Yesterday I was arguing that Hillary Clinton had run a campaign that had attempted to build a rainbow coalition of oppressed minorities – blacks, gays, women, etc – to support her bid for the US presidency. But I argued that this was a collection of old oppressed minorities, that had been around for a very long time, and who had actually seen many improvements, and weren’t really quite as oppressed as they used once to be, and had become quite powerful – and even oppressive. I suggested that as old oppressed minorities saw their lives improving, and rose nearer the top of the social heap, new oppressed minorities began to appear at the bottom of the heap. The new oppressed minorities – aka “the deplorables” – included smokers, drinkers, fat people, Christians, and (in England) fox hunters. To this might be added the working classes, and (H/T Walt) “Old white guys”. And what Donald Trump did was put together a new rainbow coalition of these new vilified, ignored, and oppressed minorities.
I had the further thought this morning that the old oppressed minorities were highly visible – or at least easily identifiable. Black people are visibly different from white people. And women are visibly different from men. And arguably gays are visibly different from straights – if they’re being visibly transgender by wearing lipstick and high heels.
The accents with which people speak are also as recognisable as colour or sex. Even in a little country like Britain, there are a wide variety of accents. I can easily recognise a Northern or Southern Irish or Scottish or Welsh or Liverpudlian (Beatles) . But more or less every single town in England has its own characteristic accent. It’s probably possible to identify which town somebody comes from – and therefore to which oppressed minority they belong. For the Irish and the Scottish and the Welsh are oppressed minorities of a kind. As are Liverpudlians. There aren’t many of them, after all. This old Heineken ad (which I’ve probably shown before) played around with a few English accents:
We all have these identifying characteristics: colour, sex, age, accent. I’m a smoking, drinking, cheeseburger-eating, Old White Guy with a southern English accent of a kind that doesn’t pinpoint exactly where I came from. I belong to several reviled and oppressed minorities.
But the new oppressed minorities mostly aren’t so readily identifiable. And that’s probably the main reason they are ignored. People can’t see them. They don’t stand out like sore thumbs. It’s not immediately obvious whether someone smokes or drinks or eats cheeseburgers and pizzas. Nor is it immediately obvious whether they’re Christians (unless they’re wearing crosses) or fox-hunters (unless they’re wearing spurs, and sitting on a horse). Nor is it particularly obvious that old white guys might belong to an oppressed minority, except if you remember that these days young people (chiiildren) have precedence over old people, blacks over whites, and women over men, so that old white guys default to the bottom of the heap.
Some oppressed minorities might not be recognised as oppressed at all. But I think that there’s a case to be made that the old aristocracies of Europe have become oppressed minorities. Many in the French aristocracy were executed during the French revolution, and the Russian tsar and his family were murdered by the communists in the Soviet Union. So our Queen Elizabeth II is a member of a highly endangered species.
The same might be said about bankers (“banksters”) and billionaires, both of whom are reviled.
Which brings me back to Donald Trump. He’s a reviled billionaire, and member of the equally reviled 1%. He also comes from Queens or Brooklyn (I forget which) – as also does talk radio host Michael Savage – , and they both have the accents of that part of New York (as did physicist Richard Feynman). Both come from minorities on the wrong side of town (and I’m betting that there are just as many wrong sides of town in America as there are in England). And Donald Trump has spent his whole life climbing to the top (Manhattan) from relatively humble origins, much like both the other two. Donald Trump has spent his life making Donald Trump great again. And so, as a member of (at least) two different invisible oppressed minorities, he instinctively knew how to appeal to all the other invisible oppressed minorities – while Hillary Clinton was appealing to all the visible ones.
The British left has also been appealing to visible minorities just as much as the American left. And in the process the UK Labour party seems to have forgotten all about the original oppressed minority – the British working class – that the Labour party used to represent. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party wants the votes of blacks, gays, women, and any number of other visible minorities, some of whom don’t even live in England (e.g. Palestinians). So it can’t be too much of a surprise that:
Jeremy Corbyn under pressure to turn around Labour’s fortunes in face of ‘devastating’ new polls
Just 14 per cent of people say the Labour leader would make the best Prime Minister, according to YouGov
I don’t doubt that he’s a tree-hugging Greenie as well, and worried about Climate Change. He is of course an antismoker who voted for the UK smoking ban. He’s the MP for a north London constituency – Islington North – which is probably full of people like him.
So now nobody seems to represent the British working class at all. And they are all just as “deplorable” as any Americans.
Perhaps this is how political parties die. They lose contact with their roots, as they go hunting after new minorities to vote for them, and new causes to champion.
But the main point that I wish to make is that not all oppressed minorities are as visible as the old, traditional, oppressed minorities. And oppressed minorities are always shifting around. And astute politicians – like Donald Trump or his new friend Nigel Farage – are people who keep a finger on the pulse of the ever-changing body politic.