If my headline sounds vaguely familiar it’s because it mirrors Robert Fulghum’s 1986 bestselling book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”
Among Flughum’s most popular “uncommon thoughts” was how behaviors first learned in kindergarten such as playing fair, sharing, cleaning up your own mess, and saying you’re sorry when you hurt someone, are foundations upon which one builds a happy, balanced, and successful life.
My twist on Flughum’s famous title relates to the candidacy of Donald J. Trump with a little kindergarten thrown in.
Imagine the presidential announcement speech Trump gave on June 16, 2015, as his first day of “political kindergarten.” Then take six minutes and read the speech. When you are finished shaking your head in disbelief, you are likely to agree that all you need to know about Trump’s demise and (impending) defeat you learned from that speech.
Trump’s now-infamous campaign launch speech explains everything about the Trump we have come to know and love (or loathe). All his bombastic personality traits have been on display over the last 16 months. But, for the campaign’s grand finale and in his own words, “the shackles have been taken off.” Now Trump has morphed into a chaos candidate on the verge of a landslide defeat with the Republican Party reluctantly clutching his tattered coattails.
Rereading his announcement speech also reveals that Trump deserves credit for remarkable consistency, having never improved or matured as a candidate.
From the moment he descended the gilded Trump Tower escalator on his way to the speech podium, up until this writing, Trump’s style, substance, and command of the facts have never changed nor expanded beyond a few general and repetitive statements. That makes his announcement speech a political time capsule.
Ironically, even though Trump himself did not change, he changed the scope of the entire election along with the nation, media coverage, the Republican Party, the American people, and even the Russians!
The only good news about Trump’s announcement speech is that it will be a big timesaver for Republican leaders during their post-election/post-mortem sessions. For instead of banging their heads together trying to figure out what went wrong, all they need to do is read the speech and the after-action report practically writes itself!
As a longtime loyal Republican, I can assist with writing the GOP report by offering a list of words and phrases called the “impression list.” The list comprises all the first impressions Trump made on voters while giving his announcement speech, setting the tone for his entire campaign.
Trump announcement speech impression list:
Does not play well with others
Lacks a political filter
Excessive use of the pronoun “I”
Desperately in need of a speech writer
Does not act like a serious presidential candidate
Lacks presidential demeanor
Lacks policy substance
Likely to repel voters
Will shake things up
Media ratings magnet / Likely to steal all the thunder
Since Trump’s June 2015 announcement speech, every word or phrase listed above describes what the American electorate witnessed or felt during the campaign because, as I said, Trump’s consistency has been uncanny.
Now, let’s now examine three quotes from the speech and then refer back to the list. All three reinforce the premise in my headline. But it was the following statement that haunted Trump’s campaign from the second the words left his mouth:
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. 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.
Watching Trump say that on live television, I immediately thought, “There goes the Hispanic vote!” The fact is demographic voter data shows that for a Republican to be elected president, he or she must win at least 47% of the national Hispanic vote. Then poof, in one 20-second rant, Trump destroyed all the Republican Party’s Hispanic outreach rendered since Romney won only 27% of the Hispanic vote in 2012.
From the “impression list,” Trump’s inartful Mexican statement branded him with “lacks a political filter,” and “lacks presidential demeanor” to put it mildly. These two major negative “branding phrases” may have begun with his much-maligned Mexican comments, but later applied to numerous Trump-isms which popped up over the last year slowly undermining and unraveling his chances of ever winning 270 electoral votes.
Next is a Trump foreign policy gem about terrorism:
Islamic terrorism is eating large portions of the Mideast. They’ve become rich. I’m in competition with them.
What the #@& does that mean? Let’s go to the “impression list” where we apply incoherent, inarticulate, uninformed, and desperately in need of a speech writer, to name just a few. And once again, repeat after me: “Aall we need to know we learned….”
For my last selection, I chose an example of how Trump, right out of the starting gate, tried to antagonize and denigrate other Republican presidential candidates (and later high-ranking party leaders.) It is important to note that Trump made the following statement within the first minute of his announcement speech:
The other candidates — they went in, they didn’t know the air conditioning didn’t work. They sweated like dogs. They didn’t know the room was too big because they didn’t have anybody there. How are they gonna beat ISIS? I don’t think it’s gonna happen.
Yikes! That nonsensical statement exploded the “impression list.” It was the opening act of an obstinate candidate who, we found out too late, is totally resistant to change even after his campaign began its slow-motion meltdown.
Sadly, Trump’s announcement speech stands as living proof that he flunked kindergarten etiquette. Circling back to Flughum’s theory, during his campaign, Trump never learned to clean up his own mess and has never said he was sorry after hurting someone (or a group of someones.)
In the end, Trump’s likely defeat will be written off as an historical fluke. He will be viewed as a charismatic, untested, one-time outsider candidate who spearheaded a successful movement of fed-up voters. Through his celebrity status, he managed to parlay mass frustration into winning the Republican presidential nomination but, along the way neglected to learn the basics of kindergarten-level political behavior.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the editors.
Cross-posted at RedState