Making appeals to vote for Trump in spite of who he is, not because of who he is
There’s a pretty lengthy “cut-and-paste” type message going around out there, which by now more than 50% of the Trump supporters I follow have shared with their followers, if not the world. It wraps up like this:
“Although I don’t give blanket approval to everything our President has done or said in the past, I do support him as our president! I am not voting against Joe Biden, but I am voting against every thing that the party backing him and propping him up stands for.”
And earlier on asserts:
“I am not voting for a man. I am not rallying for a personality. I am not pushing a person.”
No one’s put their name to this piece of writing, which is typical for this type of thing. Partially so everybody who subsequently shares it can kind of claim it as “theirs”. Because the message is more effective if it seems like a collective idea.
And yes, I still have quite a few Trump supporter social media contacts. Many are relatives, actually. Still, I like to connect with everybody, and keep on top of what everyone’s thinking and saying and doing.
Anyway, this widely shared document is a sneaky little piece of writing, because at first glance it seems polite and well-reasoned. And for whatever reason, it never mentions Trump by name. But if you really read it through, it doesn’t take long before you come across a lot of lies and vile spew. For instance: when it casually comments that one of the big things Democrats support is “pedophilia”.
For that reason, I don’t want to out-and-out share it, but I will link to it here, via an esteemed former colleague’s Facebook feed, which includes his own perspective and commentary.
I’ve also noticed my friends who are Democrats sharing a similar “cut-and-paste” document, which I assume is a reaction and rebuttal. But I’m not sure; it could’ve come first.
Of course, even though the not pro-Trump/pro-Trump document is meant to appear “grassroots”–and even if it is–whomever is promoting this and other similar lengthy but easy to share “cut-and-paste” messages would hardly be considered a renegade by the Trump campaign.
Because this very same message is very much in the mainstream of the President’s campaign these days, especially when the target audience is women, and it’s not Trump himself talking.
It was peddled in many of the speeches given by and directed at women during the Republican National Convention. Ivanka Trump:
“I recognize that my dad’s communication style is not to everyone’s taste and I know that his Tweets can feel a bit unfiltered, but the results, the results speak for themselves.”
And more recently, others have picked up on this newly emphasized theme. Over the weekend, Donald Trump, Jr., who’s not exactly the point person for his father’s campaign when it comes to women, Retweeted a nearly identical message from a well-known Trump booster. This time, Trump’s “greedy” and “horny”. But that can be explained away as “typical of men”. (How does that fit with disparaging soldiers? Perhaps his wonder that they’d sacrifice with little money in it for them?) And one can rest assured that Trump holds a “soft spot” for any image or item that’s a symbol of America.
This is more similar to the argument I heard after Trump’s Access Hollywood pussy-grabber comments came to light during the last campaign. At that time a lot of my Trump supporter contacts temporarily abandoned the President. But even then the rebuttal wasn’t really to ignore Trump’s character; just that it was “locker room talk”. And they came back. Then FBI Director Comey announcing there were more Hillary emails didn’t hurt Trump either.
So: can this messaging work for Trump?
I remember the first time I wrote that Trump had a shot at winning in 2016. It was after I overheard a conversation among a construction crew in a coffee shop in Connecticut:
“If he can deal with New York City unions, he’ll for sure be able to deal with Congress.”
And that also reminds me of another conversation I overheard late last year. Where a Trump supporter confessed the President had lost him after the President undermined the U.S. military and celebrated soldiers accused of war crimes. So perhaps that’s why newly reported anecdotes of Trump’s disrespect for people who serve in the U.S. military seems to ring so true. The seeds of doubt are already there.
The President now seems to be busily trying to change the subject from his poor Coronavirus response to violence in cities threatening families in suburbia. And how Joe Biden is somehow the embodiment of that, even though it’s happened under Trump’s watch. Also, to those who keep pointing out President Nixon won with a “law and order” campaign following a very violent summer in 1968, Nixon was not already President when all the violence was happening. So that gave him more leverage.
Still, who knows? A lot of people are angry and frustrated and scared about a lot of things these days.
What I do know is Democrats also need to break some bad habits if they want to ensure this Trump campaign approach doesn’t work.
And that’s something they can actually learn from Trump: if they land a punch, keep pummeling at that weak spot. Don’t think it’s enough that you landed it, and then can feel fulfilled and go home, put your feet up, and call it a day. Keep pounding.
Trump talks all the time about the Democrats and “Russia, Russia, Russia”. But Democrats really backed away from Russia more than they’ve pursued it, perhaps because they didn’t want that to be seen as their singular focus, even though Trump made it that anyway. To the point at which a lot of the time I hear people talk about Trump’s impeachment earlier this year, they talk about Russia. When it was actually all about Ukraine, not Russia.
And Democrats also have an advantage right now. Trump’s message carries with it a high degree of difficulty. Because for Trump to contend America’s finished should Joe Biden win, he’s really kind of got to remove Joe Biden from the equation, and that he’s not really running against Biden, but rather unseen evil forces. So it’s a convoluted, multiple step process Trump is asking people to contort themselves through.
It all reminds me of my brother trying to teach his son to ride a bicycle. He tried a bunch of times. He then took him to an event organized by a local cycling group, and the kid was up and riding in less than an hour. And there wasn’t really anything substantially different between their instructions and my brother’s. But there was one big difference: when he was trying to do it on his own, each time his son seemed to master a skill, he immediately moved on to the next skill. At the event, when the kid showed he could do a skill, they had him do it about a hundred more times before moving on to the next one.
Democrats have got to do the same thing. Drive it home. Over and over again. When something lands or resonates, which has started to happen, keep repeating yourself until it sinks in, even if it seems like nonsense, even if you feel like you want to move on to something else.
Yes, the new Postmaster General’s history of at minimum questionable campaign donation tactics might turn out to be a huge story. But for someone who is still not getting important items delivered in the mail, there is no bigger story than they are still not getting important items delivered in the mail. That’s what might change peoples’ minds about for whom they’re voting. Not who donated how much money to whom and whether they did it in a scammy way. Stay with what matters most to voters. Don’t lose focus!