Senator Meghan or Governor Markle?

by Patrick Sullivan, Chief Executive of Parliament Street

In our postmodern reality, we have seen a fusion of news and entertainment. As such, this means that entertainment, as much as anything, drives the news. What’s in the news affects and impacts the world we live in and the way we see the world. Ergo, in order to understand current events, one must not just be earnest and consider newsworthiness, one must think like a TV executive: what is on the news is what is good television.

Following the inauguration of Joseph R Biden as President of the United States cable news ratings, in America, have gone into freefall. CNN had their highest ratings ever on January 6th, the day of the Capitol Hill riots. However, since Biden’s inauguration, CNN “has lost 47% of primetime audience among the 25-to-54 demographic most important to advertisers

Whilst President Trump might have rallied against the “Fake News media” and Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post might have grandiosely claimed that “democracy dies in darkness to gin up subscriptions, the media and Donald Trump had something of a symbiotic relationship during his candidacy and his presidency. Now with the first (and, so far, only) Trump Presidency over, conservative media has lost its hero and liberal media has lost its pantomime villain.

Donald Trump campaigned against “Sleepy Joe”. Joe Biden instead of running away from that caricature, embraced it and all but promised voters a boring presidency.  After 4 years of Celebrity President, the Biden campaign believed the American electorate was ready for a calmer body politic. It can be argued that a calmer body politic has had its benefits but it is undisputable that one of its costs has been a less politically engaged electorate. A consequence of a less politically engaged electorate also happens to be poor ratings!

At this time of existential crisis for a news media that had got what it wanted, but not what it needed, in vanquishing The Orange Man, there came a story rebooted right out of the 90s: Britain’s Royal Family Feud.

If Orange was the new Black, then Meghan is the new Trump, at least when it comes to ratings! We have been given, to fill the void left in our lives since by cancellation of Celebrity President, a new 24-hour cable news narrative – American Duchess.  In her Oprah interview, Meghan Markle managed to synthesise the plots of three tried and tested media narratives. When Edward VIII abdicated the throne in order to marry American divorcé Wallis Simpson it was great for the newspapers of the day who saw their sales skyrocket. Princess Diana was the must-read story for the western tabloid press throughout the 80s and 90s. And, finally, we have the identity politics narrative which now seems to permeate every aspect of our popular culture. There to help Meghan sell her story was someone who had previously seen her best days in the 90s, Oprah Winfrey. Oprah allowed the American Duchess to tell her truth and on the back of it, Ms. Winfrey is seeing something of a comeback herself with reports that she is looking to secure the prize of a Britney Spears interview.

What an advert for American Duchess might look like

The Royal Family will not be able to beat Meghan on a global stage although they are likely to retain the support of the British press. It is noticeable that a recent Ipsos poll showed the Canadians supporting Meghan and that the monarchy should have no role in modern British society once the reign of Elizabeth II comes to an end. Prince Harry and Meghan are likely to lose media support in the U.K. in order to gain support on a global level. They are providing compelling content for an American news media in need of a new hook. That news media is likely to reward them for doing so. The only way for the Royal Family to competently respond to compete with this it to allow the press in, in order to see their own ‘scripted reality’, and whilst doing so, provide a more compelling counter narrative to that of the Sussexes. However, it looks like they are not going to do that.

Royal Family Feuds can only go on for so long and the same story only has so many legs. The media needs to keep Prince Harry and the American Duchess in the news but they need an engaging narrative device to do so. It is not only the news that is fused with entertainment; politics has too. One only need hear the growing murmurings of actor Matthew McConaughey potentially running to be the next Governor of Texas to realize this.

When Prince Harry and Meghan announced they were moving to Canada, I thought that this was the first step of a two-step process in moving to the United States. It was obviously easier to move to a Commonwealth country than to move stateside. And it was harder for the Royal Family to criticise such a move without undermining the importance of the Commonwealth. Surely it would be a good thing to have the Royal Family more spread out amongst the Commonwealth? However, as soon as Covid hit, they used the virus as cover to move to California in order to be close to the Duchess of Sussex’s mother.  It stretches credulity that this was the only childcare option open to the couple. I also predicted when the couple moved to Canada that they would eventually move to the U.S. so that Meghan, a U.S. citizen, could run for president. Now that the couple are resident in California, this is more of a probability.

