Now what? He's cooked. He has no appetite for governance. It's so boring! He feels so locked in a box! He looks sooooo unhappy! (Wouldn't it be great if he could demand an Electoral College recount and go back to saying it was rigged?)
I wrote the above on my Facebook page, shortly after I saw the first photos coming out of the Trump-Obama meeting in the Oval Office. To me, Trump looked red-faced, stuffed into his chair like a sixth grader who badly needed a bathroom break, waiting for the principal.
In a way, he was facing the principal.
He had spent years de-legitimizing the birth of the man who had invited him to the White House and treated him graciously (and whose mother was a natural-born citizen, which is all it takes to be qualified as President). So not only was the whole “birther” issue an obvious lie, but it was also moot. Still, the hunt in Hawaii for the birth certificate was what rocketed Trump back into the contemporary political system.
And look where it got him!
But this was seen as gloating and unkind. This is social media, after all, so a war ensued.
“Where do u get these ideas and present them as facts?” one commenter asked. “Stop relentlessly criticizing him what positive outcome does it produce?”
Basically, the criticism of my criticism was: “Stop with the negatives.”
Why shouldn’t the “losers” get to vent their fears and anger? The truth is that we have a president-elect who offended, disrespected and scared huge swatches of people, (swatch is the word he used). Who, on the road to victory, got us into potholes of viciously uncivil discourse.
Even while announcing his run, a time generally reserved for positivity and exaltation, he unleashed the famous line that “some Mexicans” were “rapists.”
His campaign recirculated the kinds of brutal stereotypes and language that had not polluted the air in a generation. All of that has to go somewhere.
“Stop with the negatives” is a bit rich. Because one of Trump’s superpowers is his preternatural ability to laser-focus on a perceived weakness in his “enemy” and home in on the “negg.” Though not terribly articulate, this gives him an incredible gift for coining old-fashioned attack-names that stick.
And though the polls were wrong and worthless, a dumping ground of dead data, it’s now coming out that many of his backers were well-educated and rich, not just the Rust Belt Appalachians who felt left out of the new economy.
Still, rather than get any apologies, we seem to want to have the “elites” apologize for their “bigotry” against conservative religion, and working-class and poor white people. That was a genius thing to stand for after eight years of having a black man in the White House, a guy who made many whites uncomfortable.
So certainly, Trump’s biggest genius in “Make America Great Again” was going the whole mythic Pepperidge Farm route, this time with nerve gas.
It’s true that Trump broke all the rules of the primary and presidential campaigning. I’ve written before about his completely unique ability to garner billions of dollars in free media, even while attacking the media for being “unfair” to him. Some of that came from his being the first ADHD President. (For my foes out there, I am making up that diagnosis.)
This means just to keep up his own energy, he had to be glib, entertaining, extreme, maybe even lie in the moment, to get the crowd going. And he was preternaturally gifted on the stump. His rallies set records for attendance, with crowds numbering in the 10,000s to 15,000s. And the guy who loves to win — and to count — never stopped panning the media for not showing his enormous crowds.
Part wrestling match, part funny car show, part stand-up, part mock trial, these rallies were way closer to bringing back the traveling circus or the snake-oil circuit than anything having to do with 21st-century technology. They tapped into a nostalgia factor to a group of people who wanted to restore what they had back in the day, when America was "great."
And though he is a caricature of bragging and bluster, a little-boy Richie Rich for the ages, he also has a throwback quality about him — a humina-humina humor straight out of 1950s black-and-white television — that the crowd loves.
And as he said, he did it without even a guitar or a piano.
So there was that, but there was also his undeniable power and glamour gleaned from his years on television starring in “The Apprentice.” So to begin with, his followers were thrilled to be there, perhaps to catch a glimpse of the guy they had seen copter down from the heavens to land in the boardroom golden, like a god.
He didn’t get down into the weeds of any possible legislation, until the end, when he stayed on-prompter.
In the meantime, he had the “power of three” thing down, with a few simple lines repeated effectively: “Build a wall,” “Make them pay” and “Lock her up.” It always seemed out of the natural order to me that a Republican would be so down on our country, such a doomsayer. But people ate it up.
