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Messaging, And The Forces Against Trump (1 Viewer)

This post was inspired by a comment from Nate Silver from a Slack Chat: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/should-trump-or-the-democrats-be-more-worried-about-the-economy/. Despite the poor name and starting topic, it turned into one of the better slack chats, and delved into some interesting areas and is highly recommended reading. But I want to focus on one comment Nate Silver made in the chat, and expand on it alot.

natesilver: I have another theory too. Do you want to hear it?

clare.malone: No.

micah: lol

clare.malone: Kidding. Nate, spout.

natesilver: I’ll warn you in advance that it’s completely unprovable.

clare.malone: LOVE THOSE

natesilver: Or not unprovable, but unproven.

julia_azari: Perfect!

natesilver: My hunch is that one reason why Trump’s approval has risen lately is that people are responding to a “sky is falling” mentality from the media and Democrats.

Reluctant Trumpers are responding to it, that is.

Democrats can huff and puff, but as long as nothing breaks, nothing blows up and no one gets fired, it might seem like a lot of hot air.

That last line is pretty key, and speaks to what I see as poor messaging on the part of democrats and others opposed to Trump. It seems we have not learned from 2016, and keep repeating the exact same mistakes. In this blog post I am going to go back to 2016, talk about the mistakes in messaging, and talk about how we are still making those mistakes, and how I think we can fix it to create a better, more effective message.

Through almost all of 2016, right up until the election results, the assumption by most of us was that Trump was going to fail any day now. First in the primaries, and then in the general. He was a terrible candidate. And yet he kept on winning. There are a ****load of reasons why(any one who tells you that this or that reason was the reason he kept winning is full of it, numerous choices could have changed the results. 3 states where decided in the general by less than 1 %, and if those 3 states had went to Clinton, she would have won), but I am going to focus on just the one. I do think this one could have swung the general election, and maybe even the primaries. The problem was that while Trump had a generally positive message(Make America Great Again), the elections kept bogging down for the other candidates into "That Trump is a poopiehead". Trump did a brilliant job of drawing candidates into it, into an arena where he was strong, and away from where the other candidates where much stronger, which is specific issues. The republican debates would always devolve into namecalling once Trump got involved. However, Trump had this simple, positive motto that was always his centerpiece, Make America Great Again. Nice and vague, allowing people to insert their own ideas as to what it meant, easy to remember, and hard to argue against. So while Trump was drawing people into insult battles, by simple virtue of having that slogan, and pushing it hard at other times, he won. Every one else was running against Trump, while Trump was running for America, or at least in the eyes of alot of voters.

Along came the general election, and Clinton, a "policy wonk", spent most of her time, and almost all of her advertising budget, repeating the same mistake republicans made. She spent little to nothing on adds telling America what she was going to do, and most if not all of her adds telling America what a poopiehead Trump was. This failed for a few reasons. First, people did not need to have her point out Trump was a poopiehead, it was clear as day. Secondly, she lost sight of the first and most important thing a candidate for president has to do, which is explain how America would be better with her as president. Now, I think America would have been better off with her as president, but it is the job of the candidate to explain why. Trump did, he was going to make America great again. For Clinton to win, she had to make voters not just dislike Trump(mostly, they already did), but convince them that she would do a good enough job that it was worth them getting out and voting for her. And in that, she totally failed.

Flash forward to today. The topics people are talking about: the FBI and Trump investigation. The Duckworth/Trump feud. The stock market. Trump's hair. Trump wanting a parade. Not a single one of those is going to get many people out to vote, nor convince any one that they should vote against Trump or democrats. While Obama was president, republicans, conservatives and libertarians where telling people that the world was going to end because of Obama, and they consistently failed to deliver. Obama won re-election fairly easily. And now democrats, liberals, some republicans are doing it all again. War with Korea, war with China, there is a recession coming any day now, fascism and totalitarianism. Impeachment and constitutional crisis. And it keeps not happening.

And the important thing to remember is that important things, things that can and should be used against Trump, they are lost in the shrieking and hysteria. Did you here about the Labor Department no longer tracking data that could undermine a policy decision? I didn't, but it happened: https://bnanews.bna.com/daily-labor-report/labor-dept-ditches-data-on-worker-tips-retained-by-businesses. Now there is something that actually affects many Americans, in a concrete way, and it barely gets a mention. Not much on the growing trade war with Canada. The list could go on and on, but I got to go run an errand really soon.

So, to summarize: if you want to win, if you want to actually see some one other than Trump in the Whitehouse, talk about things that really matter, that affect the economy, that affect, with some immediacy, Americans. Let the Russia investigation play out, the results will be along when they happen. Don't worry about a ****ing parade, or Trump's vacations, or Trump playing golf. For god's sake, shut up about impeachment that is not going to happen(and shouldn't) And talk about what we can do to help America and the people in America. Make the case not that Trump is a poopiehead, but that whoever is running for office, this year or in 2020, will do a good job of making America better by their work. That is a message that works.
Looking back at '08, Obama had a slogan “Hope and Change”, and if you cared enough to check which many didn’t – and that 'don't care enough to look' is important policy ideas that you could analyze. He’s also a great public speaker. And he’s half black, but I’m not going to bother with the repubs effective playing of that factor from ’09 on here.

