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Lena Dunham's and Ronald Reagan's First Time | The Nation

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Leslie Savan

Politics, media and the politics of media.

Lena Dunham's and Ronald Reagan's First Time


Alison Harbaugh for Maryland Film Festival / Everett Collection

Folks on the right are shocked, shocked over that bit of innuendo in Lena Dunham’s ad for President Obama. Her “first time” was amazing, she says, because she voted for “somebody who really cares about and understands women” (somebody, she goes on, “who brought the troops out of Iraq” and signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act).

“If you need any further proof we live in a fallen world destined for hell fire,” writes Red State’s Erick Erikson, “consider the number of people who have no problem with the President of the United States, via a campaign ad, ridiculing virgins and comparing sex to voting.”

But thanks to Eric Kleefled at TPM, we now know that Dunham’s isn’t the first time the “first time” joke’s been made: In 1980, Ronald Reagan cracked wise about sex and voting, and he did it at the very moment of conception of millions of Reagan Democrats. On November 1, almost thirty-two years ago to the day, The Washington Post reported that candidate Reagan told a group of blue-collar workers at a Bayonne, New Jersey, bar:

“I know what it’s like to pull the Republican lever for the first time, because I used to be a Democrat myself, and I can tell you it only hurts for a minute and then it feels just great.”

How many other politicians will we find who’ve made the same, rather obvious joke? And even though Reagan expressed it in raunchier terms (levers! pain! pleasure!) than Dunham did, Republicans do not consider his “ridicule” of virgins to be proof of fallen worlds and hellfire.

Dunham, on the other hand, is a girl.

For more on Lena Dunham’s Obama ad, read Ari Melber’s latest post.

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