If you’re reading this blog, then you already know that one of my interests is U.S. politics. But it may surprise you to learn that I also have a weakness for “guilty pleasure” tv. My favorite “guilty pleasure” is The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise. Last night a new season of The Bachelor started, and in the most dramatic plot twist yet, the politics world and the Bachelor world came together.
This season’s new Bachelor, Nick Viall, is from the town of Waukesha, Wisconsin. This was probably not top of mind for many Bachelor watchers, but Waukesha County has become a key locale for politics watchers the last few years. It is a solidly red county, partially located in the district of none other than Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, who has been one of the most influential people in politics the last few years and is about to become much more so now that Republicans control every level of government in Washington.
In 2012, Waukesha County provided more GOP voters per capita than any other county its size. The voters there helped propel Governor Scott Walker (who you may remember from his approx. 2 seconds in the 2016 presidential primaries) to 3 statewide wins in 4 years (including one recall election), but were not quite enough to get John McCain or Mitt Romney over the top for the presidency in 2008 and 2012. Waukesha County has become sort of a litmus test for how well Republicans can expect to do throughout the state of Wisconsin.
Early on in 2016, it appeared as though the residents of Waukesha might be the holdouts that would prevent Trump and the GOP from winning the presidency yet again, as he was extraordinarily unpopular there. But in the end, voters there did what voters tend do these days – they stuck with their party no matter how they felt about the candidate – and Waukesha voted for Trump by a slightly larger margin than it had for John McCain (though smaller than for Romney). Combined with changes in other parts of the state, it was enough to just barely put Trump over the top to win Wisconsin. Waukesha has actually become so well known to political “nerds” that it’s even become the subject of jokes and cartoons. This New Yorker cartoon cleverly combines Waukesha lore with the Russian hacking story, showing a group of Russian operatives in a planning meeting looking at a US map of red states blue states, with the meeting’s leader telling them, “It all comes down to Waukesha.”
Anyway, this Bachelor connection got me thinking: nearly every season of The Bachelor has one contestant that tells us, the audience, “I’m not here to make friends.” She’s the cast member that says whatever she feels like saying, with no filter, and no regard for how it affects those around her. She’s the one who’s always causing chaos and thrives on the attention that she gets as a result. The Bachelor guy always starts out liking this character, because she’s kind of charming in her own way, she’s very exciting & unpredictable, and she knows how to play to the room she’s in – when she wants to. And the television audience loves to hate her, so they’re thrilled whenever she’s on screen and she’s great for ratings. But eventually her antics are no longer fun & entertaining, they simply become obnoxious & tiring, and the audience starts rooting for her to be sent packing. The other girls in the house warn the Bachelor that she’s “not here for the right reasons,” and with time, the Bachelor sees through her and bids her a fond farewell. At least . . . that’s what happens most seasons. There were those couple of seasons when the loudmouth attention seeker with no filter who creates chaos all around managed to be the last one standing.