There’s something happening here. And what it is, well, it’s perfectly clear: There’s a peaceful revolution rumbling through the country. On one side of the metaphorical barricade: Donald Trump and his “deplorables.” On the other side: Hillary Clinton and her close allies, the Mainstream Media.
Trump raised the stakes Friday night in Miami. As Breitbart News headlined, “Trump Makes Entrance to ‘Do You Hear the People Sing?’ with ‘Les Deplorablés’ Banner.” The lyrics heard were these:
Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!
Yes, indeed, it’s a revolutionary situation. It’s peaceful and democratic, to be sure, but, nonetheless, it’s a revolution. Embracing this thrilling new spirit—of the sort never seen, for example, during the McCain or Romney campaigns—Trump opened his speech by nodding to the audience and quipping, “Welcome, all of you deplorables.”
And while it might be a cliche to write, “the crowd went wild,” that’s exactly what happened. Without a doubt, Trump’s use of “deplorables” as a play on the musical Les Misérables—the source of the lyrics above and below—is a first in US politics.
A few other portals covered the “deplorables” angle. The Drudge Report played it big: “Miami Trump frenzy.” And here’s how Mediaite put it: “‘Les Deplorables’: Trump Took the Stage in Miami in the Most Over-the-Top Way Possible.” And Business Insider: “Trump walks onstage to theme of ‘Les Miserables,’ greets ‘deplorables’ at his Miami rally.” Fox News was on it, too. As reporter Garrett Tenney said on Saturday morning, “The ‘deplorable” label has become a badge of honor for Trump supporters.”
Yet for the most part, the Main Stream Media studiously ignored the Miami event and all its heavy symbolism. Instead, the MSM had its own agenda, which we can sum up in two words: Destroy Trump.
To that end, The New York Times used the word “lie” twice on its front page. One “news” story was headlined, “Trump Clung to ‘Birther’ Lie for Years, and Still Isn’t Apologetic.” And an accompanying editorial was headlined, “Donald Trump’s Latest Birther Lie.”
For its part, The Washington Post was only marginally more fair and balanced; the word “lie” did not appear on its front page. Instead, the key word was “false,” as in, “Trump admits Obama was born in US, falsely blames Clinton for rumors.” Of course, the “L” word, “lie,” was still there—it was in a column inside: “Donald Trump is a racist conspiracy theorist. Don’t let him lie his way out of it.”
We might pause to note here the direct admonition to the reader: Don’t let him lie his way out of it. To put that another way, the newspaper is saying, Join with us. That is, join with us as we fight the counter-revolution that will squash the revolution.
As an aside, we can think of one scene in the musical Les Mis in which the main counter-revolutionary, Inspector Javert, boasts of the coming fight, “One more day to revolution/ We will nip it in the bud! We’ll be ready for these schoolboys/ They will wet themselves with blood!” Yet as we can look around today, we can see that there are Inspector Javerts in every era.
Meanwhile, most television was the same—vehemently anti-Trump. We can let CNN’s Dylan Byers tell his side of the story: Recalling the incident on Friday in which the Trump campaign inveigled TV reporters to spend 20 minutes covering military heroes as they endorsed Trump, Byers opined: “If those 20 minutes represented the worst of the media, the next six hours represented the best of it.” [emphasis in original] That is, the best TV reporters spent six hours pummeling Trump. And yet, as we come to think about it, we can see it’s been a lot more than six hours—more like a year-and-a-half.
Byers continued, cheerleading from his side of the barricade: “Immediately after Trump falsely claimed Hillary Clinton started the birtherism issue, and falsely claimed that he ended it, the media called him out.” [emphasis in original]
And then Byers added a kind of honor roll of CNN reporters who had lambasted Trump:
John Berman: “Hillary Clinton and her campaign never, ever pushed the birther issue.” …Kate Bolduan: “Donald Trump, from 2011, he made this his signature issue. No one has gone as far as Donald Trump on the birther issue.” … John King: “[Trump] did the country a great disservice by becoming the chief cheerleader for a fraud, a birther movement trying to delegitimize the sitting United States President.” … Jake Tapper: “Those are two factually false statements…. [Hillary Clinton] and her campaign never started the birther issue. … Donald Trump did not end the birther issue.”
