Remember the media turmoil in mid-December 2015 after Trump announced a ban on some Muslims? Remember how Nicole Wallace of MSNBC termed Trump’s comments as “primal desire” and how the show’s host Joe Scarborough announced that the Republican Party would ban Trump from being their nominee in the 2016 election?
Our view at that time was that Donald Trump was playing like Wayne Gretzky meaning he was positioning himself where the puck of American sentiment was going. Specifically we had written on December 12, 2015:
- “So the next time Donald Trump says something that you don’t like, do not react emotionally and call him names. Look at his move from a Gretzky angle and ponder whether that is yet another place where the sentiment will follow Trump and whether that will enhance Brand Trump over Brand Obama. At every step so far, Trump has gained more supporters with even Democrats coming over to his side. That is the sign of a smart, well-planned campaign for the long game and not a series of emotional tirades“
Fast forward a month later to January 23, 2016, one week before the Iowa caucus. It was a moment of two movements, a Reagan-like movement of Donald Trump and a FDR-like movement of Bernie Sanders. There was no question that Bernie had “tapped into something deep in the psyche of the American people, a nostalgia for the values of the last transformative president of the Democratic Party. And FDR was a more transformative president than Reagan“.
The static conventional view was Trump vs. Sanders would be a Reagan-FDR contest of ideas. But a dynamic forward view suggested something else to us:
- “You know what is amazing? It would actually be easier for Donald Trump to move left & adopt the FDR banner than it would be for Bernie Sanders to move right to appeal to Reagan supporters. But remember FDR was also born into privilege & wealth. Trump has already stated flatly that he supports Social Security & Medicare and that he would make them stronger. He has promised to replace Obamacare with a bigger & better program. Trump is already on record supporting universal health care. People hear this message from Trump even if political pandits don’t. That is why so many Democrats are moving to express their support for Donald Trump”
That is exactly what Donald Trump did this in his convention speech. He pivoted into FDR without leaving Reagan. Read the transcript of the Trump speech and you will hear FDR. The only man who saw it in media was Jeffrey Lord of CNN. He was ridiculed by the others in the CNN roundtable after Trump’s speech but he was absolutely correct.
Look at the message the American people heard from Donald Trump:
- “I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves … I have visited the laid-off factory workers, and the communities crushed by our horrible and unfair trade deals. These are the forgotten men and women of our country. People who work hard but no longer have a voice. I AM YOUR VOICE.”
If this isn’t FDR, then what is? The MSNBC, CNN crowd may not be able to see it but the American people saw it. That is why the instant reaction of those who heard it was overwhelmingly positive.
Every societal & political movement in history has begun by focusing on the forgotten, discarded segments of society. The message of such movements has to be profoundly simple. And that is what Trump did on Thursday as he has done during this entire campaign. And who best illustrated this fact on Thursday? CNN’s Anderson Cooper said “you ask a guy on the street what is Trump’s message? America First and Law & Order! What is Hillary’s message? That is Trump’s marketing genius“.
Such movements do not merely succeed on messages that resonate. Their success depends on the tin-ears, the callous indifference of the prevailing leadership. Demonstrating that callousness to the people is a necessary step for leaders of successful movements. Read what Ronald Reagan said in 1980*:
Now read what Donald Trump said to the American people in his speech:
- “I have no patience for injustice, no tolerance for government incompetence, no sympathy for leaders who fail their citizens. … When innocent people suffer, because our political system lacks the will, or the courage, or the basic decency to enforce our laws – or worse still, has sold out to some corporate lobbyist for cash – I am not able to look the other way. … Every day I wake up determined to deliver for the people I have met all across this nation that have been neglected, ignored, and abandoned.”
Whatever else President Jimmy Carter was, he was not corrupt. Thanks to FBI Director Comey, the majority of Americans believe that Hillary Clinton is guilty & that she got away because she is privileged the way the American people are not. Trump focused on this belief in his speech:
- “When the FBI Director says that the Secretary of State was “extremely careless” and “negligent,” in handling our classified secrets, I also know that these terms are minor compared to what she actually did. They were just used to save her from facing justice for her terrible crimes. In fact, her single greatest accomplishment may be committing such an egregious crime and getting away with it – especially when others have paid so dearly”.
- “When that same Secretary of State rakes in millions of dollars trading access and favors to special interests and foreign powers I know the time for action has come. … I know that corruption has reached a level like never before“.
It is not enough to show the faults of the prevailing leadership. A successful leader has to make a promise to the people, to the neglected, ignored & abandoned. Did Donald Trump make such a promise?
- “My pledge reads: “I’M WITH YOU – THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.” I am your voice. … So to every parent who dreams for their child, and every child who dreams for their future, I say these words to you tonight: I’m With You, and I will fight for you, and I will win for you.”
Yes, he did on TV. Now he has to go and make that promise in person to neglected communities across the country. Donald Trump has the winning message and he has earned his credibility over the past 14 months. Now he has to bring it all home. And this time he has allies in Governor Pence & a united Republican Party that can smell a victory.
* from a tweet of Lawrence McDonald (@convertbond)
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