’16 Clinton was a lousy public speaker, and a policy wonk with the baggage of 25 years worth of GOP smear/slander campaigns around her neck, including movies, dozens of books and countless hours of partisan media bashing. The dems, idiotically imo, ran her anyway.
Trump meanwhile, spouted #MAGA and xenophobia, along with a bunch of non-policies that morphed every time he opened his mouth. He sounded like an idiot to at least 50% of the population and still does, but at the same time there seems to be about 30% who seem like they would hang themselves to defend him. There are more than a few on DP.

Was Trump’s win a victory of the simplicity of MAGA over Clinton’s wonkie policy proposals no one read (there was substance if you bothered) or a loss due to her being a lousy choice?

At this point, I personally think Trump just keyed into a demographic and gave them rhetoric they wanted to hear. I’m surprised that most don’t care about follow through or substance. Trump has already stabbed many in the back. That demographic will probably be defending Trump long after he’s dead. This is bizarre and scary, because the next person to try Trump’s tactics will probably be far smarter, and will probably hook even more people into following him/her.

I do not disagree at all with the points regarding the misguidedness of what the dems are currently doing. The sky isn’t falling in any real way, yet.
However, I don’t think it will be possible to cleave Trump’s base from him – maybe ever. I don’t want to name call here, but I keep going back to something a friend said to me at a party in the summer of ’16. “I always knew there were people like that out there, I just had no idea there were that f’ing many of them.”
That still leaves at least 60% of the electorate the dems could work with if they are smart about it. So far the game of thinking that letting Trump be Trump will be the end of Trump has been a loser.
That was an excellent, well thought-out commentary, Redress. And I agree with all of it, even though I hadn't realized I agree until I read it, then went back in my mind to that time and thought, "Dang. Why didn't I notice that while it was happening?"

Now I know why I didn't notice; I honestly wasn't looking.

Thanks for making me think long and hard about not only what I'm looking at in this world, but to also consider what I'm not looking at.
First, as to your point. I think, in a general sense, you're probably right. Getting into a smear campaign with Trump has a better chance of causing the Democrats to fail than focusing a campaign more at giving a positive alternative OR giving an accurate depiction of the tangible negative. To your point about Hillary, I think the trap her and her supporters fell into is even when they did go substantive, it would typically be paired alongside one of the typical smear type personal attacks at Trump.

You mention how people didn't really need to be sold on disliking Trump or thinking Trump was bad, and I think that was the problem. Normally, part of what's going on in a campaign is you're trying to convince people of that. With Trump, people had kind of heard it, acknowledged it, accepted it, and moved beyond it by that point. So to do anything to those people the two seeming options was to offer an alternative reason to not back Trump other than "he's bad", or try to make him seem SO bad that they change their minds. The problem was, the only way to do the latter, was to go so over the top and hyperbolic in it that it didn't succeed but rather had a bit of blowback. It gets to this point where people start going "If he's this bad, and you're that much better, then why are you going so overboard with trying to convince me he's actually worse than he is".

As I've always said, if you have to exaggerate to make your point that something is bad, was it really as bad as you thought to begin with?

Which leads me to the second take away, which was more from Silver. His hunch is basically the same thing I stated back during the primary and during the actual general election. EVERYTHING is being made a crisis, EVERYTHING is being assumed and believed and expressed in the worst fashion possible, EVERYTHING is doom and a constitutional crisis, to the point where it just causes people to go tone deaf. What's more, it makes you look foolish. If you are going "He's going to cause X!", "He's going to cause X!", "He's going to cause X!", and he never actually causes X; well then you look like the foolish one, even if he did everything up to the point of X.

For example, a reasonable conversation about his immigration policies can be had. However, when they're started from the notion that he's advocating for white supremacy, doesn't want brown people, is attacking muslims, and wants to make America white....well, there's not a lot of middle ground a reasonable person that leans more towards his direction is going to be able to find with you.

Now here's the problem, and why I think this issue is much more profound with Trump than anyone else. His policies aren't jiving with his words, and his detractors try to point at his words to justify treating his policies in the way they do. And his words are often as stupidly hyperbolic or over the top as theirs are when attacking him. The reality is though, Trumps depiction and identify as a "Non-Politician" who "talks like us", has bought him a level of grace and, frankly, unseriousness that is just unheard of in politics. He's not polished, but he's not expected to be. He's not careful with his wording, but he's not expected to be. He's prone to exaggeration or knee jerk reactions that he pulls back, but people expect that. So people ignore the words and look at the actions, while the people attacking him ignore the actions to focus on the words. When this happens, due to how Trump is viewed, the excusing of his words is easier to swallow for people. Fair or not, that just seems the reality.

Final point of Silver's I think is right as well is the whole huff and puff, but does it break, thing. This is why I think the Republicans didn't have a great argument through parts of the Obama Administration. Like now with Trump, they'll put forth arguments and spin to suggest why good economic numbers or situations are actually not good; but if people aren't actually feeling it, it doesn't matter.

The Republican strategy on this during a lot of Obama's presidency seemed to be pointing at people like illegal immigrants or health care and going "hey, even if YOU feel you're doing okay, you're doing worse then you should because they're sucking you dry!". The Democratic strategy is "hey, even if YOU feel you're doing okay, the fat cats are doing better than you so you should still be upset!". I don't think either is going to work exceptionally well, so long as most people do feel that things aren't exploding.

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