An analysis based on an article by Will Wilkinson, The New York Times, 11/27/2020 and other sources.

Trump won more votes than any incumbent president in American history despite his dereliction of responsibility at a time of a once-in-a-century health crisis and economic devastation. Why?

  1. The logic of partisan polarization.
    • When party affiliation becomes a central source of meaning, reality itself becomes contested and verifiable facts turn into hot-button controversies. Elections can’t render an authoritative verdict on the performance of incumbents when partisans in a closely divided electorate tell wildly inconsistent stories about one another and the world they share.
    • “Mr. Trump has a knack for leveraging the animosities of polarized partisanship to separate his supporters from sources of credible information and inflame them with vilifying lies”; Will Wilkinson, The New York Times, 11/27/2020. Trump tapped into a deep vein of cynicism and bitterness that has always existed in this country. Until the mind-bending spell of polarization breaks, everything that matters will be fiercely disputed and even the most egregious failures will continue to go unpunished.
    • People vote based on party not the person. Families have voted Republican for generations.
    • In complicated times when we know so little about so much, the politics of division give people a place to call home. This “home” has a lot of rooms where voters supported Trump for various reasons. Nonetheless, the address is always fear, anger, and dissatisfaction. This “home” makes people feel less vulnerable.
      • Recommended Solutions: Biden going on Fox once a week – even if hosts are determined to polarize. He can talk about what this is doing for the country. Calling on all elected officials to resist Trumpism in all its forms is required.
  2. The strength of the juiced pre-Covid-19 economy. Trump’s economy simply rode the coattails of the Obama economy. “Mr. Trump’s relentless campaign to goose the economy by cutting taxes, running up enormous deficits and debt, and pushing the Fed into not raising rates was working for millions of Americans. We tend to notice when we’re personally more prosperous than we were a few years before”; Will Wilkinson, The New York Times, 11/27/2020. His supporters see him as strong on the economy, tough on economic “rivals” like China, and a booster for the blue collar workers whose socio-economic status is threatened by globalization.
    1. Recommended Solutions: Biden will work to provide economic relief for all people. A comprehensive plan to end the COVID-19 crisis will bring jobs back. A White House that projects a coherent, scientifically informed response to the crisis could ease the politicisation of masks and social distancing.
  3. The success of Mr. Trump’s denialist, open-everything-up nonresponse to the pandemic.
    • “Trump abdicated responsibility, shifting the burden onto states and municipalities with busted budgets. He then waged a war of words against governors and mayors — especially Democrats — who refused to risk their citizens’ lives by allowing economic and social activity to resume.”; Will Wilkinson, The New York Times, 11/27/2020. As months passed and with no new relief coming from Washington, financially straitened Democratic states and cities had little choice but to ease restrictions on businesses just to keep the lights on.
    • That seemed to concede the economic wisdom of the more permissive approach in majority-Republican states and fed into Mr. Trump’s false narrative of victory over the virus and a triumphant return to normalcy. “The Republican message couldn’t have been clearer: Workers should be able to show up, clock in, earn a normal paycheck, pay the rent and feed their kids. Democrats were telling the same workers that we need to listen to science, reopening is premature, and the economy can’t be fully restored until we beat the virus. But how does that help when rent was due last week?”; Will Wilkinson, The New York Times, 11/27/2020.
    • Trump gets the underdog sympathy. Trump is seen as constantly attacked by the media.
    • Democrats allowed Republicans to define the contrast between the parties’ approaches to the pandemic in terms of freedom versus exhausting, indefinite shutdowns.
      • Recommended Solutions: Comprehensive plan to end the COVID-19 crisis to bring back the economy. Prioritize both to keep people working and getting the virus under control.
  4. Failure of Democrats to communicate clear messages forcefully.
    • Struggling workers and businesses never clearly heard exactly what they’d get if Democrats ran the show, and Democrats never came together to scream bloody murder that Republicans were refusing to give it to them. Democrats see themselves as on the right side of history and don’t use the tactics used by Republicans. They don’t constantly hammer the same message nor scream about it.
      • Recommended Solutions: Democrats should do what the GOP would never have missed: call it the “Trump Virus.” Every Democrat, every time they speak, every Day until the public and the media start using the term casually without thinking. Democrats need to underscore the depth of the Republican failure by forcefully communicating what other countries had done to successfully control the virus.
  5. Mistrust of the Democrats to protect them.
    1. They believe that immigrants threaten their jobs and security.
    2. They believe we should bring our troops home and let other nations fend for themselves.
    3. They want education but don’t want college to be free for everyone.
    4. They believe that welfare encourages people to stay home and that social security is bankrupt and won’t be there for them.
    5. They want a strong U.S. defense and the right to own guns. They believe there is a plot against religious freedom.
    6. They strongly oppose abortion and don’t want to pay for it. They believe that planned parenthood should be shut down.
    7. They hated Hillary and hate Obama even more.
    8. They believe they were sold out by the Democrats to corporate interests because of their support for the corrupt H-1B program.
