his own. #DougHive may not match the size, stature or aggressively defensive tone that Harris’ #KHive possesses. But that’s what comes when you’re proudly second fiddle.

“He lets her lead. That’s quite remarkable to see. And the fact that he’s a white male married to this strong Black woman, I think he knows what that means,” said Danielle Garrett, a musician and teacher in Pennsylvania and active member of the Facebook group titled “Doug Emhoff, Esquire: Our Second Gentleman.” The group of more than 800 and counting posts links about nearly every move Emhoff makes: from a picture of him with his daughter Ella at her graduation or moments like Emhoff sitting by himself before the joint session of Congress last month blowing kisses to Harris. (Garrett posted that one with the comment “What a true gent!!” with three heart emojis.)

Emhoff’s “clearly just being himself,” Garrett said, which makes him the type of relatable figure that seems rare in politics.

It has not only served his wife well — it’s helped him, too. For proof: After he left her store, Amundson, the bookshop owner, said she went looking for a way to get the Seth Rogen memoir to Emhoff as soon as she could.

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Politics

How Republicans Became the ‘Barstool’ Party

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A half-decade ago, the originally Boston-based site and its rabid fan community wouldn’t have scanned as “political” at all. But now, its proudly Neanderthal, reactionary ethos aligns perfectly with the side of our political binary that Trump reconfigured: the one whose common denominator is a tooth-and-nail, middle-finger unwillingness to accept liberal social norms.

If you looked at Portnoy circa 2010 — a budding bro-entrepreneur, popping champagne with models in cheesy photo shoots — you’d have to squint pretty hard to see a potential Republican standard-bearer. If you look now, it’s hard not to. It’s commonplace by now to observe that the Trump presidency “changed everything” for Republicans, from conventional wisdom on policy to how their internal politics are conducted. But first and foremost, it changed the face the party presented to the world. Where onetime nominees like Mitt Romney and John McCain tried and failed to subordinate cultural grievance to a more professionalized, inclusive style of politics, Trump succeeded by placing it right on the front of the tin. And when he casually dismantled that old fusion of free-market economic fervor and country-club traditionalism, Barstool was ready.

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.

The backlash to liberal domination of pop culture and the past decade’s transformation of speech norms created the Barstool Republican long before Portnoy’s name was bandied about in jest as a political candidate. And if you’ve been paying attention, their cultural revolution dates back to a time when such antics were more likely to get you kicked out of Mar-a-Lago than installed as its lifelong “El Presidente.”

***

Lost in the annals of a time when culture wars weren’t quite as central to our national politics is a nomenclature that now seems almost quaint: the so-called “South Park Republican.”

As far back as 2001, the gadfly conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan was using the term to describe members of his political tribe who shared the anti-P.C., socially libertarian views of “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Stone and Parker, true to form, loudly protested their hatred of both major parties. Still, the label stuck, inspiring sparring New York Times columns and even a book-length exploration of the concept by conservative writer Brian C. Anderson.

In the political climate of the mid-2000s, the concept’s appeal was obvious: As Gen X-ers and younger Baby Boomers entered the ranks of the political elite, it made sense that they would dispense with the blue-blooded stuffiness and social conservatism of the Reagan-Bush imperium in favor of a vaguely countercultural, post-Sixties tolerance. W traded his father’s country-club affect for a pair of cowboy boots, but he wasn’t fooling anyone: The cultural energy in the Republican Party, to the extent that it had any, was in its feather-ruffling libertarian wing, whose influence would soon reach its zenith with the self-proclaimed Ron Paul Revolution. But like so many would-be revolutions, this one was denied — or at least delayed and mutated.

Paul’s 2012 bid to become the Republican Party’s presidential standard-bearer fizzled out in spectacular fashion, failing to convert internet hype into any meaningful primary support. Romney won the nomination and invited the youthful Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan along for the ride (whose rad workout gear and politically inscrutable love of Rage Against the Machine, alas, failed to inspire a Romney-Ryan youth movement).

Crashing on the rocks of both Barack Obama’s megawatt cultural celebrity and the looming coronation of Jeb Bush as the post-“autopsy” face of the GOP, the Rude Republican cohort was at loose ends — until an unlikely salvation came in the form of a 6’3” reality show host and frequent Howard Stern guest descending his golden escalator into the first paragraph of 21st-century American history.

