Donald Trump Is The Most Successful Insult Comic Since Don Rickles
He’ll Get Votes As Long As He Continues To Provide Cheap, Satisfying Entertainment
That’s why we think Trump’s low approval ratings are a lot of bunk.
Because there are an awful lot of people out there who absolutely do not approve of Trump and a lot of the things he’s doing and saying, but will vote for him anyway. They already did. Lots of Trump supporters we know did not approve of his demeaning the Gold Star family. They still voted for him. Even more did not approve of his “pussy grabbing” comments. They still don’t. They still voted for him. And would again.
Our Trump friends say things like “he’s just plain cruel” and “we can’t stand all this craziness every single damn day”. Sometimes they seem as exhausted and exasperated as we are. But they also still feel invigorated by the President and that more than makes up for it.
So if someone asks them if they approve of the President, they’d say “no”. Yet he’d still get their vote.
Why? Partly because while he’s demonstrably lied about all kinds of things, and broken promises time and time again, he’s kept his one biggest promise: to shake things up. (We’d argue he’s kicked up more dirt than actually shaken anything up, but that’s a subject for another column).
And perhaps more importantly: he’s a great entertainer, a terrific showman. Which is an utterly under-recognized key to his success. (The mainstream media seems to be just catching on, a little, almost 3 years after Trump declared he was running for President.)
He makes people feel better about themselves.
And Trump is keenly aware of it too. “Is there any more fun than a Trump rally?” the President asked an adoring crowd outside of Pittsburgh this weekend.
Even though the event was supposed to be a rally endorsing a Republican candidate for the House in a special election (see below for more on that), of course Trump made it almost all about Trump. Politico described it aptly as “Trump endorses himself”. Which was just fine with the crowd.
Watch Trump expertly riff here about what it means to be “Presidential” and why what he does is so much harder than that. “If I came like a stiff you guys wouldn’t be here tonight” Also listen for the audience member shouting out “you’re one of us!” (Click on the photo to play):
Trump’s “genius” lies in recognizing the power of the put-down. Which is why we compared him in the headline to the legendary comedian. It isn’t a fair comparison: Rickles was infinitely more clever. But Trump doesn’t need to be. All he needs to do is make the audience feel like they’re the “insiders”, not the Washington and Hollywood power brokers:
- Representative Maxine Waters: “Very low IQ individual”.
- NBC’s Chuck Todd: “Sleeping son of a bitch”.
- Oprah: “I know her weakness…I know her weakness…[Running against me] would be painful for her.”
- Martha Stewart: “Failed when she did ‘The Apprentice’ and I kept chugging along.”
- And later, but along the same lines: The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman: “No nothing Hillary flunky.”
One big difference between Don Rickles and our President: Rickles always directed his insults at people who were right in front of him; right in their faces. Trump takes the cowardly way out: aiming at people who are literally miles away, and to most people in Trump’s audience in a different, elitist, universe.
That was key to Rickles’ act: the audience knowing deep down that he was not actually a cruel guy. Trump is cruel. And while it’s working for Trump anyway for now, if he “jumps the shark”, that’ll also be why.