1: Some data
A majority non-white U.S.A. is widely predicted in more or less a generation. That doesn’t mean someone in 2045 (my hundredth year) will wake and say, “OMG! Today it’s a majority non-white U.S.A.!”
The majority non-white U.S.A., especially if you’re the Democratic Party, is happening right now. Not across the board, but palpably, across various vectors and in various sectors. For instance: Have you seen that people-of-color are front and center for an average of about 11 minutes an hour on daytime and prime-time TV, cable and broadcast?
I’m talking about commercials. It’s a sea change. Extraordinary, once you bother to notice. In the survey that follows (done all by myself last Fall), “Of Color” stands for people-of-color fronting a commercial and/or importantly visible in its mise en scène. “White” means all-white. We’ll start with a couple of wide-audience broadcast pop shows. (All times EST.)
THE TODAY SHOW (2 hours) – NBC – 7am, Nov-8:
Of Color: 39 commercials. White: 27 commercials.
NCIS [1 hour, in its 17th season] – CBS – 7pm, Nov-12:
Of Color: 27 commercials. White: 6 commercials.
See what I mean. Do you think it’s because people-of-color can’t afford streaming? Naw. How many people-of-anything do you see without smart-phones? If you have a smart-phone you can stream pretty cheap. But let’s focus just on news. Mostly cable news, for it’s probably true that many poor people can’t afford cable or satellite.
Here is my informal survey of one-hour cable news shows (unless otherwise noted). I counted as “White” spa and resort commercials in which the only people-of-color are servants or entertainers. Also, repeat commercials during a single show count individually because they occupy visual space, which is what we’re interested in. Lastly, network promos and unpeopled spots aren’t counted. So:
FOX NEWS – OUTNUMBERED – Nov-7
Of Color: 9. White: 18.
MSNBC – LIVE WITH KATY TUR – Oct-22
Of Color: 16. White: 7.
FOX NEWS REPORTING – Nov-7
Of Color: 15. White: 6.
MSNBC – DEADLINE WHITE HOUSE – Nov-22
Of Color: 16. White: 11.
FOX – YOUR WORLD WITH [Neil] CAVUTO – Nov-14
Of Color: 14. White: 13.
CNN – SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER – Nov-14
Of Color: 20. White: 13.
FOX – THE FIVE – Nov-7
Of Color: 10. White: 16.
MSNBC – MTP DAILY – Nov-14
Of Color: 20. White: 10.
CNN – SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER – Nov-14
Of Color: 22. White: 12.
MSNBC – THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER – Nov-14
Of Color: 25. White: 7.
FOX SPECIAL REPORT WITH BRET BAIER – Nov-13
Of Color: 16. White: 13.
6:30 PM [30 minutes - broadcast]
ABC WORLD NEWS TONIGHT – Nov-18
Of Color: 10. White: 8.
NBC NIGHTLY NEWS – Nov-15
Of Color: 7. White: 7.
CBS EVENING NEWS – Nov-15
Of Color: 8. White: 9.
MSNBC – HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS – Nov-14
Of Color: 23. White: 8.
CNN – OUT FRONT WITH ERIN BURNETT – Nov-7
Of Color: 23. White: 12.
FOX – THE STORY WITH MARTHA MacCALLUM – Nov-14
Of Color: 24. White: 12.
CNN – ANDERSON COOPER 360 – Nov-14
Of Color: 24. White: 16.
FOX – TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT – NOV-7
Of Color: 8. White: 10.
MSNBC – ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYS – Nov-14
Of Color: 20. White: 10.
MSNBC – THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW – Nov-8
Of Color: 17. White: 13.
FOX – HANNITY – Nov-7
Of Color: 6. White: 15.
CNN – TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON – Nov-7
Of Color: 26. White: 17.
FOX – THE INGRAM ANGLE – Oct-21
Of Color: 6. White: 18.
MSNBC – THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS – Sept-8
Of Color: 22. White: 15.
FOX NEWS @ NIGHT WITH SHANNON BREAM – Nov-7
Of Color: 18. White: 15.
People of color are visible in commercials on news and mainstream TV programming, both broadcast and cable, as never before. Seeing people-of-color in commercials at every level of product-worth is daily fare.
Brief “take-aways,” as the newsies say:
Either buying-power has increased recently and dramatically among certain vectors of people-of-color, or ad agencies have lately perceived a cumulative change. Another possibility is that white people want to buy stuff that cool people-of-color buy, which has always been true in some ways, but what’s cool about a matronly Latinx woman smiling on her sofa in the Wayfair commercials? She’s not there to clean the place up; it’s her stuff. We may theorize this or that, but this is certain: Ad agencies are not civil rights groups. Advertisers are going for the ripest profits; how they do that now, often, is to feature people-of-color. Something has changed, and changed big, though, I confess, I’m not sure exactly what. This too is certain: It’s all very different from the way it was, say, in 2016.
