How to take down Trump

The Thinker by Rodin

One of my nightmares is waking up the first Wednesday of November and finding out that Donald Trump is our president elect. There are lots of sane reasons to think that this simply can’t happen. The Donald’s negatives are through the roof. Last July a Washington Post/ABC News poll reported 61 percent of voters would never vote for Trump, but that was before he started running in earnest. In December, according to a Quinnipiac survey, fifty percent of registered voters last month said they would be embarrassed if he were our president. One thing that makes me leery is that people were saying the same things about Ronald Reagan but mainly by force of his personality plus that certain intangible something that people saw in his eyes he became president anyhow. We are still stuck in the Reagan wreckage, and arguably Donald Trump is the latest creature to crawl out of it.

There is no question that Trump has charisma, although lots of people see past it. So many factors affect who will be our next president. Much could hinge on the economy, but a lot of it will simply have to do with who gets nominated and how enthusiastic each party is about their candidate. Republicans probably won’t be enthusiastic if Trump is nominated, at least not establishment Republicans. But Trump though is going for a bigger audience and he is attracting principally disaffected whites, many of which haven’t voted in recent elections. They like his brash style and take charge attitude and see it as authentic, but mostly he plays on their fears, an unstated fear of losing white privilege. While Trump has high negatives, so does Hillary Clinton. Trump is a master persuader, Clinton not so much considering how President Obama managed to win the 2008 Democratic nomination. So yes, it’s possible, although I would like to take comfort in polls that suggest it just won’t happen.

Back in 2012 as that process went forward I offered my thoughts on how to deal with political bullies. Four years later the post still gets regular hits. The Republican presidential field has many bullies. Trump certainly is one but (among those still in the running) others include Ted Cruz, Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina. All are used to getting their way and will use tactics fair or foul to achieve it.

Trump though combines bullying with other non-bullying tactics including humor, demagoguery, flippant remarks and a well-practiced technique of staying in the news. Pretty much every day he will say or do something controversial specifically so he will stay at the top of the news. Most recently was a deprecating remark about Ted Cruz being born in Canada and how that could be a problem. While a lot of what he spews is crazy, it’s actually quite well thought out. Rest assured that Trump has lots of lines and tactics in reserve that he will use to cut down the competition. He has a keen sense of when to release a quip or barb so that it will be most wounding.

Trump is a different kind of bully, most of who have only a couple of tactics they repeat ad nauseam. With Trump, you never know what will come out of his mouth next, but you do know it will be something and it will be controversial and entertaining. Surprise is one of his unique weapons. Hillary Clinton, if she wins the Democratic Party nomination, is likely to be too civilized to go for the jugular like Donald. Trump excels at getting people off their gait and you know he has some waiting for her when their time is optimal. Ideally Clinton needs to get Trump off his gait, which no one seems to be able to do. She (or Bernie Sanders should he win the nomination) needs to channel their inner Molly Ivins. Also, she to plant a meme in the voters mine now that will grow and win. Identifying that meme and planting it early may be crucial to winning in November.

In 2012 the winning meme was that Mitt Romney didn’t understand ordinary working people. The surreptitious recordings that he thought 47% of us were moochers made it stick like superglue. Due to Trump’s wealth and disdain for all sorts of groups, this can potentially work again. However, it will be harder because Trump is drawing many of these people. Trump is running a Fox News election by creating a theme and hammering it in relentlessly. You must have been asleep for the last six months not to know it: Make America Great Again.

What could be Clinton’s meme? Perhaps she could borrow portions of Trump’s theme. Here is my suggestion for an election meme for the Democratic candidate: Make America Whole Again. She could appeal to the disaffected by promising to be the president not to push a liberal agenda but to bring America together again. She could say that if elected she will champion the cause of moderates. She could promise to end gerrymandering, which simply removes moderates from the political process. For example, she could promise to pass a law that requires states to draw districts that are politically neutral and are overseen by impartial federal judges. She could run a campaign for the people, not just those with wealth.

She could say that our current poisonous partisanship is a cancer on our society and our government, and that Trump is exploiting it. (In fairness, Bernie Sanders has been saying this throughout his campaign.) In fact, she could say that Trump embodies this cancer and is making it metastasize. Fortunately Trump has quite a record that would be easy to exploit, for example his statement earlier in the campaign that Americans were being paid too much and aren’t working hard enough. This is laughable to anyone actually in the workforce today.

