“We’re going to win. We’re going to win so much. We’re going to win at trade, we’re going to win at the border. We’re going to win so much, you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning, you’re going to come to me and go ‘Please, please, we can’t win anymore…. And I’m going to say ‘I’m sorry, but we’re going to keep winning, winning, winning, we’re going to make America great again.” – Donald Trump, Billings, MT, May 26, 2016
“You can't con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don't deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on." – Donald Trump, The Art of the Deal, 1987
Donald Trump acts like a buffoon with his repeated absurd and unconscionable Tweets and statements that are an embarrassment to most Americans. Republican David Brooks calls him, a “70 year old man-child”. Charles Krauthammer, a Republican journalist, calls him an “undeveloped schoolyard bully” needing a “more primitive, an infantile hunger for approval and praise, a craving that can never be satisfied.” Trump is a boon for comedians who use his own words against him to generate laughs at his expense. But the disparagement of Trump is not confined to the America media. A prominent Mexican newspaper had a front-page cartoon with Trump in a strait jacket; headlined “El Fascistoid Trump.”
Liberals are enjoying the mocking of our president, but Democrats should be aware -- there is a Method to his Madness. Borrowing Marco Rubio's infamously presidential debate zinger on Obama, "Donald Trump Knows Exactly What he is Doing". Furthermore, Rubio appearing on the Today show said, "Again, this guy is a con artist. He's always making things up and no one holds him accountable for it.”
Trump knows how to tap into America's love of "winners", knows how to create fear to his advantage and has no shame lying about anything knowing many will believe it. All the dirty tactics in politics we hate to admit work for Trump. Democrats need to understand how formidable Trump can be and start fighting back without hesitation. We need to do more than just march and hold protest rallies. We need to take back control of the messaging by more effectively exposing his lies and subterfuge. We need to be more outspoken and persuasive -- show passion. We need to grab the headlines from Trump. Build a grass roots organization that can resonate with all Americans. Take back the working class to believe in Democratic values, not in Republican trickle-down economics. And most of all we need to get out the vote in 2018 and 2020.
Trump won primarily by engaging in excessively negative tactics never seen before in a mainstream campaign. He incited his base with fear mongering against minorities and fabricated boogeymen such as the media, all driven with constant hyperbole and lies. But he excited his base too by creating a cult like following that believes he is a "winner" possibly best exemplified by a young man singled out at his recent rally who salutes a cardboard cutout of Trump every morning. He is adept at controlling the messaging. His base believes the hype he created that he is a smart businessman that wins despite his astonishing record of financial losses, casino bankruptcies, and some 3,500 legal actions filed against and for him and his businesses over the last three decades.
He led off his campaign with fear mongering about Mexican immigrants: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people.” Underlying that fear was the fear of the “browning of America”, but also the fear of gun owners from crime, the fear of terrorist attacks by Muslims, the fear of how Muslim immigration would affect American Christians and their way of life…the fear of the “other”.
Trump tapped into the anger of the white blue collar voter in the Rust Belt of America, coal country and rural American small towns that had seen better days. He has promised them that factories will come back and that the coal mines will reopen. He has promised them jobs, and it will be a challenge for Trump to deliver on that promise.
Trump stoked racial fears and animosity to energize his base by repeatedly attacking President Obama, calling him "the worst president, maybe in the history of our country” and “woefully unprepared to do this job”. He has falsely labeled all of Obama’s signature achievements with the word “disaster” to give the false impression that Obama, as a black man, is a failure. Our foreign policy he says is a “complete and total disaster,” “Obamacare is a disaster,” The TPP “trade deal is a disaster”. The “Iran nuclear deal is a disaster.” “We have no growth right now. The country's a disaster.”
He falsifies real statistics. “Don't believe those phony numbers when you hear 4.9 and 5 percent unemployment,” Trump told his audience in a New Hampshire victory speech. “The number's probably 28, 29, as high as 35. In fact, I even heard recently 42 percent.” That hyperbole goes with his claim that 1.5 million people attended his inauguration (actual number about a third of that).