Okay, CNN, we get it: The Clinton News Network is still… the Clinton News Network.
Yet all the propagandistic overkill aside, what can be said about the veracity of the Trumpian assertion that the Clintonites were a part of the “birther” campaign against Barack Obama? After all, the truth should matter, right?
Admittedly, and proudly, Breitbart is a member in good standing of what Hillary Clinton might deride as “the vast deplorable conspiracy.” Yet this September 16 headline from McClatchy New Service, a long-established outfit, speaks for itself: “2 Clinton supporters in ’08 reportedly shared Obama ‘birther’ story.” The piece, by McClatchy’s David Goldstein, reports that back then, McClatchy even went so far as to send a reporter to Kenya.
We might note that one of those Clinton operatives was Sidney Blumenthal. And Blumenthal, of course, has been a close adviser to both Bill and Hillary for decades; his e-mails, for example, are found all through the Benghazi investigation.
Furthermore, conservative pundit David Frum, no fan of Trump, tweeted out that the Hillary people had been even more deeply involved, starting at the top of the campaign. Frum recently cited an incriminating memo, dated March 19, 2007, written by top Hillary campaign strategist Mark Penn; if you click on it, you will see a detailed plan for attacking Obama, including one whole section entitled, “Lack of American Roots.” This nine-year-old memo, of course, has been just as available to the Times and the Post as to Frum and anyone else—it’s just that the MSM hasn’t been interested.
So we can see: The MSM, in its rush to dump on Trump, has gotten it wrong. Again. So it’s little wonder that, according to the Gallup Poll, just 32 percent of Americans have confidence in the media, and just 14 percent of Republicans.
Okay, now on to the Deplorables. We might note that the musical Les Misérables, a version of the famous novel by Victor Hugo, debuted in Paris in 1980. It opened in London in 1985 and on Broadway in 1987, where it ran for sixteen years. And it’s been running, somewhere, ever since. So yes, there’s lots of cultural resonance.
The story itself is a romantic tragedy, set amidst the tumultuous events in early 19th-century France. Indeed, during a seven-decade period, beginning with the French Revolution of 1789, the country seesawed between kings, terrorists, small “r” republicans, and emperors. And along the way, France endured many revolutions and counter-revolutions, some of them extraordinarily violent.
So most Americans, who think of themselves as either conservative or moderate, might view the French revolutionary epoch with suspicion. And let’s say up front that our revolution in 1776 (which, interestingly enough, the French aided greatly), is much to be preferred.
Yet we can also observe that Americans never went through what the French went through. Our King George III, bad as he might have been, was nothing compared to Louis XVI and the rest of the Bourbon royal family. In the musical, a group of women, slaving in a sweatshop, sing out:
At the end of the day it’s another day over
With enough in your pocket to last for a week
Pay the landlord, pay the shop
Keep on working as long as you’re able
Keep on working till you drop
Or it’s back to the crumbs off the table
You’ve got to pay your way
At the end of the day!
And they continue,
There’s a hunger in the land
There’s a reckoning still to be reckoned and
There’s gonna be hell to pay
At the end of the day!
Yes, that’s the key point: Mistreat people long enough, grind their faces in injustice and inequality long enough, rig the system long enough, and yes, there will be hell to pay.
Yet those French women weren’t the last ones to be radicalized and to think such radical thoughts. A few years later in Hugo’s tale, in 1832, came an actual historical event, the June Rebellion. And here Les Mis, both the novel and the musical, insert their fictional characters, expressing the impassioned true thoughts of that era. As one young rebel sings, “The colors of the world are changing day by day.” And then he belts out a rousing tuneful anthem that might turn even a reactionary into a revolutionary:
Red: the blood of angry men!
