There is a hoary joke told in marketing classes about a pet food corporation hiring an ad agency to flood the zone with a marketing campaign for their new dog food.
Months later, millions of dollars have been spent on TV ads, full-page ads, promotion teams, etc. Yet sales are still in the toilet, stores are returning unsold merchandise.
CEO: “I don’t understand! We did the biggest marketing campaign ever! How come?”
VP for sales: “There was only one problem.”
VP for sales: “The dogs won’t eat the food.”
This is exactly what happened. The DNC spent an astronomical amount on a campaign to sell dog food that the dogs wouldn’t eat anymore.
Many people may point to Wikileaks as what did HRC’s campaign in. Yet I personally think she signed her electoral death warrant when she wrote off nearly half the country as a “basket of deplorables”. This is the sort of unforced error made by people who live in a New Class bubble and have lost touch with the people on the ground. It is the same sort of reason why Shimon Peres z”l — undeniably an exceptional statesman, whose legacy was strong enough to survive even the Oslo disaster — was said to ‘be capable of losing an election against himself’.
Say what you want about Trump, but he undeniably has his finger on the pulse of a large section of the electorate that is feeling ignored at best by one side, and demonized at worst by the other. One that is, in addition, bearing the cost of policies beloved of New Class virtue signalers, of transnationalists, of crony-capitalist big business, and of client populations of the Anointed.
The people who saw Trump as a savior may be grasping at a straw. Many of the economic and social disruptions ongoing or coming are in my opinion beyond the power of any president to fix. (For instance, the manufacturing jobs that went to China will eventually be automated out of existence.) Yet at least, Trump is perceived as lending a sympathetic ear, even though he himself is a crony-capitalist big businessman. Politics is a game of perception, whether we like it or not.
Those of us who feared and loathed the tranzi-left agenda would not need to be mobilized anyway. What Trump pulled off is primarily to motivate people who’d given up on politics entirely to not only go the polls again, but to actually prod others into going. Bill Clinton — a genius at the perception game, whatever his numerous other faults — could have walked over Trump had he been eligible to run.
What happened here is part and parcel of a phenomenon seen across the West: a repudiation of the New Class elites (the “Inner Party”, if you like) by that part of the electorate that is neither a client nor an aspiring member (“Outer Party”). Rather than the usual facile explanations in terms of xenophobia etc., I believe something much more fundamental is at work. Paraphrasing an immigrant from the former USSR: “people grumbled at the Czar, but they put up with him as long as he kept hunger and foreign invaders away. Once he couldn’t deliver even that anymore, his days were numbered”. Likewise, Europeans may put up with the unelected postnational, postdemocratic Eurocrats, and with their national technocratic elites, as long as they are perceived to substantially ‘deliver the goods’. Right now they are being perceived as not only not delivering the goods, but of forcibly silencing any little boy who dares say that the emperor has no clothes on (cf. the recent ham-handed attempts at official censorship in Germany) and indeed of being in it only for themselves and their peers.
A number of others have pointed out that a major political realignment is taking place in Europe: the traditional left-right axis is being replaced by an elitist transnationalism — nationalist populism axis. A similar process appears to be playing out in the US: it struck me at times how Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump seemed to have more common ground than either had with Hillary Clinton (or, across the aisle from her, with WSJ editor Bret Stephens and his peers). You may applaud this, or it may fill you with anguish: one thing is clear, the elites are no longer able to make the dogs eat the food. A Bret Stephens (whose past work I have often expressed admiration for) not only has a tough time selling globalization and open border policies to somebody from Flyover Country who saw their job to outsourcing abroad and can no longer pay their bills — increasingly he either no longer has a common language with them, or writes them off entirely.
The increasingly shrill and outré attacks in the
leftist agitprop popular media on cultural values dear to the soi-disant ‘deplorables’ certainly caused a backlash: I have a feeling, however, they were more the icing on the cake than the driving factor when it comes to the great mass of voters.
A large part of the political-media complex has been micturating into too many people’s shoes while telling them it was just raining. When those who protested were also accused of urophobia, then finally written off as irredeemable ‘deplorables’, that was the best recruitment for a Trump-style politician one could imagine. Had Trump lost, four years from now the political-media complex might be facing something that would make them nostalgic for the very man they now demonize.
May G-d bless the American People and the President-Elect, and imbue him with the wisdom and especially the intellectual humility that will be needed for what is shaping up like some very stormy years to come.
UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers!
And while I’m updating, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the IT debacle that plagued the Romney get-out-the-vote operation on Election Day 2012: ORCA, the killer whale app that beached itself. (First-person story at Business Insider, originally at Ace of Spades; CNET story; Ars Technica story and sequel )
7 thoughts on “Les déplorables, or : the dogs refused the food”
I was beginning to think they would never tire of the diet. Hard times ahead, but at least they’re fighting.
Very good commentary, and anyone who sends me to a dictionary (for “micturating”) has done me a good turn. Thanks.
Great essay. One quibble:
” traditional left-right axis is being replaced by an elitist transnationalism — nationalist populism axis”
Isn’t that the same thing? International leftist versus nationalist right? Also I don’t see any change in Europe. The only changes are in Anglo countries. Because Europe was never very left wing and its conservatism is communitarian, village-based. Nothing new, and no Euro politician can ever afford to put a village offside, that’s how its always been and remains so.
In the U.S., at least, “traditional left-right” (“traditional” meaning 20th century American) has more to do with the size and role of government…so a great many traditional rightists are “internationalist” on trade, and many traditional leftists the opposite. On trade and immigration, both major parties had shifted to “internationalist” positions in the last few decades…which is part of the reason Trump won both the nomination and the election–he was a candidate for people who disagreed with that “consensus.”
I don’t deplore these terms “left” and “right” but as far as I can tell the American and European usages have never matched each other very well.
I’ll say one thing for Trump – he put an end to both the Bushes and the Clintons. For that he deserves our undying gratitude.
You and a lot of folks are saying that Trump saw the movement and got ahead of it but that isn’t true. He stood up and said what was in his own heart and amazingly huge mobs of people from all walks of life felt exactly the same way. Thousand upon thousands went to his rallies just to hear their own thoughts finally expressed and when the libs came after him he stood up and roared back at them. He didn’t see the movement, the movement saw him.
[…] themselves as “Deplorables”, or even, with a pun on a musical and classic novel, “Les Déplorables“. This is actually a classic example of “linguistic reappropriation” at work: […]