As we barrel towards the general election this November, Democrats would do well to avoid repeating history in terms of their approach to sinking Trump. The following attack lines were relied on heavily last time around, and everybody knows how that turned out.
I’ll save my half-baked theories on what more effective messaging might look like for another, later post, but in the mean time…
Here’s my list of toothless Trump attacks:
1. “He’s not as rich as he says he is!”
Okay, so that’s most likely true. For one thing, though, there is no way to prove how rich he is without his tax returns, and secondly, he’s clearly pretty rich. The man travels in a 747 with his name across its wings and shits exclusively in golden toilets. As far as any working man’s concerned, Trump might as well be worth a trillion dollars. He doesn’t need to share his true net worth, because most people’s perception of a concept like “net worth” is black and white: you’re either rich, or you’re not rich. Trump claims he’s rich, he acts rich, and he has all the trappings of an archetypal “rich guy.” It checks out.
2. “He’s racist!”
Here again, there is a strong case to be made that Trump traffics in a kind of 1980s-frat-boy, casually-talks-shit-about-minorities racism. But here’s the thing — when most folks who are not either a) currently enrolled in university, b) working for a journalistic outlet, or c) part of the activist Left hear the word “racism”, what comes to mind for them is overt racism. For instance, if Trump were to come out and say, “You know what, these damn negroes need to get their act together. I just can’t stand these monkeys”, I’d have to think a portion of the MAGA-hat community would protest.
But Trump does not make statements of this kind, at least in public. In fact, the most flagrant racial comment he’s yet uttered — conflating Mexicans with rapist criminals — was in the context of a speech addressing illegal migration, which large swaths of the electorate oppose. Regardless, the preponderance among Trump’s other quasi-racial musings are almost always subtler than that. The reality, for better or worse (certainly worse), is that many partisans and moderates alike across this country view statements such as these as a rejection of political correctness — as “straight-talk.”
Lastly, I’d remind my liberal colleagues that white people still form the majority race group of our electorate. And white people that worry over MS-13 gangsters don’t like when liberal news anchors refer to them as racists for their worries, regardless of how baseless these may be. We need white votes to win, it’s simple math — perhaps we shouldn’t TRY to ostracize them?
3. “He isn’t a successful/real businessman!”
See attack #1. The guy owns businesses and played a boss on TV for a decade. His surname is plastered across planes and skyscrapers and limited-edition monopoly boards the world over. Sure, by my eye, he’s the don of a small organized crime family propped up by Chinese loans, tax fraud, and laundered Russian mafia greenbacks. But all of that’s below the surface, and perceptions are, by nature, superficial. Does he own businesses? Indeed. Are they profitable? Sure look to be. Alright, then he is a “successful businessman.” Next.
4. “He colluded with Russia!”
I think most people are just plain tired of this, myself included. Robert Mueller couldn’t come through with the goods, so this remains a he-said, she-said circle-jerk of pure futility. As the Democrats are the ones making the claims, the burden of proof lays squarely on their shoulders. So far it remains unsatisfied. And, unfortunately, it appears the major setbacks on this issue have become self-reinforcing. The most significant effect of Mueller’s Rail Gun of Justice spitting out a white flag on a stick with the word “bang!” scribbled in crayon — as opposed to blasting out some evidence — was to make Trump’s cries of “Witch Hunt!” seem more credible. Probably time to just let this one go.
5. “He’s a buffoon/idiot/incompetent!”
I mostly agree, but here’s the rub: the case for Trump’s complete incompetence and/or pedestrian intelligence is more difficult to prosecute today than it was last time, since he won. Because that happened, I imagine many folks hear this and think, “Hmm, well, he was smart enough to win the highest office on the planet, so he can’t be all that stupid.” And they’re right. We can’t keep underestimating Trump’s unique form of intuitive brilliance. He is, at the very least, creative and quite socially perceptive. He may bomb the SATs, but he knows what different people want to hear and how to say it. That is a form of intelligence in its own right, and if we want to cripple it, we must first acknowledge it exists.
‘Til next time. -b