Tonight, when Keith Olbermann did the toss from his show to Rachel Maddow's, he mentioned that she had beaten Larry King in the ratings the entire previous week. I don't know how big a deal that is. King is popular but past his sell-by date, and I am sure his numbers are heavy in the all-important 66-95 year old demo. But it sure seems important, and I've read that she is now the #2 evening draw over at MSNBC behind Olbermann. The two of them provide a knockout punch for lefties, and fans of true journalism, everywhere.
That doesn't cover the real reasons, though, for the nearly-fanatical following Maddow has developed. If you read, or have read, comments about her across teh intarwebz, especially regarding her new show, you've seen that she gets an enthusiasm totally out of proportion of her aw-shucks demeanor. Why does she get this? Why do men AND women, straight AND gay, get crushes on her? (Me, it started with the short haircut. Rowr.)
First, notice that she's the hero of people who read and stay informed. No one has properly estimated the power of a grounded woman with a sharp-as-a-knife mind, and here is Rachel Maddow proving that legions thirst for a drink from the tap of Rhodes scholarship. She's smart. Smarter than me and you put together. But she doesn't have an ego problem. She's not only the smartest person in the room, she's also someone you'd have a beer with. She's someone who will laugh at your jokes but keep you in line, who will hear your tales and not twit you, who just may well laugh at that thing you did where you said, "Hey! Watch THIS!" and dissect exactly how stupid it was. She gets us to examine ourselves, laugh at ourselves and others, and she affirms our confidence while getting us to admit we're maybe not so perfect.
She's also the androgynous dream date for millions. Well, maybe thousands. She's an object of desire but utterly non-threatening. For straight women (I am guessing), she's the friend, the buddy, the compatriot who is all about the feelings and thinking through things. You know she will listen and give advice both. She's perceptive of human ways, but she's non-jealous, non-possessive, non...attached. For gay women... Well, let's just file that in the FREAKING OBVIOUS folder. For gay men? She's sort of a substitute man, and I don't mean that in a sexist way. (Like there's any other way to take that.) My feeling on this is that she's the androgynous (again that!) person a lot of people wish they could be; if she were a man, virtually unchanged, a lot of men would be in love with her brains, her cheer, her competence, her clarity. She represents for us all an icon of what we wish we were, and what we wish to love: complete personally and professionally and untainted by her own fame.
As far as straight men: well, she will always be the Other, the Unattainable, the Yearning, the Unrequited. Boys, she's NOT for us. She's for the girls. But those of us who straddle the gender lines--not just those who wish they could have sex with lesbians because it's a challenge, or because they can't imagine anyone turning down their masculine charms, or who are envious of anyone who gets to have a kind of sex they don't--she is the ideal. All the reasons I gave above are true, but here's the rest: in a big way, she's a GUY. Not in terms of equipment, but in attitude. She keeps it simple while competently handling the big issues, her emotions reside in the same home as ours, she cuts through the dross to the quick, she can be fanciful but she's grounded, she makes decisions responsibly, and yet--because she is female, ignoring that she is a lesbian--she exists somewhere within the universe of possibility. (The right man and all that.)
But in short, she's what we wish we could be. We wish we could have the clarity of purpose that she does, her substance, her foundation, her commitment, her intelligence, her application. She's a dream for many of us, a liberal goddess who fills every fantasy of who we want and who we want to be, unencumbered by society's restrictions but respectful of society's rules. She trips our triggers in myriad ways, all of them good.
Rachel? I'm free. Call me.