Of all the derogatory things politicians say about their opponents, “clown” is one of the most common. It’s a pejorative term, but it’s relatively harmless in the grand scheme of things. It presents a picture of a politician, light on brainpower, doing anything they can to get noticed by the electorate. It’s not harmful to anyone (unless there’s some clown constituency that has yet to get their activism game going), and it’s funny. And in a political world as divided as our country has become, it’s actually refreshing to see a politician resort to some good, clean insults.
Politicians like North Carolina Republican Dan Bishop, who is running for the House of Representatives against Democrat Dan McReady. In an advertisement released this week, a video from the Bishop campaign vowed that the candidate would take on the likes of McReady and the House Squad of progressives.
“They hate President Trump more than they love America,” the narrator says, showing images of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “They’re pushing for open borders and sanctuary cities.”
“They’re not funny,” the narrator continues as the video shows images of Ilhan Omar, Bernie Sanders, and Rashida Tlaib. “They’re downright scary.”
“I’ll go to Congress and fight these clowns for you,” says Bishop in the ad. “It’s time to take the air out of these clowns.”
The video also shows images of everyone from Chuck Schumer to AOC, their faces perched on what looks like those old blow-up punching bags you might have had as a kid, with some clowns in the background.
Okay, so it’s not the most sophisticated political ad we’ve ever seen, but it’s pretty harmless, right?
“It’s not just a particularly lame joke,” warns David Mir of The Daily Kos. “It turns out there’s a disturbing genesis. Jared Holt, one of the tireless folks at Right Wing Watch, reported in April that white supremacists have begun adopting a version of the infamous far-right ‘Pepe the Frog’ meme decked out in clown garb that they call ‘Honkler,’ to symbolize ‘their exasperation over an imagined state of collapse in the Western hemisphere that they largely blame on immigrants and minority groups.’”
Other leftist sites picked up this narrative, insisting that Reddit sites like r/clownworld have given rise to these racist memes that use clowns as both heroes and avatars for a Western world gone mad. Accordingly, any Republican who references “clowns” when talking about Democrats is obviously a member of this dark, underworld society of white supremacists.
Or if they aren’t then…well…
“Whether or not Bishop understands the significance of his ‘clown’ slurs, the propagation of this meme from the cesspools of the internet directly to the highest levels of Republican power shows just how in thrall to the far-right today’s GOP is,” explains Mir.
Oh. So even if Bishop has never heard of “Honkler” or any of this other racist nonsense, his decision to call Democrats “clowns” is proof of the meme’s rise to the top of Republican power?
Keep going this route, Democrats. See what happens on Election Day.