Even Fox news programs that minimize the visual presentation of people-of-color (Outnumbered, Tucker Carlson Tonight, Hannity, The Ingram Angle) can’t avoid color entirely; their overwhelmingly white audiences are forced to see people-of-color BUYING on equal terms with themselves. Equality of buying — across class, race and belief — is the equality that Americans, in practice, most respect. A racist who can’t afford the car he’s seeing people-of-color drive, or rural poor whites who don’t know what an investment platform is, might feel mightily threatened when watching most Fox news.
Also of interest: On Tucker Carlson and Hannity especially, high-end commercials are far fewer. In fact, alt-right programming has fewer commercials period. Compare, in this survey, The Ingram Angle’s 24 to Tonight With Don Lemon’s 43; Hannity’s 21 to The Rachel Maddow Show’s 30. Tucker Carlson Tonight’s 18 to All In With Chris Hays’ 30 and Anderson Cooper 360’s 40.
A fair question: Where have I seen this level of integration in so-called “real life”?
Answer: Airports. TSA lines. Airplanes.
This is purely anecdotal, I realize — and, compared to many, my experience of airports may be moderate — but in the last three years I’ve flown into and out of Sacramento, Burbank, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, Denver, Albuquerque, Lubbock, Austin, Atlanta, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, and Chicago. What you almost never see in airports is the white lower class — the foundation of the Republican base. What you do see is people with credit cards. And what you learn in airports, with your own two eyes, is that people with credit cards have become a pretty integrated bunch. More here than there, depending on the place, but still – majority white, but, in lots of airports, not by all that much. It’s very visible on TV and on most TSA lines that, as Baldwin wrote, “the world is white no longer.”
Big-time ad agencies are using every tint of skin and every shade of gender to sell luxury cars, investment platforms, furniture, fashion, vacation spas, airlines, hotels, every kind of pharmaceutical, every genre of product at every level of expense. Shouldn’t the Democratic Party be looking for votes where these advertisers are looking for money?
2: Iowa and New Hampshire
The Brits have two usages I’m especially fond of: “daylight madness” and “eyes wide shut” — as in, “It’s daylight madness! She walked into that situation with eyes wide shut.” Either usage is apt for a political party, in 2019-2020 U.S.A., that spends a full year of its debate/primary season pitching everything to two rural 90%-white states.
As we know, they call the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries “retail politics” because without much money you can raise some hell and make your name. As the nation has evolved, and as “a nation of minorities” has become inevitable, focusing for so long on these two states creates a whitening effect of the party’s message. This isn’t retail anymore; it’s racist. Democrats have spent a year not having to deal, in any serious way, with voters of color.
And the reportage is, well, strange.
Iowa — a much smaller turn-out than Bernie Sanders predicted and many expected. Sanders and Pete Buttigieg are said to be Iowa’s “winners,” when each got roughly 1/4th of a disappointing evening. How is that winning? Isn’t it more accurate to state that in Iowa the Democratic slate was found to be largely uninspiring, and, as a group, the Dems lost?
New Hampshire — a good turn-out, but in 2016 Sanders beat Hillary Clinton by about 60%. This year he got less than half that. Again, a little more than 1/4th of the vote. He failed his best mark, not by a little but by a lot. That’s a growing movement?
In New Hampshire, Amy Klobuchar surprised everybody but herself. She’s where she expected to be. Though I favor her, I can’t call that winning either, not yet.
As I write, Trump is stronger and more brazen than ever. He continues to lie and break the law without consequences except that his job-approval ratings are nationally at an all-time high. The most recent number I saw was 49% of Americans approve of his performance in office. That looks like winning.
In "Lies My Father Told Me", scripted by Ted Allan, a Jewish boy asks his grandfather, “Do you believe in miracles?” “No,” Grandpa says, “but I depend on them.”
More than a century ago, the great American socialist Eugene V. Debs was organizing sharecroppers in the South — or trying to, standing on a wagon, rabble-rousing in his mesmerizing way. A man in the crowd called out, “Stay with us, Brother Debs, and lead us to the Promised Land!” Debs said, “Brother, if I could lead you in, someone else could lead you out.”
A leader isn’t going to pull us out of this dangerous mess. We shall do it ourselves, or not. As I walk my walk and talk my talk I pass people on the streets and on the roads and in the airports who try to do the same, and it is not unimaginable that enough of them will decide that something is required of them, something small but big, a vote, a stand, not because a political party deserves it, but because they themselves do, and their neighbors do, and it’s better done than not done.
And, quietly — without much hope but some; and with what's left of a wounded faith — it’s not impossible that one by one, yet together, we’ll vote the monster down.
Michael Ventura © 2020. All rights reserved.
Michael Ventura is a writer who lives in the mountains of Northern California.
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