Roseanne And White Lives Matter

The country managed to survive without Roseanne for more than two decades. The question is will we survive now that the white-lives-matter show is back on the air?

I have my doubts, but hope persists.

ABC supposedly resurrected Roseanne, starring right-wing conspiracy nut and Tr-mper, Roseanne Barr, as part of its “Heartland Strategy After Tr-mp’s Victory,” to use the New York Times’ phrasing. The paper told us:

On the morning after the 2016 election, a group of nearly a dozen ABC executives gathered at their Burbank, Calif., headquarters to determine what Donald J. Trump’s victory meant for the network’s future.

“We looked at each other and said, ‘There’s a lot about this country we need to learn a lot more about, here on the coasts,’” Ben Sherwood, the president of Disney and ABC’s television group, said in an interview.

They began asking themselves which audiences they were not serving well and what they could do to better live up to the company name — the American Broadcasting Company. By the meeting’s end, they had in place the beginnings of a revised strategy that led the network to reboot a past hit centered on a struggling Midwestern family, a show that had a chance to appeal to the voters who had helped put Mr. Trump in the White House.

The rest is history, of course. Roseanne’s premiere this week was, in today’s shrinking old-school-broadcasting world, more popular, and lucrative, than ABC executives could have ever hoped for. In fact, the president of Disney (and, thus, ABC TV), Ben Sherwood, thought the Nielsen ratings were so high that there must have been some kind of mistake made. But there was no mistake. Just brilliant timing and marketing to, in many cases, a less-than-brilliant demographic.

All of that would be fine, I suppose, if it weren’t for some of the ridiculous comments people like Ben Sherwood have subsequently made. He simply could have said that Disney and ABC are in the business of making money and, well, there is money to be made by pandering to a group of white conservatives, among whom are many, like Roseanne, who believe in weird conspiracies and don’t like work-hungry immigrants all that much. But instead Sherwood said to the Times about the Roseanne clan:

People gather round and they see themselves in this family. It speaks to a large number of people in the country who don’t see themselves on television very often.

Are you effing kidding me? Has Mr. Sherwood ever turned on cable news? The champion of the Roseanne fans of the world is “on television” each and every day, sometimes each and every minute. And if Tr-mp himself isn’t on, the cable news networks often feature a group of “Tr-mp supporters” or “Tr-mp voters” who are endlessly questioned by a curious host as to whether those ignorant or bigoted or gullible folks have, as Tr-mp stumbles through the months, abandoned their ignorance or bigotry or gullibility. The answer, to no one’s surprise, is nope. They’re still happily culting away.

This morning, MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski also said something ridiculous, which really isn’t new or news. But this morning she was part of a segment on Morning Joe that featured talk about the success of Roseanne and what that success might mean culturally and politically. Brzezinski said:

The Democrats definitely forgot about those 18 million people who watched Roseanne, for sure, and it’s a good lesson.

Forgot about them? Who is “them”? If by them one means working-class Americans, well, Democrats didn’t forget about them. In fact, the Democratic Party’s main message last election was designed around lifting up the working class beyond what Obama, who encountered fierce Republican opposition, managed to do. And Hillary Clinton got a majority of the working-class vote. Yes, you read that right. She did.

The real message folks like Ben Sherwood and Mika Brzezinski are sending is that Hollywood executives and Democratic politicians ought to pay more attention to white working-class Americans. Let me say that again in a way you can hear me: PAY ATTENTION TO WHITE FOLKS WITHOUT COLLEGE DEGREES! is the message. Its corollary is: STOP PAYING SO MUCH ATTENTION TO PEOPLE OF COLOR BECAUSE IT SCARES WHITE PEOPLE!

