The 2020 campaign season is bound to be one of the ugliest in American history. Two weak candidates are squaring off for president, district lines are being redrawn across the country, and misinformation is at an all-time high.
That means brutal, bad faith, hypocritical campaign ads are coming. Like this one about Nancy Pelosi.
The ad, paid for by the Trump campaign, features Pelosi’s remote appearance on The Late Late Show With James Corden during which she showed off her absurdly large ice cream collection, framing the shot in front of two $20,000 industrial-sized freezers. It was meant to be a relatable gambit. But many quickly criticized Pelosi’s tone deafness in proudly sharing an expensive dessert selection while struggling Americans wait in hours-long food bank lines across the country.
The video is heavily edited to make it seem like Pelosi is crudely laughing at regular Americans. It even repurposes the infamous Marie Antoinette “let them eat cake” quote. And the ad comes from a man best known for his abject disdain for poor people (especially of color) and furnishing his apartments with gaudy golden furniture. It’s as bad faith as bad faith gets.
But that doesn’t absolve Pelosi of the awful optics. Many Americans (especially Trump supporters) view her as a career politician who cares more about hoarding wealth than helping Americans; Pelosi played straight into that stereotype. It’s astounding that no one advised her about how bad it might come off, but even if they had, there’s a good chance Pelosi wouldn’t have taken it seriously. She’s playing to her liberal base that revels in the celebrity culture of The Late Late Show and thinks sharing a several-hundred dollar ice cream collection is quirky and fun. It was a terrible look in the moment and it’s even worse now.
Journalists like Vox’s Matt Yglesias and MSNBC’s Joy Reid dismissed initial criticism of Pelosi as performative. But doing so reveals their encapsulation in the corporate media bubble that ignores any frustration or criticism not leveled by cultural or political elites. Trump and his campaign thrive on striking low blows, and will pounce on any opportunity they can get. And Pelosi became the perfect target when she displayed her tone deafness live on air for all to see.