[Ed. –This post originally ran on July 8, 2015, but in light of the current race for the White House, it seemed to bear repeating.]
The Republican Party is in desperate need of a media strategy to accommodate presidential hopeful Donald Trump as he quickly morphs into the candidate for the fed up.
For the purposes of this piece, the “fed up” is operationally defined as “concerned hard-working, tax-paying, mostly middle-aged American citizens who see their country slipping away even faster than Democrats’ support for Hillary Clinton.”
Over the Fourth of July weekend, I heard comments that could represent the feelings of a vast number of Republican base voters.
On the extreme end, one man said he is convinced that Donald Trump will be the 2016 Republican presidential nominee. He thinks Trump is the only candidate who “tells it like it is” while “everyone else speaks bulls_ _t.” At a different gathering a woman said that she and her husband are supporting Trump because they believe “he can save our nation.”
There is no doubt that Trump is a polarizing candidate (perhaps even more polarizing than Hillary Clinton, if that is possible.) However, recent polls show that he is resonating with growing numbers of fed up Republicans because he is perceived as a fix-it man of action. A man who is not afraid of ANYTHING in his path — certainly not the media, Hispanics, Mexicans, NBCUniversal, ESPN, Serta, Univision, Macy’s, other Republican candidates, NASCAR, Obama, Hillary, Putin, the Chinese, Iranians or even the Islamic State.
Fame, fortune, and his rock-star celebrity status have psychologically insulated Trump from the barrage of non-stop negative media coverage stemming from the inartful statements he made about Mexican illegal immigrants at his June 16 presidential announcement with which, by now, everyone is all too familiar:
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best . They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
And as if he needed to double down on those comments, Monday, Trump said:
Infectious disease is pouring across the border.
(Now his overworked legal team must contend with broken contracts from several of the aforementioned corporations and Trump’s billions might turn into millions before all this is over.)
But none of this has softened Trump out on the campaign trail where he is emboldened by enthusiastic crowds. He passionately speaks about his love for America and how he is the only candidate who has the skills, brains, experience and wherewithal to make “America bigger, and better and stronger than ever before.”
It is precisely this old-fashioned, “take the hill,” American brand of bravado that makes Trump so appealing to many Republicans and why he is becoming an American hero of last resort for the fed up.
Supporters of Trump downplay his brash personality, flamboyant brand, and off-the-cuff speaking style because they perceive him as authentic.
Unfortunately, these days authenticity is a rare trait among politicians who use focus groups to test every sound bite. Ironically, “authentic” is the word also associated with socialist Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders — a reason why he is gaining on Hillary Clinton in recent polls. Clinton, of course, is the antithesis of authentic.
Trump and Sanders are 180 degrees apart in politics, policy solutions, personality and lifestyle, but the capitalist and socialist actually have much in common.
Both are not afraid to confront the “powers that be” within their own parties.
Both are thorns in the side of their respective party’s front-runners, Bush and Clinton.
Both are likely to have a huge impact on the 2016 primary campaign as they push difficult social, economic, and political issues to the forefront — while nudging their opponents further to the left or the right.
In Trump’s case there has been much chatter about how he hurts the Republican brand. But how can you hurt a brand that is an undefined package of leaderless mush with an expired sell date? The only brand the GOP now represents is late-night comedic material generated by two mini-vans full of presidential candidates.
Like it or not, part of Trump’s appeal is that he is his own brand. And, before his June 16 presidential announcement it stood for success, skillful deal-making and hard work.
But, after all the recent Trump-brand degradation, his brand may yet be resuscitated due to the widely reported shooting death of a beautiful young woman last Thursday in San Francisco. While strolling along a popular tourist pier she was gunned down by an illegal immigrant with “seven felony convictions who was deported five times to his native Mexico” allowing Trump to now play his vindication card.
The Daily Mail reported on Trump’s response to the shooting:
From his Twitter page, the would-be Republican nominee shared a link to coverage of the attack and said: ‘Our Southern border is totally out of control. This is an absolutely disgraceful situation. We need border security!’ He then continued: ‘Our Southern border is unsecure [sic]. I am the only one that can fix it, nobody else has the guts to even talk about it.’
Perhaps this tragic shooting will soften some of the media blowback from Trump’s infamous announcement remarks. But we can be sure that Trump will continue to use this senseless shooting and another murder from last week involving a previously deported illegal immigrant in Texas — to his political advantage.
One can only speculate about when or how Trump’s presidential campaign will end. But in the short-term he will be the main attention-getter on crowded debate stages, with the media in general, and on the campaign trail, where his “man of action” message appeals to legions of fed up Republicans desperate to save their country.
Meanwhile the Republican National Committee is clueless how to stop or even control Trump since “You’re Fired” would likely back-fire and result in a lawsuit.
Cross-posted at RedState