Well, this is a good time to remind everyone that despite Hillary Clinton’s many personal challenges and the Russia-Tr-mp conspiracy to poison the electorate with stolen emails and Facebook-fueled lies, she did win the popular vote decisively. And she only lost the Founder-rigged Electoral College game by a flimsy margin across a few key states. Clearly she failed, though. Clearly the Democratic Party failed, too. But that failure can’t be fixed by somehow telling Roseanne fans only what they want to hear. Because what too many of them want to hear is a validation of their prejudices and a stoking of their cultural fears, which are partly rooted in those prejudices. What some significant number of them want is a recognition that their color matters too. What some of them want the rest of us to recognize is that they are anxious about a future in which people who look like them won’t necessarily be privileged to run everything and call every shot.

In short, what that Roseanne folks want is to be identified as fed-up WHITE PEOPLE.

Well, how should Democrats handle these folks, these fellow Americans, if not by pandering to their faults? How should Democrats speak to people who seem to be holding the country hostage by sticking an AR-Tr-mp assault weapon in our faces? What can you say to people in so much identity pain that they think a disturbed white grifter is their salvation?

Well, Democrats do have a message, an economic and cultural message, and perhaps they can possibly talk some of those white voters into putting down the assault weapon that is Donald Tr-mp. The economic message is simple: Republicans always favor the rich and will conspire—a true conspiracy—to do everything they can to make the lives of the rich even better than it is. It’s simply who Republicans are and what they do. Democrats, flawed as they are, exist to make lives better for everyone else, no matter their color. And that’s where the Democrat Party’s cultural message comes in.

Anand Giridharadas, a writer and political analyst for NBC News, was on Morning Joe this morning and spoke during the Roseanne segment. Hear him:

I’m not a fan of Roseanne the person. I did enjoy that one episode. That may be the only one I watch, but I enjoyed it. And I think it raised a truth and a question. I think the truth that it illustrated is working-class white people may claim to be against identity politics, but they actually crave identity politics. They want to be part of it. They want to be seen and witnessed the way women and people of color are demanding representation. And part of what was great about the show—the apnea machine, Maxwell House coffee, prescription meds, insurance that doesn’t work, football-stitched kitchen towels—there was an effort to kind of pay respect and pay attention to the details of a certain demographic’s life. I hope those folks will understand that other people also want to be represented, and that’s what those demands and identity politics have been about.

I think the question the revival raises is: Is it only…demagogues like Donald Tr-mp and peddlers of conspiracy theories like Roseanne who can speak to these people? Can there be good, elevated, smart, thoughtful, future-oriented political leaders who can speak to these people, make them feel witnessed, seen, and understood, but actually elevate them and lead them to a better place instead of make them hate people and try to shut down the post-war global order?

In time we shall see if Democrats can raise up such leaders who can take the Democrats’ economic-cultural message to reachable scared white folks, and tell them that Democrats will have their backs so long as they don’t turn their backs on other folks who also want to be seen and heard and have their grievances addressed by the country and its culture.

Our ongoing experiment in democracy will only work if we quit experimenting with democracy and actually start practicing it.

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25 Comments

  1. ABC also brought us “Modern Family” — balance? Who cares? Does anyone watch ABC anymore? Does anyone watch TV anymore? 97.6% of the shows are pure crap. OK — I’m guessing at the %, but I’ll bet I’m close. If Trump ends up in prison — Rosanne will (mercifully) go away, too.

    Liked by 1 person

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  2. Ben Field

     /  March 30, 2018

    Duane,

    Maybe we should join the activist heroes of the Parkland shooting that are hitting the NRA, Fox News celebrity hate spewing hosts, and politicians where it hurts…in their pocketbooks. #Boycott their sponsors and call them out. It’s too bad it took electing a moron to activate the youth of today, but I am impressed with their efforts, successes, and resolve.

    Liked by 3 people

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    • Yes, I have been following the boycott. Man, that was fast work by the students and quick responses by the advertisers. I was appalled at the number of mainstream companies that were actually advertising on Ingraham’s show. I used to listen to her on the radio years ago and she was every bit as bad on the radio as she is on TV and Twitter. Glad the young folks have had enough. Shame on my generation for tolerating this crap without a fight.

