Donald Trump is a master of branding. He took a “small loan of a million dollars”, bought some gold spray paint, and turned the Trump name into something synonymous with how poor people think rich people live. Sure, you could not afford to live in the Trump Tower where the penthouse has “over over-the-top surroundings that might make Liberace blush” and the “upper-level residential floors are not equipped with fire sprinklers”, but what about some Trump Steaks? They were best when “cooked well-done and smothered in ketchup.” If these “dreadful pieces of meat for a high price” did not kill you and you still had room left on your credit card, you could have looked for a class at Trump University on how to inherit millions from your father and turn it into six bankruptcies.
The key to successful branding is a consistent focus on messaging and Trump has brought this skill to the White House. Dare to bring up any criticism of the self-declared greatest president of all time, he and his supporters will quickly pivot to some proof of success, no matter how irrelevant. Trump cannot be a racist, “African American unemployment is the lowest ever recorded in our country.” He cannot be impeached because “look at the economy”. Ignore any concerns that “the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic” because he is “breaking all Jobs and Economic Records”.
To put it bluntly, the Democrats suck at messaging. Trump will declare that he has “accomplished an economic turnaround of historic proportions” and the rebuttal will include a detailed list of how Barack Obama righted a sinking economic ship. This will include the fact that the first 76 months of the record streak of consecutive months of net job growth occurred under Obama, that the stock market rose 148.3% during his presidency and that 2017 was the worst year for job creation since 2011. All of these are true, but none of it matters. Trump has told thousands of lies since taking office, do you think that his followers can be swayed by facts?
If progressives are going to win in the new reality that Trump has created, we need to make sure that we are playing the same game. No, we should not abandon the truth. We do, however, have to learn to break facts down into bite-sized earworms that any fourth grader can understand…