Trump was at first an uneasy fit for both the more culturally-sophisticated, libertarian-leaning members of the Republican coalition as well as their staid religious counterparts. But at the same time he was hotwiring Republican culture and pushing it to the limits of street-legality, anti-P.C. critics saw another revolution happening within liberal politics — and, by the transitive property, pop culture writ large. In their eyes, Hillary Clinton’s campaign represented the triumph of a pro-establishment cultural nanny state that rejected Obama’s attempted de-escalation of the culture wars in favor of a rigid new etiquette of social justice: A rainbow flag hoisted, in effect, over the Bushes’ Kennebunkport compound.

One of Trump’s early adopters articulated the mindset perfectly in August 2015, back when Jeb! was still his closest primary threat: “I am voting for Donald Trump. I don’t care if he’s a joke. I don’t care if he’s racist. I don’t care if he’s sexist. I don’t care about any of it. I hope he stays in the race and I hope he wins. Why? Because I love the fact that he is making other politicians squirm. I love the fact he says shit nobody else will say, regardless of how ridiculous it is.”

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No points for guessing the author: Dave Portnoy, birthing the Barstool Republican with a single 200-word blog post. Trump transformed the political landscape by tapping into a powerful desire for freedom from criticism or censure — a desire that Portnoy shared, and which has only grown more intense and widespread as the panopticon of social media becomes the primary stage for not just national politics, but civic life at every level.

In a column this February for The Week, the Catholic social conservative writer Matthew Walther referred to “Barstool conservatives” as primarily sharing a “disdain for the language of liberal improvement, the hectoring, schoolmarmish attitude of Democratic politicians and their allies in the media, and, above all, the elevation of risk-aversion to the level of a first-order principle by our professional classes.” In other words: culture-war issues.

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?

With that as the party’s guiding principle, and no clear policy agenda to speak of — the 2020 RNC literally did not have a new policy platform — those willing to trash the Democratic cultural regime most loudly and consistently are firmly in command, with more staid Republicans forced to at least provide cover, if not actively follow their cues.

They’re forced to defend freshman North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn in the face of his attention-seeking tweets and allegations of sexual harassment from his (very recent) college days, while he ranks in the top 10 members of Congress in missed votes. They’re forced to defend Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz as he faces his own allegations of sexual impropriety — not to mention his frat-boy antics, like showing up to Congress in a gas mask in the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic. They’re forced to defend Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert as she fends off complaints from constituents about her “embarrassing” freshman term in Congress, after winning a primary and general election largely on the strength of her, well, bar ownership.

So just as anti-P.C., vaguely amoral Barstool-ism can be a strength, it can also be a weakness. In a media environment built to reinforce and intensify one’s ideological beliefs, being on the attack all the time can leave you in an exhausting state of constant defense. Yes, it can galvanize — nearly 75 million people voted to re-elect Donald Trump, the Stoolie-in-chief — but it can also exasperate and infuriate in turn — a record 81 million Americans voted for Trump’s purposely less-pugilistic opponent, Joe Biden. It also runs the risk of all novelty: that people might just bore of it. Yesterday’s provocation becomes today’s status quo, and in turn tomorrow’s epic cringe.

When Republican voters made Trump their presidential nominee in 2016, they chose gloves-off culture war over either Jeb Bush’s earnest compromise or the imitations of a careerist provocateur like Sen. Ted Cruz. Trump tapped into a very real dissatisfaction in the American electorate with the liberal status quo around speech and culture, and reaped both the attendant rewards and backlash. Someone like Dave Portnoy is, if not a viable presidential candidate, at least a credible successor to the role of the office’s last Republican occupant: Trump, Gaetz, Boebert, Cawthorn and their ilk all share Portnoy’s single-minded obsession with scoring headlines and affirming their constituents’ cultural identities at any cost.

In a media-obsessed world, it’s a powerful, intoxicating skill. And now that it’s proven a viable pathway to electoral success, Republicans are — perhaps wisely — clinging to it for dear life. As a creation of Judd Apatow, the 21st century’s great dorm-room comedy auteur, once said: “Pandora doesn’t go back in the box, he only comes out.”

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Joe Biden

Ted Cruz EXPLODES on Senate Floor with BRUTAL Speech Aimed DIRECTLY at Creepy Joe

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Martin Walsh from Trending Politics reports, Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz went after Joe Biden and Kamala Harris this week for their failure to do much of anything to address the border crisis their policies created.

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YES! Republicans TORPEDO Pelosi After She Was CAUGHT Trying To SLAM 2 Bills Through The House

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Mike LaChance from American Lookout reports, Republicans managed to take the wind out of Nancy Pelosi’s sails this week. She was using a procedural trick to fast-track two bills through the House but Republicans didn’t play along.

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