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      • Ben Field

         /  April 2, 2018

        Duane,

        Those same young folks are the ones getting my donations now. I am also writing corporate sponsors in protest, as well. Claire is not getting any of my money, nor is the DNC, they have my vote, but my money is going to activists. I still try to influence others to vote Democratic, but the corporate politicians the Generalist decries, have rubbed me slick as well.

        Sherrod Brown and Tom Lopez are both good qualified men, but lack national name recognition or the “it” factor to get us back to where we need to be. Although both Biden and Clinton were exceptionally qualified, their “it” factor prevents them from successfully grabbing the ring. The gurus in charge at the DNC of fielding and building that candidate is the “corporate” Democrats, the Generalist and I bemoan.

        You’re absolutely right about Sanders, he should embrace the party line and slow walk the crazy, but he has the “it” factor with the youth, and that is a given, as well as his funding ability. I hope we can field a qualified, charismatic leader that can engage the electorate and get this country back in the right direction, but I haven’t seen them yet. Just venting, but posting a couple of links below to assist our activists.

        https://www.gofundme.com/stonemandouglasvictimsfund

        https://www.gofundme.com/8psm8-march-for-our-lives

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        • Dang! Well said, Ben. I have been energized to deal with the day. Thank you, sir. I fear there is no solid Liberal — with sufficient broad appeal — to lead the way. Other than Mr. Sanders. We do need someone younger, charismatic, articulate, and tough enough to connect with citizens easily distracted by shiny objects. And they need to be competent: Schiff? Lieu? Merkley (my choice)?

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          • Ben Field

             /  April 3, 2018

            Generalist,

            Forgive my speaking for you, I made an assumption that I should not have done. I do sympathize with your position. The men you cited are also capable, and don’t take this the wrong way, I’m looking for a female. Not Kamala or Kirsten, but one that is qualified to lead us out of this idiocy that we find ourselves in under Trump.

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            • No forgiveness necessary. I’m totally fine with a woman taking the reins — but NOT because she’s a woman. Whoever it is has to be the right person. I really like Warren: great person, great senator. Too earnest — sort of like Al Gore. I liked Al Gore. He would have been a good president. Bill Clinton’s indiscretions sealed his fate. Those and SCOTUS. I like Gillibrand. I am pleased that she seems to have moved a little leftward since being elected to the Senate. She’s smart and articulate — and not afraid of Trump and his ilk.
              Whoever it is , they must not have the taint of the DNC, DCCC, etc. Those organizations have exposed the arrogance of the democratic old boys’ (and girls) power club. It’s easy to run against. Hell, it might take someone like Alan Grayson. He’s a shameless self-promoter, but he can, in this day of sound bite policy, club an opponent to death with a clever one-liner — and I like most of his policies. He gets shit done, too. He has a little baggage — but hey — Trump! The DNC hates him and that could be his undoing. I would like to see him back in Congress, though. I wish the dem leadership would stop sabotaging progressive candidates in favor of milquetoast establishment types.

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              • To butt in, it would also be nice if progressive candidates would be a little more careful with their language (although I did like Grayson’s “Taliban Dan” effort, which it turns out was way ahead of its time). And it would be nice if they would not entertain people like Alex Jones, as Grayson did, when he called a female aid to Ben Bernanke “a K Street whore.” Not cool. 

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                • True enough. Grayson has a big damn mouth. But — as I said earlier in another post: War is Hell. I’m not really saying he’s the man to be president, but he IS willing to wade into the fray swinging a couple of swords. I’d like him back on the team: warts and all.

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                  • Hey, I’m all for fighters, but our side doesn’t need to gutterize all political debate in the way Grayson sometimes does, and we certainly don’t need to validate assholes like Alex Jones. He could have attacked Linda Robertson (who slighted him) without sexist language and without going on a freak show like InfoWars. Normally I’m willing to cut passionate folks on our side some slack (I did at least once write favorably of Grayson), but he just seems to lack basic human decency when it comes to interpersonal interactions (it is strange that some folks exhibit a lot of decency toward “mankind” in the abstract, but have trouble with real people).