That, too, was part of fulfilling the yearning for an old-time patriarch, someone who was powerful, punishing and relentless.
And that played an undeniable role in pillorying Hillary.
She worked her heart out, and as Obama said, no presidential candidate ever was more experienced. But she was held to impossible standards of “likability” when, clearly, the country was not in the mood to “like” women.
We might not want to call it misogyny, but there was a fear of upending the natural order. And liberals can be sexist, too. People are still put off by female ambition. It seems unsexy and unseemly.
More specifically, the Secretary’s troubles began with the server and ended with the Weiner. In between, unlike Trump, she was never able to come up with a clear and compelling economic agenda. Where did she stand on trade?
She spent a lot of time raising lots of money for ads in closed sessions with rich donors, which is what candidates have always done. But it did not work in her favor this year. Her messaging was sometimes good enough, but never soaring. I still maintain that the only great ad of the season was Bernie’s “America.”
And the Clinton campaign never developed a positive case of why we should vote for her, aside from Trump being so vile.
After all, he was able to knock off the other 16 Republicans, many of whom used his own words against him in commercials — and still got nada. Her ads that repeated the despicable things he said about women were heartbreaking. But they were preaching to the converted. His followers didn’t care.
The timing of the Comey announcement was a killer, and certainly hurt Clinton worse than Trump’s Billy Bush bus tape hurt him. The country was in the mood for a Humvee, and Mrs. Clinton had to dance backward, in high heels.
And we ran her off the road.
For me the most telling remark you make is, "And the Clinton campaign never developed a positive case of why we should vote for her, aside from Trump being so vile." As marketers we should recognize that the Clinton campaign wasted hundreds of millions of dollars keeping the Trump name alive in prime time. Would any product or service spend all that money to advertise/acknowledge the competition? Gosh, I thought the old rule of advertising was, when you think you're number one, stick to the message that made you that.
I agree, James. Moreover, the "Love Trumps Hate" thing (although imbued with the three-word thing) was a huge mistake. Why give front page real estate to the name "Trump" and put it out there, next to the word "Love?" Going for the whole pun thing was annoying and a stretch. ANd is Hillary supposed to be "love?" Similarly. "Im with her" said nothing.
I'm very sad. The old boys are now divviying up the favors in the DC swamp, and we are in for a bumpy ride.
She actually believed the economy had gotten better since 2008 and he knew it has not. One out of 5 people are on food stamps---people who NEVER thought they'd need help of any kind because they have been underemployed since 2008. He knew this. For some reason Hillary, bloggers and people on TV--not Food Stamps, do not.
Never forget this is the guy who promised to drain the swamp of Washington. He is now about to fill it with even bigger crocs, including possibly, Sarah Palin... Sorry, not anti feminest, but she's f*cking crazy. He was elected by people who forgot that he once said the minimum wage of $7.25 was too high. These same people will be screwed for the next four years... Then vote for him again. As we used to say in the North of England... "There's nowt sa queer as folk." Looking forward to being "Great" Again.
Marketers also know how to speak their audience's language. Trump's vocabulary falls somewhere in the middle school range. Above that, he and his followers seemed to lose interest. Keep the issues multiple choice; essays are hard.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. In a one-person, one-vote world (which doesn't exist, of course), Hillary is the people's choice. The NYT suggests her final margin may reach 2 million. So my PR brain says progressives ought to own that figure, create a sustained/rational analogue to the Tea Party and dub it "Two Million More." For a trenchant if grim analysis of where we are now, see Neal Gabler: http://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/11/10/farewell-america
One of the keys to Trump's vocabulary was a consistent campaign theme. How many slogans did Hillary have before finding "Stronger. Together."? How many brands change slogans that often that quickly? Trump stuck to one slogan from the day he descended the elevator.
From one of The New York Times' conservative Republican columnists, David Brooks: "Trump's bigotry,dishonesty and promise-breaking will have to be denounced. We can't go morally numb. But he needs to be replaced with a program that addresses the problems that fueled his ascent. After all, the guy will probably resign or be impeached within a year. The future is closer than you think."
