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The Astronaut and the Alien

In an uneventful debate, Mark Kelly has an encounter of the GOP kind.
October 6, 2022
The Astronaut and the Alien
Incumbent Mark Kelly and challenger Blake Masters in the race for the U.S. Senate from Arizona.

Arizona’s Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, an honest-to-goodness astronaut, must have felt like he was talking to an alien tonight.

No, not in space. At the Arizona PBS debate, where Kelly had a “first and likely only” encounter with his opponent, GOP Senate nominee Blake Masters. Yes, it was weird.

Masters—a Peter Thiel creation—is a bastard conglomeration of the internet and Trumpism. Take one part Silicon Valley bro and add one part rad-trad Crossfit philosophy, shake on some Stanford pretentiousness, stretch it out into something that resembles a slightly more human form than Jared Kushner and you’ll get the idea. Watching the debate, one got the sense that Kelly, a stocky man who is not just a retired astronaut but also a naval aviator with combat experience and a master’s degree in engineering, didn’t know what to make of the being who called himself “Blake.” Probably because Masters is wholly and only conversant in the tongue of Trump.

Whenever Kelly tried to make a point about the upcoming elections and democracy, Masters steered the conversation to how the FBI supposedly suppressed information in some deep-state conspiracy to elect President Joe Biden. It was as if Masters were speaking another language.

For instance: Masters was asked, point blank, if he thought the 2020 election was “stolen” or “rigged—in any way, shape, or form—enough to keep Donald Trump out of the White House,” and Masters replied:

I suspect that if the FBI didn’t work with Big Tech and Big Media to censor the Hunter Biden crime story, yeah, I suspect that changed a lot of people’s votes. I suspect President Trump would be in the White House today if Big Tech and Big Media and the FBI didn’t work together to put the thumb on the scale to get Joe Biden in there.

Throughout the debate, Masters dropped other references to Hunter Biden, the FBI, Big Tech, and Big Media. But none of them was really relevant to the questions being asked.

Kelly didn’t have much to say in return. Probably because he couldn’t follow what Masters was saying. Only those fully steeped in the argot of MAGA could really follow.

At times, Kelly, too, was speaking his own indecipherable language. At one point, when Masters said he was pro-life and believed in a “federal backstop” on abortion, a reference to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s proposed federal ban on abortions after the fifteenth week, Kelly unfurled a canned line about how Masters supposedly is a guy “who thinks he knows better than everyone about everything” on everything from abortion to Social Security to war. Huh? That response wasn’t exactly on point; it was more like a sound bite Kelly had been instructed to get out.

Another example: Masters said Kelly should resign over the Democrats’ handling of the border and alleged that illegal immigrants are given “envelopes of cash” and “plane tickets,” and are treated better than America’s service members. Kelly said Masters was “mean.”

The situation was not helped by the presence of a third candidate, Marc Victor, the Libertarian Party contender who was orbiting somewhere in outer space, just occasionally landing to interject on behalf of drunken sailors. Really.

To call the event a “debate” would imply some discussion, some exchange of ideas. No such luck. The candidates talked past each other. No memorable points were made. No fireworks. Nothing changed—which is probably a net good for Kelly, who is up four points in the RealClearPolitics poll average.

Amanda Carpenter

Amanda Carpenter is an author, a former communications director to Sen. Ted Cruz, and a former speechwriter to Sen. Jim DeMint. She was formerly a Bulwark political columnist.