The Curious Case of Chris Rufo
A failed political operative desperately wants to be regarded as a mastermind. Why does the media keep playing along?
On the evening of November 8th, 2022, Christopher F. Rufo took a victory lap.
It had been a stunning few years for him. Rising from utter obscurity as a Seattle-based documentary filmmaker and failed city council candidate, this young self-described political “brawler” had managed to make himself relevant in the eyes of the media with truly tremendous speed. By the time he had received his first glossy profile—specifically, a New Yorker interview where he took credit for “invent[ing] the conflict over critical race theory”—Joe Biden had only been president for a few months. Following that, he would spend the next year and a half taking additional credit for whatever he could put his name next to. That fall, he would take credit for Glenn Youngkin’s win in the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election. By the spring, he was taking credit for yet another moral panic, this time around gender identity. When Republicans around the country ran on these issues, he took credit yet again. So, now, with polls closing around the country and everyone serious in the media predicting a historic red wave, why wouldn’t he get out ahead on a little more credit-taking? With the subtlety he is so well known for, he posted this on Twitter:
It was enough to send any well-meaning liberal into despair. Perhaps they were holding out some unspoken hopes that the polls and the experts could be wrong, that Republicans weren’t that dominant, that things might not end up as badly as they feared. But with this tweet, Rufo seemed to slam the door on that. He was calling the election for himself! Who in his position would do this unless they were absolutely certain of the outcome? Who would do it so early unless they were totally in control? This had to be what was happening, right? What kind of person could leave themselves open to the embarrassment that could befall them after this if they happened to be wrong?
Someone like Chris Rufo could. When the results came in just hours later, the left emphatically did not pay the price. They had the best midterm election result of any in-power party since 1934. Years of effort, endless coverage, promises of domination made as effortlessly as he breathed—all of it came to nothing. The swaggering confidence that once convinced so many that he had to be for real had been proven to be something else. Everything the media thought they knew about him was wrong. He wasn’t a mastermind. He was a complete blowhard.
So, what has the media done with this information? Absolutely nothing.
Not a single mainstream reporter thought it important enough to remark on the humiliation of a lifetime. For as eager as they were to shower him in accolades at just the first signs of success, they were completely unwilling to take him to task when faced with the undeniable reality of failure. Nobody deigned to ask “What Went Wrong for Chris Rufo?” Nobody thought to explain how his dreams had been shattered, or how hilarious his Sephiroth-ass writing style now looked in retrospect. There was just nothing. And when Rufo came back after a few weeks to start talking about politics like a supervillain again, they once again stood in awe of him. It was as if nothing had happened—no, it was if he had actually won.
Across 2023, this story repeated itself over and over and over again. At the start of the year, Rufo bet everything on Ron DeSantis, happily allowing himself to be profiled as nothing less than the Florida governor’s consigliere. When that campaign died an excruciating death, he was the only one to get off without any damage to his reputation. In the fall, his “anti-woke movement” would once again be tested at the polls; once again, he would fail dramatically, and once again, he would face no criticism. Then, at the end of the year, he would finally get a win by scoring the easiest of layups. If you haven’t heard before, make sure to hold onto something so you don’t fall over in shock. Yes, it’s true. He managed to get a serial plagiarist removed from a university position.
Once this was accomplished, the media suddenly remembered he existed, and they fell to their knees in awe. Horrified left-leaning papers and columnists rushed to quote his claims to have “SCALPED” his opponents. The Wall Street Journal gave him space for a self-congratulatory “column” where he waxed poetic over his own genius. Agenda-setting newspapers described him matter-of-factly as a “mastermind,” opening pieces with the simple proclamation that “Christopher Rufo has done it again.”
All of this for a 39-year-old think tank employee who has failed at nearly every single political task he has ever given himself.
In the words of Tucker Carlson: What is going on? I’ll do my best to explain.
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