The author discusses “Megxit” on Indus News in January 2020

Meghan Markle has always been something of a political activist. Meghan spoke movingly at a U.N. Women’s Conference in 2015 about how her father encouraged her to make a difference. She talked further about her activism on the late Larry King’s show. Meghan’s father, Thomas W. Markle worked on the immensely popular 90’s satirical sitcom, Married… With Children which eerily predicted some of today’s identity politics. One episode featured Jerry Springer (Judge Jerry) as the host of a TV Show called “The Masculine Feminist” which prompted series protagonist, Al Bundy (played by actor Ed O’Neill, who also played Jay Pritchett in Modern Family and Governor Eric Baker in The West Wing) to set up “NO MA’AM – National Organization of Men Against Amazonian Masterhood”and take Jerry hostage.

Married… With Children played a significant role in the upbringing of the future Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle. Growing up her now-estranged father, Thomas Markle wasa lighting director and director of photography for Married… With Children. His daughter, the future duchess had an after school routine which meant, that in many respects, she grew up on the actual set of this popular, but controversial show. It certainly is worth considering how this environment helped Meghan form her political identity.

Married… With Children poked fun at the hitherto predominant social attitude vis a vis men as macho heads of the household, as they were then portrayed on television, and put misogyny through a hall of mirrors to show the audience how absurd it was. The series protagonist, Al Bundy was portrayed as one of life’s losers and not someone whose attitude anyone who wanted healthy relationships should seek to emulate. That having being said, by the show’s eleventh and final season, in 1997, the show had morphed into the very thing it originally lampooned.

Ed O’Neill would reprise the role of Al Bundy one more time after the show went off the air. In October 2008, Al “the Shoesalesman” (on the show he worked in a women’s shoe store) endorsed Barack Obama for President of the United States.  The following year, Time Magazine named Al Bundy as one of 10 most memorable fathers in television history.

Prior to meeting Prince Harry, Meghan even managed to slag off future President Trump on Larry Wilmore’s Nightly Show. Meghan’s new Royal status and corresponding name identification that comes with it has given the American Duchess a very special USP (Unique Selling Point) in relation to American politics. Like Vice-President Kamala Harris, Meghan Markle is a woman of colour and women of colour are the most important demographic in the Democratic Party coalition. However, Meghan also has additional appeal of being a Royal, which will likely go down well in the Deep South. Had Trump been re-elected, we would have seen the ultimate amalgamation of politics and entertainment in America. The Democrats likely have reacted, in this alternative reality, by looking for their own celebrity candidate in 2024. That would have been Meghan Markle’s moment.

As Biden has been elected and the Sussexes reside in California, what now is Meghan’s route to the presidency, should that be the prize she seeks? It is worth noting that following the Oprah interview, opinion in America largely divided itself upon partisan lines; Trump saying that if Meghan ran for president it would prompt him to run against her and Biden giving the interview his tacit endorsement. The Democratic nomination is not going to be available in 2024. As things stand, Joe Biden has spent a lifetime seeking the presidency and he is not going to give it up unless forced to do so by the electorate. He said as much at his press conference, last week.

During the 2020 presidential primary campaign, Kamala Harris essentially claimed Biden was a racist during one of the nationally televised Democratic party presidential debates. Harris had earlier claimed she believed accusations against Biden of “inappropriate touching.” Despite these slights, Biden had to choose Harris because she was the favourite of the Democratic party donor base, but these slights are not the sort that the notoriously thin-skinned Biden is going to forget any time soon. It is noticeable that Biden has put his VP in charge of his administration’s response to the self-inflicted crisis on the United States-Mexico border. That is a poisoned chalice, if ever there was one. In 2028, Kamala Harris might find that Meghan Markle does to her career what Barack Obama did to Hillary Clinton’s.

The likelihood of their next being no incumbent standing for the Democratic Party presidential nomination is 2028. It would behove Meghan to get some interim political experience between now and then. There are two paths that she might take: one that she becomes a U.S. senator and the other her state’s governor. The senior senator for California, Dianne Feinstein is presently in her late 80s and her husband, Richard C. Blum is likely to be nominated for an overseas appointment by the Biden administration. Given that the senator’s faculties are being called into question this appointment might provide Sen. Feinstein the opportunity for a dignified exit. In that eventuality, it would be for Newsom to appoint a replacement.

