Populism sounds like such an innocent term. But the word has been beaten beyond all recognition. For instance, Donald Trump is a populist. In name only. One has to be concerned about the needs of ordinary people, to actually be a populist.
New York Times opinion writer, Roger Cohen, argues for retiring the term altogether:
Populists may be authoritarians, ethnonationalists, nativists, leftists, rightists, xenophobes, proto-Fascists, Fascists, autocrats, losers from globalization, moneyed provocateurs, conservatives, socialists, and just plain unhappy or frustrated or bored people…
In other words, the word means nothing today.
In related news, taglines don’t mean much today. When they’re poorly conceived, they mean even less.
According to Politico, House Democrats are moving forward with an uninspired populist line.
House Democrats have finalized their campaign slogan heading into the last months before the midterm election: ‘For the People.’
House Democrats plan to begin working ‘For the People’ into their statements and press conferences, with a focus on three key areas: addressing health care and prescription drug costs; increasing wages through infrastructure and public works projects; and highlighting Republican corruption in Washington.
This news unleashed a firestorm of criticism from ad professionals on Facebook. Ernie Schenck wrote, “I’ve rarely seen a more ineffectual line as ‘For The People.’ For everyone out there who was hoping against hope for a ‘Morning In America,’ this is a monstrous letdown.”
David Esrati, an ad man who ran for Congress in Ohio in 2012, commented on Schenck’s post. “I sat with Rich Silverstein back in 2016—he pulled out tons of stuff he’d done for Hillary—and that had been rejected for the Arrow H. They have access to the best in the business, they just don’t listen.”
They just don’t listen. How many agency people, at all levels, have lived this rejection over and over again? Yet, we persist.
A Democratic aide told CNN, “One of the biggest challenges we’ve heard again and again is that Americans don’t always have a clear understanding of the difference between Democrats and Republicans. The answer is actually pretty simple, Democrats are for the people and Washington Republicans are for the special interests who are lining their pockets at the expense of everyday Americans.”
One thing you learn right away in the ad business is you’re never there to explain your work.
“For the People” is unoriginal at best. There’s also a TV show on ABC by the same name.