                    Having said that, if a miracle were to happen and he was on the ballot versus any Republican, I’d run to the voting booth to vote for him. That’s what I think of Republicans these days.

                    Duane

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        • Ben,

          I understand your reluctance to give money to those you consider too “corporate,” which is your choice. I just think it is fairly obvious Claire will lose if there is a lack of enthusiasm (often expressed in $$$) for her here in Missouri. She may not be the ideal progressive candidate, but she knows how to win in this now Lousiana-ish state and winning is absolutely crucial. She has mostly been a reliable vote when we’ve needed it.

          You know I love me some Sherrod Brown. But he doesn’t have the set of political skills that appears to be necessary in our contemporary electoral environment. To put it simply, he is a principled, dedicated public servant without any bombast or inspirational rhetoric (or expressive issue fanaticism like Bernie), as far as I can see. That’s part of the reason why I like him so much. He’s what a politician should ideally be, for my money. I just wish he did have some national standing, but there is a reason he doesn’t, besides having to fight like hell to stay in office in an increasingly reactionary Ohio. He just isn’t an attention-seeker or a guy who runs to every TV camera he sees (yes, I’m talking about Chuck Schumer). But he is one candidate I would gladly knock on doors for.

          In any case, here’s to the activists!

          Duane

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  3. Jim D Hight

     /  April 1, 2018

    As long as Democrats are divided between purists and realists, Republicans will continue to win elections. My hope is that Bernie Sanders will not run in 2020 and that Tom Perez can unite the party.

    Liked by 1 person

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    • thgeneralist

       /  April 1, 2018

      Fair enough, Jim. I want progressives to win, so I hope Bernie runs for President and the DNC gets replaced by something of value and integrity. Corporate Democrats are NOT helping.

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      • My faithful friend, if you wait for a DNC, or any organization, that is pure as the wind-driven snow, you will wait in vain.

        Yeah, I want progressives to win every election, too. And I want the DNC to be as free from outrageous (as opposed to legitimate) corporate interests as much as humanly possible. But I see no contradiction in wanting those things and also being a little wary of another round of Bernie Sanders and his often divisive, one-note pitch. The thing is, Bernie could run as a unifying figure in the Democratic Party, if he were constitutionally able to do so. But he doesn’t seem to be so constructed. Truth is, he seems to loathe the party and everything it stands for, seeing something in it that most of us Democrats simply don’t see. Sure, we see a flawed party at times; we see a lost party at times; we see a confused party at times; we see a weak party at times. We certainly see a need for strong Democratic leadership in Congress all the time. But at the end of the day, the party does stand for doing the right thing for the 99% (to borrow from Bernie), even if our leaders are sometimes too timid or misguided in their approach.

        But, I’m curious about something. You use the term “Corporate Democrats.” Is Sherrod Brown one of those? He supported Tr-mp’s tariffs on imported steel, which he believes will help the steel industry. Is he, therefore, wrong to support steel corporations, who employ Ohio workers?

        Duane

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        • Fair enough assessment of Bernie and his warts, and — like you — I will support whoever the dems put forth. I prefer Bernie’s message (and resolve) to — say: Kamala Harris or Chuck Schumer or Tim Kaine. No one is gonna ever please me 100%. Not even sure I want that. As far as warts go, I like Sherrod Brown, but I expect him to be a wise enough student of history to know how ill-advised the tariff game was/is. Trump doesn’t even care about it anymore. His PA stooge got beat in the Special and that was the tariff’s primary target: to beat Lamb. I could give you a long list of dems I like, but don’t always agree with. Still, if Bernie’s voice goes away — the dems will continue their stupid — effing stupid — slide to the corporate right.
          Because — with apologies to the Galilean carpenter: “you can’t serve the people AND the love of money and power”. It’s as impossible as trickle down economics. Never has happened in the history of the world. I’m tired of Republican-lite Democrats.
          Bernie doesn’t treat this like it’s a game. Bernie seems to think American Democracy matters and oligarchy is its death threat. His voice is — to me, anyway, authentic and spot on, as far as initiatives the country should be pursuing. You and I will likely never agree on this. Bernie didn’t cost Hillary the election. Trump and Russians? Probably. Hillary’s arrogance? Possibly.
          Bernie’s wake up call to America? Nope!

