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Bruce Jenner Is Not Running for Governor

But Caitlyn is.

The Artist Formerly Known As Bruce. (G Holland/Shutterstock)

Come 2025, the governor of California may be the female ex-father-in-law of the rap-god president of these 51 United States. Crazier things have happened, but not many.

Mr. Caitlyn Jenner, a California resident since the mid-1970s—when he was still just a young Olympian named “Bruce”—announced yesterday that he has filed paperwork to run for the office of governor in the recall election Democratic incumbent Gavin Newsom is expected to face this year. Though the anticipated recall has not yet gotten off the ground, it’s already shaping up to be a crowded field. (Last time the Golden State recalled its governor, in 2003, 135 candidates vied and qualified for a place on the ballot.) It would be easy (and merciful) to lump Jenner in with the 131 ’03 candidates who never stood a chance. But ease and mercy are in short supply this year. There are a few good and terrifying reasons that the septuagenarian world-class runner may yet have one race left to win.

The first two are obvious: money and celebrity. With an estimated net worth in the low nine-figures, Jenner certainly has the capital to mount a serious campaign. Beyond personal wealth, connections in both the political and entertainment worlds are likely to furnish him with one of the biggest war chests—insert tasteless joke here—in the gubernatorial arena. What’s more, he has the kind of name recognition that only Donald Trump has ever matched among political neophytes. The winner in ’03 was Arnold Schwarzenegger, who won for no other reason than that everybody knew who the Terminator was. Schwarzenegger was not a serious politician either. Donald Trump certainly wasn’t. Kanye West, alas, still isn’t. But history has shown us that unserious celebrities can still win serious elections.

The third reason not to count Cait out is actually a mixed bag, and may well be his undoing: the transgender factor. This one could go a few different ways. In the best-case scenario, the internal contradictions of the progressive agenda will be put on display and put to the test, and continuous attempts by woke Californians to invalidate the ambitions of a proud transwoman will bring about an enjoyable implosion. In the worst-case scenario, just enough liberals will be brought in by the identity-politics angle, and just enough conservatives will be brought in by Jenner’s longtime Republican registration and intimate ties to Trumpworld, and Bruce may squeak across the finish line to become California’s first woman governor. In the most likely scenario, enough conservatives are put off by his gender problems, and enough liberals are put off by his Republican problems, that the Jenner campaign does just fall flat.

But the Trumpworld connections may be the ticket. The Trump campaign and administration did quite a bit to expel the GOP’s impotent laissez-faire fundamentalism, but it also did everything it could to wipe out the party’s last vestiges of social conservatism. (Ric Grenell, Trump’s and the gay lobby’s go-to envoy to much of the wider world, has also expressed interest in joining this race as a Republican.) If there were ever a time for a man who thinks he’s a woman to break into the Republican halls of power, it’s now.

And we got here not just by apathy (though apathy has certainly been a problem) but by a string of active choices. Trump was always emphatically pro-LGBTQIA+, though he did throw social conservatives a handful of policy and posturing bones. He bragged about it incessantly, and a dozen variations on “Gays for Trump” could be spotted at every rally. Jenner himself even delivered a speech at the 2016 convention, before later withdrawing his public support for the 45th. We were all far too willing to let this happen.

As we reckon with the legacy of the best and worst president since Nixon, the neuroses of degenerate celebrities should be among the first elements eradicated. Keep the populism and nationalism, the willingness to employ government toward positive ends, the skepticism of entrenched power at home and abroad; but please, for the sake of all that is good and holy, throw out the dependence on media-hungry loons who share exactly zero of our values. The precedent set by President Donald Trump can draw a straight line either to Governor Caitlyn Jenner or President Ron DeSantis. Fate may be too cruel to take it in the right direction, but we should not let it take the wrong one unresisted.

In 2016, those of us who wanted a more populist party made a mostly conscious deal with the devil. We should have known that the devil would come back around to collect his due. Now it’s 2021, the bright, rosy dawn of post-Trump America, and the new face of the GOP is 71 and all made-up, pumped full of botox and estrogen.

Only a God can save us, but a man who knows it would be a start.

about the author

Declan Leary is The American Conservative's editorial fellow and a graduate of John Carroll University. His work has been published at National Review, Crisis magazine, and elsewhere.

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