This post was updated Oct. 25 at 12:15 p.m.
By the time Kid Rock withdrew on Tuesday from a Senate race he never entered, he had already won. The 46-year-old Detroit rapper turned rocker turned country crooner earned himself enough attention to stay in the literal spotlight as he tours for his new album this fall. And he made everyone else look silly along the way.
“F‑‑‑ no, I’m not running for Senate! Are you f‑‑‑ing kidding me? Like, who f‑‑‑ing couldn’t figure that out?” asked Kid Rock.
Many. Former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who kept“regular contact” with the singer about a potential run. Former New York governor George Pataki (R), whose endorsement Kid Rock called “f‑‑‑ing sweet.” The super PAC leader who urged Kid Rock to get in the race. The watchdog group that filed a complaint against him for failing to register his candidacy. The authors of too-deep dives into the Kid Rock’s personal and political past that ended with lines as ominous as, “Nobody should be laughing now.”
Actually, someone should be laughing: Kid Rock, at the countless Americans he conned into considering him the savior of the Republican Party in Michigan. The rest of us should be asking ourselves why he succeeded.
There’s the obvious answer: Donald Trump is president. Donald Trump is a substance-free showman. Kid Rock is a showman, too. He has a bit more substance (his philanthropic endeavors are, at least, genuine), and would have been aiming for a smaller prize. His aspirations seemed surprisingly reasonable.
But that doesn’t explain what turned otherwise sober-minded Republicans into Kid Rock believers and boosters. And it doesn’t explain why his opponents worked themselves into such a lather, especially on social media, trying to prove his candidacy was indeed a publicity stunt.
Michigan was supposed to go for Hillary Clinton last November. It did not. Macomb County, where Kid Rock and his left-leaning peer Eminem were both raised, was cited by the Cook Political Report as one of the three counties in the country responsible for Trump’s victory. It was the most heavily Democratic suburban county in the United States in 1960. Twenty years later, it was the most heavily Republican.
Everyone wants to understand what happened. Democrats, Politico reportedthis month, have been going to Macomb for decades to figure out what they did wrong with working-class whites. Republicans need to know what they’re doing right — and make sure it spreads. The collective wisdom says Macomb can help them: It is a weather vane telling us which way the white wind blows. “This,” we say, gesturing at Kid Rock, “is Middle America.”