Blake Masters’s first campaign ad opens with a shot of the Sonoran Desert. A plaintive piano theme tinkles as Mr. Masters, a 35-year-old venture capitalist and, as of early Wednesday morning, the Republican nominee for Senate in Arizona, delivers a monologue in voice-over. “The truth is, we can’t take America for granted,” he says. “And if we want to keep it, we’ve got to fight for it.”
The angles are wide, and the focus is deep. The camera floats above the ground, drifting after a boy’s legs running over the dunes and peering upward at Mr. Masters and his family hiking at the golden hour. In another video, from November, Mr. Masters stands in the desert cradling a gun. “This is a short-barreled rifle,” he says. “It wasn’t designed for hunting. This is designed to kill people.”
Mr. Masters has said that his ads, which mingle scenes of wistful domesticity with bellicose rhetoric and stark vistas of Arizona wilderness, were inspired by the films of Terrence Malick, the enigmatic American director. Mr. Malick once told an interviewer that in filming “Badlands” — a movie set in 1958 about young lovers on a killing spree — he tried to minimize ’50s-era visual cues. “Nostalgia,” he said, “is a powerful feeling; it can drown out anything.” Instead, he wanted the film to feel like “a fairy tale, outside time.” This, he hoped, would “take a little of the sharpness out of the violence but still keep its dreamy quality.”
Perhaps Mr. Masters is trying to strike a similar balance. Juxtaposing pastoral serenity with masculine violence, his ads conjure a latent darkness — an eagerness to subdue through coercion and threat — undergirding the American dream.
In his victory speech in Chandler, Ariz., on Tuesday night, Mr. Masters — who was endorsed by Donald Trump in June — echoed the themes of his campaign: America is in trouble, riddled with crime and disorder; illegal immigration is an invasion; Big Tech is censoring conservatives and colonizing young people’s minds, while globalist corporations outsource jobs and make American life all but unlivable for middle-class families. In his speech, Mr. Masters attacked “a small minority of hard-core Democratic Party activists” who, he said, “control newspapers and television and schools and universities — and you better believe they control Big Tech, too,” framing the race as a battle against “the cartels,” “giant global corporations” and “a system that’s actively trying to destroy families.”
To close followers of conservative politics, this message may sound familiar. Mr. Masters is unmistakably a figure of the New Right: militant, internet-savvy culture warriors who position themselves as insurgent challengers of the sclerotic establishment in both parties. No longer doctrinaire libertarians, they see coercive state power as an indispensable tool for achieving conservative ends: mandating patriotic curriculums in schools, supporting the formation of “native-born” families, banning abortion and pornography, and turning back the rights revolution for L.G.B.T.Q. Americans. [Continue reading…]