The flag of the state of California

Governor Newsom said, in a recent MSNBC interview, that if he were called upon to name a replacement for Sen. Feinstein, he would replace her with an African-American woman. This is a description which the American Duchess fits. It is also one that includes, Karen Bass, the U.S. Representative for California’s 37th congressional district and former Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Whilst Congresswoman Bass is eminently qualified her age works against her as she will be 71 years old in November 2024, which is when, if selected, she would be expected to stand for election to keep the seat. As things stand, both could be under consideration, given Newsom told MSNBC, when making his commitment that “I have multiple names in mind.”

It was reported that the Sussexes had a video meeting with Governor Newsom over the Summer. Given that Governor Newsom is facing a recall election likely to be held in November, the appointment of the American Duchess to the U.S. Senate might give his campaign to cling on to office some much needed glamour. Especially, if Governor Newson were to stump a newly-appointed Senator Meghan Markle during the recall campaign. It would likely be an unspoken commitment that this would be required of the American Duchess, if she were appointed.

It has been reported that Richard C. Blum is hoping to be appointed the U.S. Ambassador to a significant European power. London is a significant European power and President Biden is yet to nominate the new United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom. There would be a wicked poetry if Biden were to appoint Blum to that post, allowing for Governor Newson to appoint the American Duchess to the United States Senate.

If Senator Feinstein does not stand down, she will be 91 years old in 2024. Although she is currently planning to stand again, it is likely that she will rethink this. If Senator Feinstein decides to serve out the remainder of her term but not seek re-election, it is likely that, if she stood, Meghan Markle would be the favourite to win the Democratic primary to contest the Senate seat in 2024.

Since the election of the Biden-Harris administration, there has been something of a game of musical chairs within the politics of the Golden State. Governor Newsom appointed his secretary of state, Alex Padilla to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Kamala Harris and California’s (now former) attorney general, Xavier Becarra was recently confirmed by the U.S. Senate to head up the Health and Human Services Department in the Biden administration. Furthermore, the Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti is currently dealing with a scandal where one of his former senior aides has been accused of sexual harassment and the mayor has been accused of turning a blind eye. As a result, it is likely he will be keeping his down. The political musical chairs have, as if by magic, cleared the way for the American Duchess should Governor Newsom want to appoint her, if Senator Feinstein stands down in the near future.

Moreover, a recall petition against Governor Gavin Newsom of California recently received enough signatures to force a recall vote against him which will likely be called in November. The signatures still all need to be verified but at this point it is likely to be a formality, as 82% of the signatures turned in have already been validated. The last time such a vote was held was in 2003 when Governor Gray Davis was recalled in favour of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the star of the 1990 film, Total Recall. If the recall vote were held today, it is likely Governor Newsom would survive, but as the vote is set to be in November, his survival is by no means certain. Such a vote would be seen as a referendum on his handling of the Covid-19 crisis. Gavin Newsom has been an avid fan of lockdowns but has been seen to play favourites, carving exemptions for California’s donor heavy entertainment industry which did not exist for the state’s small businesses. Furthermore, over the Summer, the governor was seen tucking into a lavish feast at the exclusive French Laundry restaurant, ignoring his own guidelines which he had imposed upon regular Californians.

The way recall elections work in California is that they are a two-step process. The voters are asked whether they want to recall the governor and then they are asked, on the same ballot, if the governor is to be recalled, to vote on the governor’s replacement. It is also remarkably easy to get on the ballot for this election. The previous recall election had a number of bizarre candidates including the late Gary Coleman of Diff’rent Strokes fame.

It is clear that Trump remains dominant over the Republican party. After the events of January 6th, most Democrats are convinced that they could beat him in 2024, regardless of economic circumstances. The one thing that would put a spanner in the works from the vantage point of a Democratic party political consultant would be for there to be a moderate Republican governor in California who could act as a counterweight to former President Trump in a war for the Republican party’s soul and potentially wrest control of the Republican party from the MAGA wing.

Therefore, keeping California in Democratic party hands is of paramount importance to the Democratic party. The Democrats know that the mainstream media would like nothing more than the narrative of moderate vs Trumpian Republicans. The media would lionise the moderate Republican to such an extent that they would become a plausible presidential contender. If it appears that Newsom is going to lose a recall vote, then the Democrats would want to move their focus from saving Newson to putting up a Democrat up who could replace him in the same ballot. As there would be infinitesimal time in which to do this, name identification would be paramount and that is one thing that Markle brings: high name ID and lots of earned media.

If things start to look bad for Governor Newson, do not be surprised if the American Duchess is drafted. Such a thing that would have once seemed fantastical now cannot be ruled out. Donald Trump was the President, after all.

Whatever happens, it will make for great television!

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