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Republican Election Woes Blamed on "Pauline Kaelism"

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by Matt Singer
November 12, 2012 11:32 AM
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Pauline Kael.
Pauline Kael.

At Politico, Jonathan Martin has a long essay on the reasons for Republicans' poor showing at the 2012 elections. While older GOPers are wallowing in shock and denial, younger Republicans are looking inward, and accusing their own party of cocooning itself inside a bubble of its own hype and manufactured outrage. "The party," Martin says, "is suffering from Pauline Kaelism."

He's not necessarily implying that Republicans are huge Robert Altman or Brian De Palma fans (although I do vaguely recall one episode of "Hannity" that investigated the conspiracy on the part of the liberal media to deny credit for "Citizen Kane" to screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz). Rather, he's referring to an infamous Kael quote about the results of another election -- Richard Nixon's landslide victory in 1972. Here's how Martin characterizes those comments in his piece:

"Kael was The New Yorker movie critic who famously said in the wake of Richard M. Nixon’s 49-state landslide in 1972 that she knew only one person who voted for Nixon."

The paraphrase of Kael's quote you most often hear passed around is actually "I can’t believe Nixon won. I don’t know anyone who voted for him." According to Richard Brody of The New Yorker, though, Kael's actual words were:

“I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.”

I'm not sure whether the context makes the quotation better or worse. Either way, it seems kind of odd to make Pauline Kael the face of a whole wing of the Republican Party. Still, I'm not going to get too worked up about it. It's not worth it. As Kael also famously said, "A mistake in judgment isn't fatal, but too much anxiety about judgment is."

Read more of "The GOP's Media Cocoon."

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