Trump attacked the "elites" and "establishment" to appeal to working class voters playing to the resentment and hate from those who were not sharing in the economic rebound after the Great Recession. “We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated”, he said in a victory speech in Nevada in February. He frequently attaches the word, “elite” in referring to the media.
Keeping the narrative on emotionally charged issues meant Trump never had to articulate the “how” or even a “why” to accomplish his campaign promises. The shallowness of his promises was never an issue with his base or for that matter many in the media so fascinated and appreciative of what Trump’s candidacy had done to their ratings. The fact that he lacked knowledge of the functions of the many governmental organizations and the issues confronting American democracy was never a big concern. Trump sees his presidency as being like a “chairman of the board” and not the Obama intellectual type of leader who readily engaged Congress and Americans on the nuances of every issue.
However, after a successful campaign to win the presidency, the businessman and Hollywood Walk of Fame star is now finding an unfamiliar bumpy road as hardly a day goes by without some controversy hitting him. The authoritarian bully that made him a successful businessman doesn’t work as well with many Americans and a Congress not accustomed to his dictatorial style. When Trump’s senior advisor, Stephen Miller, proclaimed on Face the Nation, "The powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned,” rather than being intimidated, Americans responded with scorn.
The entertainer Trump who captivated viewers with his outlandish and politically incorrect statements does not seem to get the same chuckles as he lambasts his political opponents including the media. The only chuckles he now gets is from the late-night talk and comedy shows like Saturday Night Live and Stephan Colbert making fun of him. Alec Baldwin’s impersonation of Trump has become a hit.
The media so infatuated with his unorthodox campaign that they gave him countless hours of free airtime, have now been hammering him on his faults and countless lies. A controversial statement he made at his Florida rally was singled out as a lie, “We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden.” The media jumped on it. Trump defiantly responded back on Twitter, “Give the public a break - The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!
Trump response is not surprising. He cites “alternative facts” and “fake news” and his now controversial Tweet: "The FAKE NEWS media (failing New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS, CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!" is now a part of his stump speech. The media as the “enemy of the American people” resonates with his base of supporters. At the Florida rally he further claimed that the “dishonest media” is part of the “corrupt system”. "They have their own agenda and their agenda is not your agenda," he told the cheering crowd.
Many of these “Trumpisms” whether directed at the media or Obama and Clinton are distractions from the more important issues of the day. Americans to their credit are now waking up to the fact that Trump is serious about delivering on his campaign promises. They are marching and protesting in the streets, calling and writing Senators and Representative, and organizing at local and state levels. The protesters come from all over America including women, immigrants, Muslim sympathizers, scientists, environmentalists, students, travelers, and many more who are just offended and embarrassed by the antics of the president we just elected.
They are protesting his plan to build a wall with no plan to have Mexico pay for it; they protest his deportations of undocumented workers; they protest his ban on Muslims entering the United States; they protest his rolling back of EPA regulations and many of Obama’s executive orders to protect the environment; and they protest the repeal and replace of Obamacare.
Perhaps, the most damning accusation and protest being made against the President is that his aides colluded with Russian intelligence agents before the election stealing the election for Trump. The allegations are so serious that some political scientists are speculating that it could result in his removal from office.
Americans are enraged that Trump has not divested himself from any of his global assets. "The law's totally on my side, the president can't have a conflict of interest,” Trump said in an interview with New York Times. Nor is he under any legal obligations to show his tax returns. Kellyanne Conway said that “he’s not going to release his tax returns.” The conflict of interest charges have languished without any actions by Republicans to investigate ethics allegations.
