As the 2020 presidential primary heats up, Democrats find themselves in the midst of a fascinating intramural debate. On one side, you have the unapologetic socialists such as Bernie Sanders and "The Squad." On the other, you have pretty much everyone else — Democrats who are reluctant to embrace Full Socialism, but are similarly hesitant to defend American capitalism in explicit terms in front of Democratic primary voters.
A few of the presidential candidates — former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D., Colo.) and former Rep. John Delaney (D., Md.), for example — have tried sticking up for capitalism, saying things like "We can't promise every American a job," and urging their colleagues to address political challenges "with real solutions, not with impossible promises." Which is why they won't be around much longer.
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The biggest obstacle that Democratic socialists must overcome is the vehement opposition from the neoliberal "woke capitalist" wing of the party, and their cheerleaders (and financial backers) in the greater "woke capitalist" community. Billionaire Democratic megadonor Haim Saban is certainly not alone in expressing his "love" for all the Democrats running for president, "minus one," whom he described as a "disaster zone."
You already know who he's talking about. It's the same candidate the Democratic establishment has been fretting about for months. "I profoundly dislike Bernie Sanders, and you can write it," Saban said in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "I don't give a hoot. He's a communist under the cover of being a socialist. He thinks that every billionaire is a crook."
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, also a billionaire, considered (and may still be considering) running for president as an independent in response to the "fringe ideas" of Bernie Sanders, who was the clear frontrunner in early primary polling before former Vice President Joe Biden entered the race. Schultz expressed concern that Sanders had become "the poster child for the American people with regard to the Democratic Party."
Capitalists have taken note. Some of them, including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, have discovered first hand how much power "The Squad" and its minions can yield in thwarting, for example, a massive corporation's plans to open a second headquarters in New York City. Corporate capitalist aren't just going to stop being corporate capitalists, but they've tried to adapt in other ways. The election of Donald Trump and the Democratic Party's slide toward socialism has coincided with a surge in "thirsty" corporate advertising attempting to demonstrate a certain corporate entity's embrace of "woke" culture.
Yes, it's a little ridiculous, and it reeks of desperation. No, it's not going to stop any time soon.
Proctor & Gamble, the massive conglomerate behind household products such as Pepto-Bismol, Fixodent denture adhesive, and Charmin toilet paper, recently announced — via a full-page ad in the New York Times — a $529,000 donation to the World Cup champion U.S. women's soccer team, and threw its support behind the team's gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation.
Proctor & Gamble also owns Gillette, the shaving (and deodorant) company that earlier this year launched a bold new ad campaign in an effort to redefine masculinity, a recent iteration of which features a father teaching his transgender son to shave. Gillette presumably does not share Bernie Sanders' dream of a world with limited deodorant options.
Remember: None of us are obliged to have strong feelings about a corporate advertisement. But we can still marvel at, and be amused by, the degree to which corporate advertising has changed. It's hard not to when watching this Gillette ad from 1989, which explicitly celebrates Wall Street as a beacon of masculinity.
Examples are numerous. Crunch is a chocolate candy bar. The brand was recently sold by one large multi-national corporation, Nestlé, to another large multi-national corporation, Ferrero. This is what Crunch ads looked like in the 1980s.
This is what Crunch ads look like now.
Budweiser didn't want to miss out on the women's soccer bandwagon, so the corporate Twitter account has been posting tweets like this…
— Budweiser (@budweiserusa) July 7, 2019
In between tweets like this…
Even Bernie Sanders cannot escape the reach of woke capitalism.
.@BernieSanders sits down for a live interview with the Washington Post, and after the introduction asks: "Is this really sponsored by Bank of America?"
— Lauren Gambino (@laurenegambino) July 16, 2019
The Bank of America logo was also featured prominently on a giant billboard outside the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, site of the first round of Democratic primary debates. The center was advertising the February 2020 arrival of the woke Broadway hit "Hamilton," presented by Bank of America.
Woke capitalists are hoping this sort of token "progress" is the only thing the woke demographic really cares about. They might be right.