I like the Two Million More idea, Ken Greenberg.
Neal Gabler was just too grim for me to digest, however.
Last paragraph. Mic drop. Thanks, Barbara.
Many good points made here, by Barbara and many others. Good point, Water (hi). By far the best "comments" section I've seen. David Brooks is probably right, but Pence is pretty much a civilized version of Trump
Randall- Pence is way more ideological, and Christian right than Trump. Funerals for miscarried babies, for instance. Gay conversion therapy. That's terrifying, unless you want to live in a theocracy.
A fine, impassioned column. You make many excellent points, especially about HRC's ad strategy. Also, you fairly note Trump's genius with crowds. After WWII, German intellectuals confessed that they were hypnotized by Hitler's addresses to huge crowds. It's just a gift that some politicians have, good and bad. I think Bill Clinton and Winston Churchill had it, as did Ronald Reagan in a different way.
Right Walter Sabo! Except you left out President Obama who, IMO, bears the heaviest reponsibility for the Democrat's losses. Paying close attention to the President's actions - and inaction - I learned that his rhetoric snowed us. And those of us who criticized him were suspected of racism.
The basket of progressives can be as insulated from facts and susceptible to bamboozlement as is the basket of "deplorables."
Media professionals should know that content is king and that story-telling is what defines effective content. Recently novelist and screenwriter Jesse Andrews opined that Trump won perhaps because he told the better story:
"Like I’m doing right now, Trump told a grossly simplistic story in his campaign…But as a story, it was super effective. It was very easy to understand. You could remember all of it, and it was about America…
What was Clinton’s story? Clinton ran as a technocratic incrementalist, who knows tons of stuff about tons of stuff and will make well-considered technical improvements to our country here and there, continuing and sharpening our neoliberal trajectory with policies that address this thing and that thing, based on dizzying amounts of science and data. She’ll react to world events on a studied, case-by-case basis. That is both a very sound vision of a presidency, and the most boring thing I have ever typed. I had to get up two different times for coffee while writing it. It’s not a story at all."
Thank you for that, Douglas. I agree with your gross generalization, very amusingly told!
I have a hard time putting this down to "story". There are too many contrary indicators. Like that Hillary will end up with perhaps 2 M more votes.
In fact, I'm finding a lot of Trumo voters I know didn't really catch much of what he said... that's a truth in all elections.
It changes if we focus on the narrow group who put him over the top (and a switch of 70,000 votes out of 120 M) would have switched the election result...
Trump told them a consistent, focused story. It I don't think they responded to the story, but the tone, tenor, and culture of the campaign. His personality carried all that... Phil Bunch is reported to have said the best way to get an idea across is wrap it up in a person. Trump did that. And it gave him the edge...along with a wee bit o help from the FBI...
The Carolina Panthers gained more yards in the Super Bowl last season than the Denver Broncos, but the Broncos won the Super Bowl fair and square because they scored more points and that is the objective.
Does it not occur to others that President Elect Trump would have executed a different campaign strategy if the Presidency was based on the popular vote? Instead he steadfastly focused on the only metric that mattered - the Electoral College - and in doing so took his message directly to voters HRC took for granted in states the Democratics assumed were permanently blue.
He probably would. But that strategy very well might not have worked - we have no way to know. An election is an amazing web of ebbs and flows. Post analysis that says "it's all this" is simply crazy.
One of the most reliable swings in the election is probably the Comey letter. There's a very, very good chance that without that letter Trump would have lost and Hillary would have won.
But to complain too much about it is a problem. My analogy is this: A ref blowing a call can lose a team the football game. But, most coaches complan and observe that if there team had played better throughout, then the blown call wouldn't have mattered.
Ok then, facts: SNAP (food stamps) peaked in 2012 and have been going down ever since, now a little below 14% of US population. The broader un(der)employment rate (U-6) has gone down from a peak of 17% (2009) to under 10%, dropping every year for 7 years in a row. In fact, that's a bit better than 2003. There are still lots of folks hurting, but the facts show the overall economy *has* improved. Staying the course might have worked fine, but we'll never know.
Make America Great Again! :)