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Politics without content


As Congress debates historic legislation, Republicans are consumingly obsessed with culture war pseudo-scandals even more inane than their usual culture war pseudo-scandals:

On Tuesday, the estate of the beloved children’s book author announced that it would cease all publication and licensing of six Dr. Seuss books that contain racist caricatures of African and Asian people. The titles in question are among the least popular of Theodor Geisel’s works. At least, they were among his least popular before conservatives learned that liberals considered them racist: In the days since Dr. Seuss Enterprises “canceled” And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, the price of a hardcover copy has shot up faster than a GameStop share in January, as Republicans across the country threw whimsically racist children’s books onto their piles of My Pillows and Goya Beans. 

To be sure, the American right isn’t wholly consumed with frivolous culture-war spats about Dr. Seuss’s lesser works; it’s also made time to defend the masculinity of Mr. Potato Head. Last month, Hasbro announced plans to drop the “Mr.” from the toy’s branding so as to (somehow) advance gender equality. Although Hasbro’s plans did not involve discontinuing the sale of Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head dolls, Republicans nevertheless condemned the woke mob for denying cisgender boys their God-given right to decapitate a heteronormative potato-human hybrid. “The whole concept of the Mr. Potato Head was you could move the parts around,” Republican Matt Gaetz said at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week. “Mr. Potato Head was America’s first transgender doll and even he got canceled.” (Of course, as Gaetz’s remark indicates, the right is less concerned with safeguarding the availability of male potato heads than it is with wrapping expressions of contempt for transgender people in a thin scrim of laments for a free and open discourse.)

These controversies have not been peripheral concerns for red America in recent days. As the Washington Post’s Philip Bump notes, Dr. Seuss was the top story on Fox News Tuesday, even as the director of the FBI testified about the January 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, Fox gave Mr. Potato Head an order of magnitude more coverage than the COVID relief bill this week.

The problem for Republicans, as Levitz notes, is that even their party’s voters can’t be outraged about an old white guy giving them a bunch of free stuff, so this whole lot of nothing is what they have. Anyway, Republicans are the real socialists now.

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