Black: the dark of ages past!
Red: a world about to dawn!
Black: the night that ends at last!
Whether we approve of it or not, the French revolutionary tradition still shapes our modern world. For example, silk stockings and wigs for men survived the American Revolution, and yet after the French Revolution, they were gone. Indeed, the very political terms “right” and “left” are products of that era.
Yet musical lyrics aside, there are limits to the analogy between French and American politics. Indeed, one needn’t be a chauvinist—to cite another influential concept originated in France—to see that the truest antecedent to Donald Trump, and the Deplorables, is not French but, rather, American.
And who would that be? Why, it would be Old Hickory himself, Andrew Jackson (1767-1845). Jackson was a patriot—he joined the forces of the American Revolution at age 13—a war hero, a military governor, a US senator, and, ultimately, our seventh president. Along the way, he killed Indians, British, and more than a few duelists. Was Jackson controversial? You betcha!
To be sure, those were rough times. Most of Jackson’s fellow citizens loved him for his crude and violent ways, even as they recognized his patriotic, unionist core; he became a national hero after his smashing 1815 victory over the British at the Battle of New Orleans.
Jackson ran for president in 1824 and lost, mostly because so few of his supporters could vote; in those days, the voting franchise was severely limited, open only to those who could read and who owned property. Thus Jackson’s “rustics” were mostly excluded.
In a different country—perhaps in France—a shunned war-hero might then have led a coup d’etat. But here in America, Jackson did it the American way; he organized. Aided by his top lieutenant, Martin Van Buren (the future eighth president), Jackson barnstormed many of the 24 states, demanding that the legislatures change the laws to enable more people to vote; most legislatures complied.
Here again we see the difference between the US and France. Through our history, for the most part, the American elite has been willing to accede to reasonable demands, if only to stave off revolution. In other words, the system can work.
Jackson ran for president again in 1828; it was the “revolt of the rustics”—a peaceful revolt. The campaign was bitter: It’s fair to say that the Eastern elite of that era were as horrified by Jackson as the Eastern elite of our time are horrified by Trump. Indeed, hard as it might be to believe, the elite were more appalled by the insurgent Jackson back then; in the widely circulated coffin handbills, he was accused of everything from adultery to mass murder to cannibalism.
Yet despite all this establishment vitriol, Jackson won in a landslide, and the first political era of America, a time of aristocratic leadership, was ended. Indeed, in many ways, our modern political system—that is, two-party politics, with the winner needing the mass-mobilization of the electorate to win—originates from 1828.
Thus as we can see, one of the key variables in presidential politics is voter intensity. And on that score, Trump seems to be way ahead. Niall Stanage headlined his piece in The Hill, “Enthusiasm gap looms for Clinton”:
Most strikingly, a CNN/ORC poll indicated that more than 1 in 5 five would-be Clinton voters were “not at all enthusiastic” about backing her, almost twice as many as said the same about Trump. The poll found 58 percent of Trump supporters saying they felt either “extremely” or “very” enthusiastic about their choice, and only 46 percent in the Clinton camp feeling the same.
Indeed, some MSM reporters are starting to wonder, albeit carefully, if Hillary really wants the job. Here’s David A. Graham, writing in The Atlantic, asking, “Just Why Does Hillary Clinton Want to Be President?”
Yet Trump, we know, really does want to be president, and we know why. He has demonstrated the personal drive and also the strong nationalist agenda—Make America Great Again—that Hillary so conspicuously lacks.
We might close by recalling the martial wisdom of another important figure from the Les Mis era, Napoleon Bonaparte. Always analytical about his bloody profession, the French general said that in battle, “The moral is to the physical as three is to one.” That is, the side with the élan, the energy, is more likely to prevail. Indeed, a fighting spirit can easily overcome a deficit in organization or in dollars.
And this year, who has the fighting spirit? Ask the Deplorables!