It could just be, two years on from the election of President Donald Trump, liberal America is finally arriving at the fifth of the seven stages of grief, the one characterised by guilt.
I realised this over the weekend as I watched Bill Maher, self appointed voice of the liberal conscience, delivering some hard to hear home truths to the faithful from the pulpit of his primetime chat show.
Citing a recent survey, Maher told his audience: ‘Eighty percent of Americans find political correctness to be a problem, including 75 percent of African Americans, 74 percent of Americans under thirty, 82 percent of Asians, 87 percent of Hispanics and 88 percent of Native Americans.
‘If you’re not a statistician, let me break those numbers down for you: nobody likes you, including the so-called marginalized groups whose feelings you’ve decided need protecting.’
For the non-liberal viewer, Maher’s words were, of course, a statement of the blindingly obvious. But for the millions of people whose liberal sensibilities have become something akin to an ideology – in America and throughout the West – they constitute yet another heavy blow.
The protest against political correctness – against what Douglas Murray has defined neatly as ‘the gap between what people think and what they believe they are meant to think’ – is well underway. It’s largely a silent protest, but no less effective for it, and it’s occurring in the privacy of the places in which we make our consumer choices.
Maher, in this respect, was only spelling out to liberal America a truth already increasingly – and grimly – recognized by corporate America, which is to say: get woke, go broke.
From Eminem to CNN, the examples of products or personalities that have lost value or relevancy since the election of Trump by attempting to harness the outrage of fellow liberal ideologues, or to become some kind of guiding star for social justice warriors, are myriad.
Eminem, for instance, was not so long ago one of America’s biggest stars, but since Trump’s election he’s fetishized his objection to the president to the point that it has come, bizarrely, to define him. Result: flop city. His Revival album, put out a year ago, shifted just 270,000 copies on release, a far cry from the 1.76 million sold on release by the Marshall Mathers LP in 2000, or the 800,000 of his previous album, Marshall Mathers LP2, released in 2013.
But Eminem is not the only megastar performer for whom lecturing the public has equated to commercial suicide. Katy Perry, who threw her lot in with Hillary Clinton during the presidential election campaign and has since yielded to no one when it comes to being right on, saw her Witness album fail badly (180,000 copies on release). ‘The public didn’t react the way I expected… which broke my heart,’ she has since complained.
CNN, too, is another good example of the effect blind liberalism can have on a bottom line. From the moment Trump said he would run for president, the news channel seemed to lose its mind, eschewing any claim to journalistic impartiality to become the kind of splenetic 24/7 anti-Trump propaganda machine we recognize today. Predictably, ratings have tanked. According to Adweek, in September CNN ratings were down 41 percent compared to the same time a year ago – meaning the channel had slipped behind cartoon broadcaster Nickelodeon in terms of its ability to pull in viewers.
A similar phenomenon has blighted Hollywood. In 2017, movie audiences hit a 25-year low. This year, the Oscars attracted its smallest ever audience. The public, it seems, has grown heartily sick of enriching cosseted actors by paying to watch them in films that seem more about preaching than plot, or of swallowing their uniformly liberal claptrap diatribes, often about inequality, broadcast direct from awards ceremonies held in the very epicenter of luxury and privilege.
Teen Vogue is another, lurid, cautionary tale of where a hard liberal mindset can lead, commercially. Apparently deeming the standard fare of girls’ teenage magazines (fashion, dating tips, ways to lose weight) as too gender specific/too pandering to the patriarchy, recently the online title instead went full woke, publishing articles such as this critique of capitalism, this handy guide to anal sex and this guide to masturbation for readers who happen to ‘have a penis’. Result: readership halved in 12 months, with only 1 in 20 readers now believed to be an actual teenager.
Nike, of course, is supposed to be the great one in the eye for this line of argument – a global corporation that set out nobly to emancipate libs everywhere by doubling-down on the kind of virtue-signaling gesture politics (never mind the Asian sweat shops) it knew would enrage Trump supporters.
Making the face of its latest advertising campaign the maverick quarterback Colin Kaepernick – scourge of the right for his refusal to stand during the American national anthem – looked a big gamble when it was unveiled on September 4. Three weeks later that gamble seemed vindicated when Nike’s share price hit an all time high of $85.55. But today the American sports apparel manufacturer’s stock is down some 16 percent from that peak, trading about ten dollars lower that it was pre-Kaepernick.
Nike would argue its share price performance merely reflects a wider trend affecting many American stocks, but who knows? We’ll have a better idea of the Kaepernick effect with the perspective of a year. For now, Under Armour, seems to be fast emerging as the world’s leading sports brand.
If I’m right and liberal America – having worked through shock, denial, anger and bargaining – really is now at the fifth stage of grief, then the good news is the remaining two stages aren’t so bad: depression and then acceptance.
For celebrities and companies, the trick will be to avoid the ‘get woke, go broke’ trap and to arrive at acceptance with life savings and brand intact. The market doesn’t lie: political correctness is a dead ideology. It’s time to get over it.