      1. Recommended Solutions: Clear messaging. Education. Trust must be re-built. Vigilance is required. Engagement is required. Communication and coordination are required.
  6. Black Lives Matter Movement. BLM movement and defund the police motivated many voters to support Trump based on BLM rhetoric as well as the protests and looting. Too many middle-class Americans saw only the looting, burning, and rioting and decided it was safer to vote for Trump and did so. Trump has constantly misrepresented the Black Lives Matter movement as a violent, left-wing extremist attempt to destroy America.
    1. Recommended Solutions: Re-define the BLM movement. Don’t make Defund the Police a primary message.
  7. Right Wing News Networks and Social Media spreading falsehood. Over the past few months, at least once-a-week Fox will have the main headline something like “Chaos in X city.” The way the news is reported makes it sound like that whole city is burning and there are mass riots. Day in, day out, Fox highlights anything that makes it look like Democratic states are out of control or some outrageous thing is happening there. So people on the right truly believe that liberals are violent trouble-makers. Severely biased reporting and misinformation, spread widely by right-wing media, like Murdoch News Network, Fox, social media like Facebook and their local church’s, concerted efforts to demonize liberals and instill fear of “socialism.” This has been decades in the making. Regardless of left/right, most people are clueless about how the government functions, what is up to states, what’s up to the Fed, what the president can/can’t do, what’s going on at their local level, etc. That makes them susceptible to believing misinformation and wanting changes that are unconstitutional.
    1. Recommended Solutions: In order to get the message out Democrats are going to have to build an equal media world to counteract. Tune out Twitter, and focus on ‘Facebook Moms’. Build a Facebook Brain Trust. Fight misinformation, but pick your battles. Comprehensive civics education.
  8. Republicans are much better at marketing. The Republican strategy has been to convince people that middle-of-the-road is far-left socialism and anything left of solidly right-wing is communism and not to be trusted, including straight-shooting news sources with verifiable facts to back them up. The GOP has for decades since Lee Atwater worked to sow dissent and dissatisfaction among the electorate. Newt Gingrich and Frank Luntz and their grasp of messaging and labeling Democrats and Democratic policies in negative terms. People have been conned by Republicans in a false narrative that the good old days of high wages for unskilled work is coming back. Mostly blue collar unskilled workers who have been left behind in a world where they can not earn a good living anymore by showing up at their union job. If you tell lies often enough, people will believe them. There no stronger emotions than fear and anger and these arguments are all based on someone who did this to you.
    1. Recommended Solutions: Democrats need to provide a simple, clear message and repeat it ad infinitum. Democrat politicians need to repeatedly explain to people what they want to accomplish, how it will serve people well, and why and how they are being thwarted by Republicans.
  9. Trump took advantage of being the sitting president. Trump used the trappings of the Presidency to campaign significantly more than in any candidate ever. No other President has made the Executive Branch and the Military such an integral part of their campaign. No other President has used the Presidential office to demonize the opposition or anyone who disagreed with him. Using the Presidential Office to repeatedly lie and misrepresents facts to aggrandize oneself obviously works.
    1. Recommended Solution: January 20, 2021.
  10. Democrats aren’t listening. DNC needs to listen to those in the “heartland” who are more in touch with what their less politically-inclined neighbors think. The Democrats’ emphasis on social issues was either irrelevant or offensive to rural people and farmers.
    • Recommended Solution: Democrats need to take some responsibility for a divided country.
  11. Trump the Reality TV Actor. Trump had been a celebrity since the eighties, his persona shaped by the best-selling book “The Art of the Deal.” “The Apprentice” mythologized him on a big scale, turning him into an icon of American success. Donald would not be President had it not been for that show. We are in a reality show. Politics has never been so spellbinding. “It’s vicariously watching someone act out and get away with it.” Many grew up loving Trump and liked his straightforward way of communicating. He represents a protest against the social forces of liberalism. It is about identity and feeling, having little to do with rational economic forces.
    • Recommended Solution: January 20, 2021.
  12. Racism and the Religious Right. Trump continues to give violent White Supremacist groups a pass, and even ally himself with them as he did with his “Stand back and stand by” instruction during the first debate. He has said “White people are the major victims of discrimination in the United State. The government is on everybody else’s side but theirs.” “Racial minorities have had it good for years in the United States because of all the government programs that help them get ahead of white people.” This allowed less educated whites to feel a sense of dignity and self worth – that being white does not mean needing to be constantly ashamed of who I am, people need to feel good about themselves. Their religion has conditioned them to believe in miracles. Some of them believe in miracles and they see Trump, but not the pandemic, as sent by god.
    1. Recommended Solution: If Democrats want this demographic to change, they have to view these people with compassion instead of contempt. Evangelical leaders like Beth Moore, the founder of Living Proof Ministries, a Bible-based women’s group from Houston, Texas and Karen Swallow Prior are starting to speak up against “Christian Trumpism”.
Categories: Politics

Abe Mazliach

I am passionate about Justice and Freedom for all people.


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