D.R.A.T. – Democratic Response Against Trump

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Democrats are losing the PR battle with Trump. I could explain at length why I say this, and why I think it is so. But it all comes down to one word: focus. In which spirit, I’m going to let Peter Hamby, in his excellent article in Vanity Fair, summarize my own feelings, while I focus on what I think Democrats should do about it.

First, we need to get real focused, real quickly on who the voters are that we believe will make the difference in 2018 and 2020. I have my own views about who those voters are, and what policies will likely ensure they turn out to vote for us. And every other supporter of the Democratic Party has their own idiosyncratic version, too. Matters not. We have the capability to work out what is the real answer, and to focus on it. I’ve written further about this elsewhere also.

I could say, and have said, that the next step is to create a unified and vigorous message and platform that targets these voters, and to find the best candidates to present that message and platform. But, you know, we’re kind of past that stage now. It’s become more urgent. Plus, different messages/platforms/candidates work in different parts of the country. Why not trust the local organizations to make those decisions for themselves?

My focus, with this post, is on coming up with a resource that serves all candidates, whatever their personal message, and wherever they are presenting it: a vehicle which begins successfully to counter Trump’s PR.

In my opinion, we need a national-level, rapid-response, message task force. Which utilizes every aspect of modern media coverage, just as Trump does. Is fronted by people who are telegenic, radiophonic (is that the right word?). And which counters Trump every day with punchy, pithy, catchy//optics, visuals, slogans, Tweets.

Ooh, ooh, you may say. We have that. No. We don’t. Because, if we did, I’d be deluged with it. I’m not. Period.

There is a wonderful new group, Navigator Research, which claims to be sharpening the Democratic message. I have some of its members as my FB Friends. I read their very long and very interesting reports. Until, with respect, my eyes cloud over. This is not what I’m talking about. This group may well be able to help with determining the target group of voters, with fashioning the content of the counter-punch. But again, with respect, it is not at the moment doing any punching.

I have written elsewhere what I think that punch should look like, to achieve the most effect. Comes down to this. Folks do not want a non-stop stream of invective against Trump the animal. They know who he is. They know he’s awful. That message is winning us nothing. Neither is all the talk about Russian collusion and White House corruption.

I don’t care what you say is in the polls. I’m out and about, in western South Carolina (previously, central North Carolina). Deep in the heart of the sorts of places Democrats should be reaping votes like so much tasty seasonal hay. These people are totally unmoved by these storylines. They’re punch drunk. They don’t care any more. Maybe the talking heads in Washington gain amusement from making the latest clever debating points. But ordinary folk just glaze over.

What we need to do is focus on the metrics that influence these ordinary people every day of their lives. But which no-one else is articulating. I’m not going to pretend I have the precise list. A group like Navigator Research can work out the details. But I do know this. It should be about three metrics. No more than five. Likely: the buying power of the money in your pocket; how Trump is affecting your place of work; job security (for you and your children); your kid’s education; your healthcare insurance premium.

We need gimmicks. Lots of them. What about a grade card? Weekly. Monthly. The five simple catchy metrics. Lots of graphics. This is how Trump is performing on your grade card this month. And why.

Not the awful Washington press conferences we have at the moment. Fronted by people of retirement age. Explaining through sheaves of paper. Why this Trump policy on trade. Or that Trump approach on welfare benefits. Will affect something. Some time. If we can all stay awake long enough. To take notice.

Punch, punch, punch. Trade war with China means WalMart toys for your kids go up in price. Have they? Will they? Bingo! Here’s a graph showing the steady rise in price of simple consumer goods due to Trump.

And, to be blunt, if your toes curl at the mention of WalMart, you are the problem. Ordinary voters shop at WalMart. Get over it. We need to stop scolding voters, and start trying to win them over.

Trump promised his policies would create more jobs. Have they? The right jobs? The wrong jobs? Where? Did his tax plan bring jobs home? How many? Are his trade wars affecting jobs in America? Will newly-expensive steel hit the car industry in Detroit? What is the ratio of jobs lost by Trump to jobs gained? Graphs. Maps. Moving animation.

Don’t tell us about Iran. And for goodness sake, get Chuck Schumer away from a microphone. Find a telegenic Congressional candidate from Ohio. Put her/him in a typical car. Have a straight stretch of interesting street. And mark out how far she/he can drive the car on half a tank of gallon, on the basis of new higher oil prices, due to Iran, Syria, Israel, whatever (obviously scaled down!).

Being simple in presentation. Pithy and punchy. Doesn’t mean we have to ignore complex issues. We just have to find clever ways to make them accessible. Even if those clever ways don’t always satisfy our own concerns and prejudices.

For example, tell folks that a hostile immigration environment might mean the price of American food produce going up. I know that you and I may care about the inhumanity of much of Trump’s immigration policies. But ordinary Americans, fighting to save a job, unable to pay their healthcare insurance premiums, frankly, might not care as much about another person’s problems as they might about the price of their own food. There is a time for appealing to better instincts, and there is a time for appealing to wallets.

Make it relate. Simple, focused, punchy, fun. Something which appeals to ordinary people; not necessarily something that proves intellectually satisfying to the leaders of the Democratic machine in Washington. Make it accessible. The measure of whether or not it is working is if you are assaulted by it from at least two different sources on your way to work. A roster of cheery folks the media know to interview. With a simple, catch-all, catchy umbrella name. Doesn’t have to be D.R.A.T. Come up with your own. Colors, fonts, logo’s that ordinary people come to know and expect.

We’re never going to beat Trump. He’s been successfully misusing the media for thirty years. What we need to do is sort out what is our gameplan to counter his policies. And then work around him to sell our vision.

Trump is winning because he stays firmly on the low road, appealing to the gut. We don’t want to go there. We don’t have to go there. But neither should we airily float along on some amorphous high road. We stick it to Trump on the basic promises he made and keeps making to the American people. On jobs, cost of living, healthcare premiums, and the like. We stick it to Trump on wallet issues. And hold him to account with noise, color and parade.

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Published in: on June 7, 2018 at 4:00 am  Leave a Comment