Nevertheless, Republicans in Congress continue to support him and his agenda because for the most part they both want the same thing. And as many business people and political opponents have found out, Donald Trump when under fire can be ruthless in pursuits of his goals. Democrats would be well to heed his words:
My whole life is about winning. I don't lose often. I almost never lose. – Donald Trump
While many of his actions have seemed amateurish or just publicity stunts, we should not underestimate Trump’s ability to accomplish what he set out to do. George Lakoff, a cognitive scientist and linguist in an interview with Salon explains: “Trump is very, very smart. Trump for 50 years has earned how to use people’s brains against them. That’s what master salesmen do.” That master salesman conned some 63 million Americans to vote for him in 2016, and many of them are staying steadfastly by his side through the madness and chaos that has so far surrounded his presidency.
Trump’s winning strategy requires that he has the continued support of both houses of Congress through 2018. The Mitch McConnell Republicans might dislike his methods intensely, but will support Trump on all his major initiatives as many of these have been long held Republican and Tea Party positions. They also share a common driving force – the hatred of the former President Barack Obama. Both are intent on erasing any positive legacy of his presidency starting with the repeal and replace of Obamacare.
Looking to the future, Trump as “chairman of the board”, does not have to engage his attention to many of the details of policy setting debates. Mike Pence, Steve Bannon, the department heads, and the generals and Congress will largely be allowed to pursue how to interpret and implement his campaign promises and his Tweets. That will allow Trump to continue what he does best -- campaigning at rallies and other events to solidify the loyalty of his base. His presidency will be a permanent campaign using the same successful tactics he used to get elected.
On delivering on his promises, Trump has taken credit for some token jobs at Carrier, Ford and Intel. The broader trend of some 190,000 jobs added per month before he took office is likely to continue for a short while, with or without his actions. President Obama presided over 76 straight months of private sector job growth, and the underlying economic factors suggest the trend will continue for the short term but will slow as the unemployment levels drop further. "I think it's going to continue, big league," Trump said of January's job growth, which incidentally occurred under the Obama administration.
Trump’s first 100 days are important to make visible progress to deliver on his campaign promises. Beyond 100 days and Republican Congressional support of his actions could erode. His many highly publicized executive actions give the impression of progress despite the hic cups. It solidifies support from his base.
Unless his presidency gets entangled in Constitutional violations, or protests that can turn public opinion in a big way, Trump in his first term should have a relatively easy path to deliver on most of his campaign promises. The key to his success will be Republicans support in Congress. He will never have to answer to the Democrats.
Democrats therefore must maintain their passions and protests into the 2018 and 2020 elections. The organizations at the grass roots level are key to winning local and state offices as well as making inroads on Congress. We must energize people enough to care and to vote. We must remember what happened to Democrats when they became complacent or apathetic after the 2008 election.
Obama’s overwhelming mandate in the 2008 election was lost two years later when Republicans won 63 seats in the House previously held by Democrats. The reason for that huge loss was that 127 million voter eligible people (58.2 percent) did not vote. That’s 41.7 million less than in 2008. In 2014 we said never again and worked hard to not have a repeat of 2010. We lost again. It was maddening and disheartening to the many of us volunteers who worked so hard on those campaigns.
The midterm elections in 2018 will be especially challenging for Democrats. Of the 33 Senate seats up for re-election, only eight of them are held by Republicans and six of those are safe seats. Likewise, Republicans will hold the House because of prior gerrymandering and the fact that Democrat turn-out in mid- term elections has been historically low. Still Democrats can reduce the Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate if they unite and remain energized.
Without Democrats being fully engaged, it is conceivable that in four years Donald Trump might be heralded as having achieved the biggest con job in the history of America. Having a compliant Congress and continuing to control the messaging, much of America might never catch on. Adding insult to the injury for Democrats, will be the fact that Trump will never have divested of his assets or showed his tax returns.
Finally, as we approach the 2018 and 2020 elections we should remember that Donald Trump is not resting on his 2016 victory. He is not taking his base for granted. He is out there campaigning now thinking of the next big deal…being re-elected to another four years.
“I like thinking big. I always have. To me it’s very simple: If you’re going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big.”—Donald J. Trump
Elections have consequences. – Barack Obama.