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          • Duane

             /  April 3, 2018

            Good enough. We both know there were a lot of reasons why Hillary lost the Electoral College, Bernie’s long reluctance to admit the inevitable among them (as I remember writing many times in real time).

            I obviously agree with most of Bernie’s domestic objectives. I just worry about a few things, in terms of Bernie’s potential general election candidacy (he’s already started to run his primary campaign). Things like:

            1) whether the country in 2020 will still have a growing economy; if so, Bernie’s chances of beating Tr-mp (assuming he’s still around) will be smaller than we all wish, if he runs on an aggressively democratic socialist agenda, which seems to be what you expect him to do. My fear along these lines is that the economy will still be performing relatively well, although a correction is definitely in order over the next couple of years. The question is whether that correction will come before November of 2020 or after. If things still look pretty good, I don’t see much of a chance of convincing enough of the electorate to accept what the other side will demagogue as “Bernie’s massive tax increases,” etc. He will have to adapt to the conditions on the ground at the time and moderate his immediate goals, something I’m not sure he can do. His best bet in that case is to become the unapologetic champion of a “robust” incrementalism by strongly fighting for, say, the public option, assuming there is something left of Obamacare. Along these lines, that Republican tax-cut scheme will do real long-term damage to the country, damage that will likely be inflicted during the next presidential term. If a Democrat (or Bernie) is in charge at the time, we’re in serious electoral trouble after that.

            2) Bernie has almost no gravitas on national security and foreign policy and he isn’t spending his time these days acquiring any. He should at least take a couple of trips this year and next to learn a few things directly from our allies around the world. He should also ask to sit on the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees next term. Then he can speak, during the campaign, with some authority on all the issues. But I don’t see that happening, do you?

            3) I hate to say this but I think we need a younger man or woman, since Bernie will be 77 this year and would be 79 in the fall of 2020. Just don’t ask me who that man or woman is at this point. But it will be someone who has a better record on guns (that immunity vote looms large, but Bernie’s record for the most part is tenable, if he can figure out how to properly articulate it).

            4) there is that little matter of Jane Sanders and the defunct Burlington College, especially what was called the “sweetheart deal” made with her daughter’s woodworking school. While that and other warts don’t compare to the Tr-mpian cancer inflicted upon us, in the hands of Tr-mp, and with a willing press, it can potentially do to Bernie what was done to Clinton, at least in the crucial states. The press, since there won’t be all that much “scandal” to report on Bernie (aren’t even socialists entitled to $575,000 vacation homes?), will be able to focus on one or two chinks and ask about them endlessly. Bernie will have to come up with an easily-understood explanation, assuming there is one. 

            Well, that’s a few of the things, outside of those I mentioned earlier, that bother me a little bit about a future with Bernie as our candidate. Of course, there could be all kinds of things happen between now and then, like, say, a war on the Korean peninsula, a war with Iran, a Russian attack on a NATO country, a Mueller bombshell that could lead to a Pence takeover, etc. To tell you the truth, the best thing that could happen to propel Sanders into the Whites’ House would be a recession in the last half of next year or, better for him, the first half of 2020. Then I definitely like Bernie’s chances, assuming someone younger, and with a broader portfolio on the issues, doesn’t come along and knock us off our feet.

