In the wake of the election, and the gnashing of teeth over Democrats’ failure to “understand” red states, I’ve heard at least two commentators mention Pauline Kael’s alleged quote from after the 1972 election: “I don’t know how Nixon won. No one I know voted for him.” The quote is used as Exhibit A in proving clueless liberal elitism.
But did she actually say it? I’ve never been able to find any evidence that she did. The only items that come up on a Google search are from silmilar right-wing columns, with no documentation or elaboration (Did she speak it or write it? Who did she say it to?) Now, I’m too young to have ever read Kael in her heyday, but the general impression I’ve always had of her was that she was pretty intelligent, and so would be unlikely to say something so silly.
Along those lines, the other theory I’ve heard is that the quote was uttered not in '72, after Nixon’s re-election, but a year or two later, in the midst of Watergate. According to this interpretation, it was meant ironically; if all the people who claimed to have voted against the scandal-plagued president had actually done so, he never would have won in the first place.
Does anyone know the true story?