I spent an hour with Michigan Rep. Thaddeus McCotter once. It was in his office. He played guitar and smoked what seemed like a carton of cigarettes. We talked music. I came away convinced John Malkovich should play him if there were ever a movie about his life.
Now Politico notes he is considering running for president. This could get interesting. McCotter represents a segment of the conservative movement that is almost completely foreign to most Americans. The stereotypes of conservatives usually require them to fit neatly into one of two categories: Jerry Falwell evangelicals or “preppy” Republicans. This, of course, is simplistic and misguided.
McCotter’s scene is decidedly libertarian-leaning (though not Libertarian) and consists of folks like Fox News’ Red Eye host Greg Gutfield (McCotter is a frequent guest on the show), new media mogul Andrew Breitbart, actor Robert Davi, and Jon David Kahn — just to name a few. They are all driven and all quirky. They listen to (or play) a lot rock music — often late at night. Some have multiple tattoos. They almost all smoke. A lot.
“It’s a subculture, absolutely — these are cool guys,” says Jordan Lieberman, managing director of Campaign Grid, who hangs with the group sometimes, but says he’s “probably not cool enough” to be an official part of the group, himself.
“What sets them apart from Republicans is that they are creative thinkers,” Lieberman adds. “They have probably been stoned in the last couple weeks. They aren’t afraid of alcohol or tobacco. They want the government off their backs.”
They are “The Republican island of misfit toys,” another source tells me — “of which Thaddeus would make a good king.”
Because McCotter is an elected politician, he has to be a bit careful of his image. “He expresses his irreverence of leadership in his music,” says Lieberman. (Earlier this year, McCotter quoted some Led Zeppelin lyrics in a House floor speech.)
Could an eccentric like McCotter actually have an impact in the GOP presidential field? McCotter may be unconventional, but he’s also incredibly sharp. “He will slit throats in debates,” says one source friendly with McCotter. “He’s probably the only guy who could go head-to-head with Newt [Gingrich] — and probably win.”
If he does run, McCotter could win over his share of Tea Party voters. I just hope that in the process, he doesn’t shy away from his true self in order to be more palatable to the greatest number of voters. McCotter represents an underrepresented cadre of off-beat, libertarian conservatives. With Americans growing tired of typical politicians, here’s hoping McCotter is willing to fly his freak flag proudly.