Donald Trump probably reads my blog first thing every day.
Until today, I figured Donald Trump never heard of me. He’s never mentioned me in his tweet storms. He’s never called me an idiot or a liar during a debate. He’s never pointed to one of my many egregious typos and tweeted:
“@whennessy left out the word ‘for’. Confused everyone. Worst blogger in politics. Just sad.”
(The guy has 2.6 6.35 million followers. I’ll send him a small donation if he tweet-storms me. His twitterhood is like a small country!)
In the past two years, I’ve talked about two broad themes.
In 2014, my big theme was the New Political Dichotomy. In 2015, my big theme was leading with the people we want to help (inspired by Arthur C. Brooks of American Enterprise Institute).
I never thought about Donald Trump when I ruminated on those themes. Donald Trump seems like the antithesis of both. Until you read quotes from interviews with people who voted for him in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Then it smacks you in the head. His voters see America’s greatest threat as the idiot political elites who don’t listen and don’t speak to them.
So it turns out I was 100 percent, totally right in both of those themes. More right than even I thought I was.
Let me do a quick summary of those two years in blogging for you.
The old battle lines of American politics have been erased. The battle is no longer Left vs. Right, Liberal (or Progressive) vs. Conservative, Democrat vs. Republican, Statism vs. Liberty, or any other old battle. They’re all over.
The new dichotomy is Elites (or Establishment) vs. Plebes (or the Rest of Us).
In this new dichotomy, winners will be those who can let go of the bitterness from the old dichotomy. We might have to work with old enemies because there’s a greater common threat. For example, in the old dichotomy, we would simply trash whatever came from the mouths of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. In the new dichotomy, we recognize that Sanders and Warren are 100 percent right about many of the problems they identify, but the solutions they offer are horrible. Instead of pretending (lying) that they’re wrong about corporations and big banks and crony capitalism, we should say “right on,” and offer the free market or liberty solution to the common problem. That’s the new dichotomy.
This is about message more than substance, because messaging is killing conservatism and liberty. Conservatism, Constitutional integrity, and liberty are all abstract concepts. People who worry about those things respond to those words, but that’s only about 19 percent of Americans. That leaves 81 percent rolling their eyes and shaking their heads at us as we defend our dogma. On August 10 I wrote:
While the dogma must have its defenders, preaching the dogma guarantees that we remain nothing more than an irritant to the Republican establishment and a godsend to progressives.
Why? Because most people don’t care about our dogma. They care about getting through life the best they can. And it’s not their job to figure out how our orthodoxy helps them do that.
Our job is to translate our principles into broad, moral direction for our country with specific goals that will make people’s lives better. Shouting “liberty,” repeating historical chants like “give me liberty or give me death,” doesn’t improve anyone’s life, even the speaker’s.
Ted Cruz talks about abstract concepts, but Ronald Reagan talked more like Trump. Reagan was milder than Trump, but he used language the same way. Here’s an example: In Cruz’s announcement speech at Liberty University, he mentioned “conservative” or “conservatism” six times. Ronald Reagan never used the term when he announced his run in 1979. Reagan talked to regular people about their lives. We latter day conservatives chat amongst ourselves about abstract concepts, then we wonder why 81 percent of Americans tune us out.
Donald Trump “Tells It Like It Is”
More accurately, people hear Donald Trump tell it like he sees it. Even if they don’t agree, people love the fact that he’s plainspoken and blunt. As he sees it, the elites who’ve been running America are stupid, and they’re getting their asses handed to them by America’s trading partners and enemies. And ordinary, working Americans pay the price for our leaders’ stupidity. When he’s president, he’ll build a wall to keep illegals out, and he’ll make Mexico pay for it. He’ll be the toughest trade negotiator God ever created, and he’ll negotiate deals that will make American companies want to move jobs back to the U.S. of A. Millions and millions of great jobs people can be proud of. He’ll build a military so strong and so well trained and so well equipped that nobody will ever even consider messing with us ever again. And he doesn’t want people dropping dead in the streets because they couldn’t afford a doctor. Terrorists? He’ll torture their asses. You have a country or you don’t.
You can’t get tastier concrete at Ted Drewes. Not a single abstract principle in the mix. Agree or disagree with his positions or his temperament, the man speaks in words you can chew.
The reason Donald Trump has the broadest and deepest support in the 2016 race is because he speaks in concrete imagery from the perspective of the Plebes in the New Dichotomy. Trump leads with the people he wants to help. There’s nothing more concrete than a wall. There’s no one who deserves more help than someone who wants to work and can’t find a decent job.
[Tweet “You can’t get tastier concrete at Ted Drewes. “]
And nothing builds loyalty like helping someone help himself.
I’m not saying Trump is a conservative. I’m not saying he’ll make a great president. And I’m not saying Trump actually believes everything he says. I really don’t know. I am saying he probably reads my blog and decided to put to the test my ideas of a new dichotomy expressed in concrete terms about the people he wants to help.
And so far, the test is working, so I guess I was right. Good for me!
Too bad more candidates don’t read me.
UPDATE: David Limbaugh echoes many of my points on messaging, specifically for Ted Cruz. In Suggested Cruz Campaign Reboot: Show, Don’t Tell, Limbaugh says:
Ted Cruz has everything it takes to be an extraordinary – even historic – president and lead the nation out of its current quagmire.
He just needs to say what he’s going to do, in concrete terms, and underscore why he can be counted on more than all others to do it – because of his record, his commitment to action and his demonstrated courage in fighting establishment power brokers who will resist him.
The whole article is excellent. You should go read it.
NOTE: I removed a photoshopped version of the fake Trump tweet. It caused way too much confusion.