Does it really matter if Donald Trump or J.K. Rowling wins?

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J.K. Rowling and Donald Trump have almost nothing in common. One imagines, with great reluctance, the two being forced to sit next to each other during a polite dinner with mutual friends. Perhaps at an engagement dinner between two of their children.

What could they possibly have to talk about? To what hellish level of stilted, politely-straining small talk would they have to resort?

The prolific children’s book novelist turned Cinderella story and the sliver-spooned evil step-mother. One, a survivor of domestic violence who patiently sat at her kitchen table writing seven Harry Potter books without the slightest bit of remuneration or monetary encouragement; the other the wealthy son of a wealthy family, a real estate mogul and reality television star, a judger and owner of beauty pageants, known for his abrasive personal style, Twitter feuds and drawing a singular media obsession.

Rowling and Trump might find one tiny bit of common ground, should the need ever arise. For their part, progressive news editors can congratulate themselves on playing matchmaker between this unlikeliest of pairs. Forcing a life-long liberal like Rowling to find common cause with the likes of Donald Trump is a feat worthy of note.

Nevertheless, and thanks in part to cancel culture, Rowling and Trump may have just killed online popularity contests forever.

Gallup’s 1946–2020 yearly publication of the most admired man in America was quietly ended this year without fanfare. Social media is rife with speculation that the reason for this is the likelihood of Donald Trump winning such a contest.

That outcome actually made a certain amount of sense, and could have been explained very easily. In years past, former President Barack Obama has been a frequent winner of this award. This year, Obama and current President Joe Biden would have competed with each other in the list, each edging out the other and probably leaving Mr. Trump with a slight majority.

Not an overwhelming majority, mind. In 2020, the same thing happened. Trump won with 18%, beating Obama’s 15% and Biden’s 6%. More than anything, the survey, coming as it does on a yearly basis, illustrates the level of diversity in the U.S.

Not everyone admires the same people for the same reasons. Everyone from Pope Francis to LeBron James is on that list.

Nothing to see there, and this wouldn’t be a perception problem in need of correcting, and thereby in need of being withheld as not to give aid and comfort to the enemy, if it weren’t for one problem.

Mainstream media outlets devoted so much time to these “most-admired person” awards during the halcyon days when Barack Obama was President. Digital ink wells would run dry with the amount of press such “awards” received in the press.

If they hadn’t been touted so long as the outsize indicator of popularity they weren’t, Democrats would be able to add together Barack Obama’s votes with those for Joe Biden and feel just fine about the results of what is essentially a clever yearly advertising campaign.

As it is, the appearance of hiding something, as if there is something to hide, is creating something where there is nothing.

What bothers progressives most about the results of this popularity contest isn’t the 18% of people who might still admire Donald Trump; it’s that they might still admire him after January 6, 2021.

The thing is, they probably wouldn’t- especially in the lead up to the one-year anniversary of that dark day in American history- if so many libertarians, independents, moderates and conservatives hadn’t recently abandoned. mainstream news outlets in droves.

All the legacy news stations are sure to be covering the many 1/6 commemorative events certain to take place this week. Aside from people who already have less than warm feelings for Donald Trump, will anyone even see them?

CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS: At this point, are they preaching to the choir?

Meanwhile, across the pond, J.K. Rowling is currently having the same experience as Donald Trump with regards to popularity contests. She too has both won and lost.

What actually happened is unclear. A similar most-admired person in the U.K. question by the Guardian seems to have been abruptly closed when Rowling began to pull ahead of her competitors.

While the Guardian denies this, not everyone is convinced. A solicitation for entries for most-admired person was indeed closed, with no publication of the results nor any explanation as to why.

In spite of her recent dust-ups with the trans activist community, a group with whom Rowling has been at odds since making comments the trans community found hateful, she may indeed remain as popular in Great Britain than ever.

It would have been nice if the corporations, polling companies, and media networks who conduct these so-called contests could have just been honest- that they are about as reliable as a fashion magazine quiz. Or better yet, they could have learned from past mistakes.

Online popularity contests gone awry are responsible for a scientific research vessel named Boaty McBoatface, a whale named Mr. Splashy Pants, rapper Pit Bull being banished to perform in furthest Alaska and a Taylor Swift concert being awarded to a school for the deaf.

If media companies were honest about these “most admired person” contests- that they are advertising ploys as scientific as a Magic 8 Ball- there wouldn’t be any need now for media companies to cover them up when the results are embarrassing to the company, as they are bound to be sooner or later.

Anyone can drum up a mob on Twitter at any time; a million clicking fingers anxious to hound someone out of a job, publish their name and address, organize an effort to make them pay for crimes real or imagined.

Enormous groups of teenagers, many of them overseas, can be galvanized, under certain conditions to inundate a website with phony orders or fake RSVPs, vote for a stupid name en masse, or write-in an even stupider one.

There is some combination of TikTok and K-Pop boy bands that has pushed online mob activity to new heights.

It is for this reason, and plenty of others, that corporations should never cave to the mob under any circumstances. A Twitter mob, compelling as it is with all those re-tweets racking up, is still not a good representation of society on the whole.

A majority of people in the U.S. don’t actually admire Donald Trump, so it would have been fine- if misleading- to tout the results of that Gallup survey as some kind of trophy.

The bad news is that a majority of people don’t admire President Joe Biden or even Barack Obama, either. Instead of quibbling over who said what, progressives, online and off, might want to consider doing something about that.

Cancel culture is poison at the ballot box; progressives can’t keep swilling it. It isn’t working, for one thing. People who have been cancelled- some repeatedly- often emerge more powerful than ever, with bigger followings, more influence and more money.

Again and again, experienced Democratic strategists are advising the Democratic Party to pivot away from couching the political divide purely on the merits of being culturally “woke” to the injustices of the world.

The class divide widens by the minute. The wealthiest 1% of the 1% are growing the wealth gap at an exponential rate.

Right now, family farms in California growing organic spinach, freezing it and packing it in small batches to sell frozen in supermarkets, are losing market share.

They’ve had to raise prices on their products by $1, $1.50; the Whole Food’s brand at Whole Foods is looking better and better. Often, Amazon can afford to offer the cheaper option.

While progressives are distracted fighting endless skirmishes in the culture war with Republicans, real inequality, real anti-equity stuff, is taking a big bite out of paychecks, hope, and the Democratic Party’s chances of holding the House this year.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)