“Make America Whole Again” is the perfect rejoinder to Trump’s slogan. It plays on his slogan but makes it positive and sounds like something your mother would say. It acknowledges that things have gotten seriously off track but that she is the right one to fix it. She could even say that as a woman and mother, she knows it is true. She can play on the lessons that she learned, from her failure by being too insular in her health care legislation that she championed as First Lady, to her work as Secretary of State to help bind the wounds of a complex world. She can recall the real America she grew up with, that was hopeful and where America’s leadership was earned and based on respect and our beneficence. Trump’s entire demeanor is disrespectful. It could be a campaign about restoring our respect by making our government representative of everyone.

A campaign message of wholeness and integrity I think would have real legs, because it is authentic, not weaselly. One thing that is totally clear about Donald Trump is he lacks integrity. If the 2016 campaign becomes an integrity meme, then I think Trump can be neutered.

Let’s put Willy Wonka back in the Chocolate Factory, M’kay?

The Thinker by Rodin

Willy, will you just go away?

Pretty much every day one of my Facebook friends, sometimes multiple Facebook friends, is posting a picture of Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder from the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, released in 1971) who is imperiously but smirkily telling me some perceived truth about the universe or human behavior. Willy never makes me laugh. Instead, Willy makes me want to slap his face silly, and I like Gene Wilder. He’s been the star of some of the funniest movies ever made, including The Producers and Young Frankenstein. He has got the crazy, manic but funny guy down cold. In fact, he owns this peculiar market. I’ve seen his Willy Wonka movie and it’s a decent one. It’s not the sort of children’s movie that you usually get in theaters and is delightfully subversive and naughty.

Forty two years later, Willy’s been wonked by pretty much anyone with a cause who wants to lord their superiority over your human weaknesses. Yes, you can create your own on the Willy Wonka Meme Generator site, plus you can view 267 pages of memes others have created by applying subtitles to the same Willy Wonka photo. In fact, I created one of my own to capture how I feel about these memes:

Willy Wonka wants to passive aggressively piss you off
Willy Wonka wants to passive aggressively piss you off

Now granted, I can be imperious too. Unlike some of the posters of these Willy Wonka memes, I am comfortable with the notion that I have imperfections. The impression I get is that many of those posting these Wonka captioned photos are that you want to lord it over us that because you feel you are our better. Only you cannot say so directly, so they let Willy tell you instead in his smirky, smarmy and captioned way. They “Share” it on FB as a joke, you see, but not because they actually mean to point fingers at you personally. Ha ha! It appears to be more likely they have some contempt toward some group not at all like them because they don’t do what they do, and they know better.

You can scan the WW meme site for plenty more of these, but among those that I have seen in Facebook personally are from vegans castigating people for eating meat, gun nuts, anti-gun nuts, Christians, anti-Christians, atheists, Democrats, Republicans, Tea Partiers, very skinny people upset that there are fat people out there without their ability to control portions, drunks, the abstemious — you get the picture. In case you don’t it won’t take you too much viewing of the WW meme site to figure it out. To put it politely, there are people out there with an axe to grind and hurt to inflict, and they are really quite upset and would prefer to hack away but they’re too nice. So they need a passive aggressive solution and use Willy Wonka to speak for them instead.

Which means, of course, that these posters are just as flawed as the people and groups they are indirectly skewering. Which is sort of the point of this post. We all have flaws. None of us are perfect, unless you count sons or prophets of God. So just by posting these Willy Wonka pictures, you are acknowledging a deficiency in yourself that you are probably too blind to see in yourself.

So here’s an idea: just don’t do it. Stop it. Or at least qualify your jabs. “I’m doing this to annoy you and people like you, but I acknowledge that I am not the fount of all wisdom.”

Vegans, acknowledge that you are pretty darn uppity about your eating habits. Acknowledge that being a vegan is not just about what you eat, but it’s an all-consuming lifestyle to you. You want everyone to be a vegan and you secretly think that anyone who is not is at some level indirectly cruel. (BTW, you don’t have to make every other Facebook post more Gospel about why being a vegan is so morally superior. We get it.)

The same goes for the rest of you. Gun nuts: not all of us who are for gun control want to live in a society where only police have guns. We just think that maybe having semi-automatic weapons with extended clips that can fire thirty shots in fifteen seconds is a bit too far when our founding fathers had inaccurate and slow to load rifles that depended on sparks from flint to work. Gun control nuts, acknowledge that there are plenty of responsible gun owners out there who don’t feel the need to turn their basements into arsenals or carry their assault rifles into Safeways in Charlottesville, Virginia. Christians, we unchurched understand you think we are going to Hell. We’ll take our chances. Atheists, as an agnostic I tend to sympathize with you guys, but you are as annoying and dogmatic as a born again Christian.

The bottom line is there are a lot of hurting people out there, so don’t keep piling it on, m’kay? And let’s put Willy Wonka back into his chocolate factory where he belongs and get him out of our meme generators.