Team Mitch and the Weaponization of White Male Awfulness
Bad actors on every part of the political spectrum use young men’s insecurity and toxicity to make them loyal foot soldiers to the cause
The photo appeared on social media late this past Monday: a group of white, red-faced, beaming teenage boys in “Team Mitch” T-shirts, clustered around a cardboard cutout of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They were pretending, variously, to kiss her, strangle her, and grope her crotch. The Instagram caption — because, like the geniuses they are, the boys posted this to Instagram — reads “break me off a piece of that.”
So that’s nice. They may be meat-headed, rape-culture-drunk, privileged little shits who are being funneled into a political system wherein male power is measured by the ability to dominate and humiliate women, but at least they can quote Clueless.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the titular “Mitch” whose team these lunkheads seem to have joined, can’t seem to decide whether to deplore the boys or defend them. After AOC publicly questioned their affiliation with McConnell’s Senate re-election campaign — “these young men look like they work for you,” she tweeted Monday — his campaign manager, Kevin Golden, cried foul play, claiming the boys were being unfairly scrutinized. “These young men are not campaign staff, they are high schoolers,” Golden said in a statement, “and it’s incredible that the national media has sought to once again paint a target on their backs.” Golden added, for good measure, that “Team Mitch in no way condones any aggressive, suggestive, or demeaning act toward life-sized cardboard cutouts of any gender.”
But, of course, it would be tactically unwise for McConnell and his staff to disavow these boys too strongly. World politics have always relied on leaders’ ability to catalyze young men’s free-floating misogyny and insecurity into violent devotion to their cause. You can’t build power on the world stage without people willing to kill or die for you. Throughout history, the key to building an army has been teaching boys to see their self-worth as contingent on the ability to harm others — and that training typically begins with training them to hate, hurt, and sexually humiliate women.