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Why conservatives rush to embrace crazy celebrities like Roseanne

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© JOAN FAHRENTHOLD, ASSOCIATED PRESS Roseanne Barr holds her fingers in her ears as she screams the National Anthem between games of the San Diego Padres and the Cincinnati Reds doubleheader on July 25, 1990 in San Diego, Calif. She was booed loudly and she…

By Caleb Howe, USA TODAY

Roseanne Barr has fallen. Again. At least for now. The fact that she was erratic, offensive and even racist should not have come as a surprise to ABC, or to anyone. And yet …

A big part of conservative identity is the self-perception of being outcast by people who “matter” in society. You hear the laments about distant and cruel “elites” every day on Fox News, talk radio and especially conservative media online. It’s seen as the operative force behind media bias, “NeverTrump” critics and, importantly, the entertainment industry.

The last is especially significant. Hollywood is our national popularity contest, and conservatives are definitely in the wrong clique.

That’s the basis for a phenomenon, frequently ridiculed by the left, where conservatives enthusiastically, even wildly, embrace anyone with a modicum of fame in the arts who shows even mild sympathy toward conservative views. Or just a view, singular.

Or merely to one Republican politician.

If you accept that conservative feeling is real, the dejected sense of being the perpetually looked down upon, then you can somewhat understand the stampede to associate with sympathetic elites.

Even so, it’s a terrible idea, and has proved disastrous for Republicans.

There is a difference between being gratified by a limo arriving and happily throwing oneself fully in its path.

Feeling validated by, or even lauding, a celebrity saying “yes, your point of view matters and is culturally relevant” is fine. It can be left at that.

Roseanne likes President Trump and says so. She put a hit show on air delving into the lives of what she and ABC view as a typical “Trump’s America” family. In turn, she was praised from nearly every conservative platform, embraced by the president, and all but carved into the halls of MAGA Valhalla.

This is despite her career being not only conventionally objectionable but also specifically objectionable to the residents of “Trump’s America." From her fairly standard far-left views to her 9/11 trutherism to her disrespect of the national anthem — an offense that had the same folks separately boycotting the NFL — over the course of her career, Roseanne has been anything but a conservative or Republican icon.

But now, solely because of her embrace of Trump, her identity is tied to conservatives, and vice versa.

I saw on Twitter after her firing a Trump voter objecting that there was no reason to feel embarrassed by something Roseanne did, and I felt a sad sympathy. Too late, friend. You can’t blame the media now for taking your word and Trump’s that she belongs.

If you endorse, and embrace as your own, a person already known to act exactly this way, and then she does, you don’t get to blame a “broad brush” or "guilt by association” when people tie her to you. That’s how embracing and endorsing with full foreknowledge works.

Roseanne is hardly the only example of this phenomenon.

Kanye West’s Twitter excursions into territory the right considers its own had some adopting him and the left disowning him. In both cases, an absurd, frankly immature overreaction. But in general, that episode was instructive. Elon Musk’s anger toward the news media, and their reaction, was likewise instructive. But these guys are not right-wingers and never will be. They simply share a thought or two with Republicans. Which is nice. You may even admire it.

But that's not a reason to launch a PAC to elect them. Finding common ground is a great thing, but pay attention to what and why.

With Trump, there are potential overlaps that, absent any other corresponding commonalities, should be a caution. Musk was railing against media dishonesty. Despite histrionics from said media, that’s relatively safe common ground. But if a person’s only shared value with your conservative views is anger over immigration, for example, at least check that there’s not a more sinister motivating philosophy behind his policy preferences.

That same logic should apply to any celebrity whose sole agreement is that she likes the Donald. That’s the biggest red flag there is. When celebrities love Trump but are otherwise liberal, or as with Roseanne, otherwise insane — don’t make them your own. His many flaws, summed up twice this week in the phrase "he’s no role model” by two prominent Republicans, can attract just the wrong sort of person. Or celebrity. Until two years ago, most thought he was that wrong sort of celebrity.

It’s not hard to avoid this. Just don’t invest in the idea that liking Trump makes someone conservative. Or, you know, sane. That wasn’t a given in 2016, and it isn’t today. So use your head. It probably sounds like surpassingly simple advice that hardly bears mentioning.

And yet …

Caleb Howe is an editor at Mediaite, and the former managing editor of Red State. Follow him on Twitter: @CalebHowe.

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