Trump’s Campaign Conundrum
At Campaign Rallies, Trump Continues To Focus On How Scary And Terrible Everything Is. Problem Is, He’s Been President Going On 18 Months Now.
We often argue that Trump and Obama won for essentially the same reason: they both promised to shake things up. Which is why we weren’t surprised when it turned out a bunch of people voted for both. And is also the main reason why, way back when, we predicted Trump had a really good chance of winning.
Beyond the “shake things up part”, however, there’s always been significant difference: Obama preached hope and lifting people up, while Trump is all about fear and tearing things down.
We watched Trump’s rally for a Republican Senate candidate in Nashville the other night — the first one we’ve caught in its entirety for a while — and found that message hasn’t changed at all. Whether it’s ingrained, instinct, or a choice, the President seems frozen in the year 2016: from his reliving, at great length, his election night victory at the very beginning of the speech, to hacking away at the “fake news media” in the hall (while at the same time marveling how many showed up to cover him) somewhere in the middle, to building to a crescendo with “the wall”: Mexico’s still “going to pay for the wall and they are going to enjoy it, OK?”, to his still inexplicable playing of the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” at the very end. (He also spends an strangely large amount of time insulting the rapper Jay-Z.)
In between, Trump hews close to the “American carnage” rhetoric he invoked in his inauguration speech. (“That was some weird shit” George W. Bush is said to have said all the time.) A litany of all the things people like the “MS-13 lover” Nancy Pelosi are poised to pounce on and rip away if people stop living in fear of their neighbors for even one second. They’re coming to take away your guns and bring violent drug gangs into your home town. All the while scorning God and encouraging abortion.
Here’s a clip that’s representative of what we’re talking about. Trump describes how Democrats will destroy the 2nd Amendment, and at the same time MS-13 will cut people up into little pieces:
Some of this incessant negativity is understandable. Trump’s “at his best” entertainment-wise when he’s ripping people apart. (His campaign rallies are essentially insult comedy acts). And once a stand-up comic’s got all his best material working, he isn’t going to give that up for a long, long time. (You think comedians make up new jokes every night? They don’t).
Here’s Trump riffing on how stiff his Generals are (“I love these Generals”):
Even the best stand-up routines get stale after about a year. And Trump’s been President for just about 18 months. Shouldn’t he be moving away at least a little from his sustained abject fright-fest to a rosier vision of all the opportunity he’s bringing? Especially from a man who loves to brag on and play up his accomplishments? Like he did (BIG smile!) after meeting Kim Kardashian to talk about prison reform (???).
Or as the New York Post puts it…
Yes, Trump does get the economy and job growth into his rallies. But more often than not these are also focused negatively. Not: “Look at what I’ve done for you. Let’s build on it”. More like: “Look at what I’ve done for you. And now evil forces are amassing to take it all away.”
But it’s not surprising. In Trump’s zero-sum society, everyone’s primarily motivated by hate and revenge. They spend their days plotting to reverse anything anybody else accomplished. Because that’s who he is, and that’s what he does.
Thankfully, that’s not everybody in this country, including a lot of people who voted for Trump. Yes, his hardcore fans still adore him. But what about those people who aren’t core supporters, who voted for both Obama and Trump and are looking now for results and positive change?
(One footnote: while we don’t blame the President for this piece in Business Insider ridiculing some of America’s most beloved historic sites like The Alamo (“so small”) and the Liberty Bell (“small and broken”), we do think all the negativity from the top resonates and increasingly defines the times we’re in.)