            Duane

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            • As always Duane, you get deeper in the weeds on this stuff than could ever hope to. That’s what I love about your work. Nobody does it better. I am concerned about Bernie’s age. Hell — he’s 10 years old than I am. I am concerned about his foreign policy creds, but that sure didn’t stop people from voting for Trump, although I realize irresponsible and insane stupidity was at work in most of the Trump-cast ballots. Bernie DOES know competent people with foreign policy experience. I listed some dem leader options. Hard not to like Lieu and Schiff. And Merkley — he’s a good age. There are others. The work needs to start now to find the one. Bernie’s message had better be heard — or the dems will screw themselves again. We need NEW leadership — and a new organization. Build it and throw the DNC/DCCC on the scrap heap. That will get voters’ attention.

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              • Thanks for the kind words, my friend.

                I won’t argue that we don’t need new leadership. I will argue, though, that we should not “throw the DNC/DCCC on the scrap heap.” That seems counter-productive to me and a colossal waste of energy. Better to merge younger reformist leaders into the existing power structure than tear it all down and start over. Wrecking the establishment would certainly make some folks feel better, but it wouldn’t be the best way to defeat Republicans, which I know is your goal and mine. In fact, Republicans would like nothing better than for us to be fighting among ourselves (à la, 2016) for the next couple of years. In fact, they’re counting on it.

                Duane

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    • Jim,

      I know what you mean. I am still seeing signs that there is purist-pragmatist divide on the left, although I think much of it is just because we don’t have a unifying candidate for president yet. My biggest fear is that Bernie will run, lose again in the primary, and then here we go again with the “rigged” bullshit.

      I hope that folks all over the left spectrum see what is at stake both this November and in 2020 and avoid the in-fighting. Personally, I will vote for the Democratic presidential nominee, whoever it is, as whoever it is will be someone a majority of Democrats (to hell with the open primary process, by the way) have chosen.

      Oh. And of course Bernie is running. No doubt about that.

      Duane

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  4. A great discussion by all. It occurs to me that a successful 2020 campaign needs most of all a unifying focus as well as a charismatic candidate. Tr;mp, having no moral core of his own, did that effectively by demonizing immigrants and energizing single-issue voters (guns, abortion). I think that is a lesson we Democrats can ignore at our peril.

    What issues can we rally around? Tiresome as it sounds, healthcare. The hustings abound with horror stories about TrumpCare and that is only going to get worse.

    Also, military. The successful candidate must show gravitas in foreign affairs and national defense and articulate convincingly for a military that is smaller but smarter and more effective than Tr;mp’s, that mere numbers of people, ships and planes are less important than quality. Hmm. I wonder if Barry McCaffrey could be persuaded?)

    Finally, Russia. Much depends on Muller – this could be a deal-breaker.

    Where’s Eisenhower when you need him? He would be a lefty today.

    Liked by 1 person

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    • Ben Field

       /  April 5, 2018

      Jim,

      i agree with being qualified is necessary, however, as the last election has shown us it matters little to the masses in middle America. They elected a con mn with his only military experience being getting multiple draft deferments for bone spurs. As i mentioned above, I would prefer that our gurus in the DNC utilize their persuasive powers to recruit someone like Sally Yates, she has served her country honorably in the Department of Justice. there can be no doubt that she is far more articulate, intelligent, and honorable than the weasel-in-chief. We men have screwed up far too long, perhaps we should do as we do at home, and watch the women do it more efficiently whilst dancing backwards.

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    • Someone how I missed these comments. I have been thinking for weeks now about how Democrats should proceed. Jim, your idea about healthcare dovetails with recent polling about issues voters care about. I am beginning to believe that policy wonk details in a campaign are just not that persuasive. I am leaning more toward a broad-themed campaign. And, Ben, I wish I knew more about Sally Yates, as well as others outside the “establishment” of the party. I am slowly being persuaded that, for our presidential candidates at least, we need a new face or two or three. More later on strategy, I hope.

      Duane

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