October 23, 2018

When they're not fact-checking Trump, the Morning Joe crew spends a lot of time pointing out his tactics, and why they work.

First Scarborough gave a brief nod to Adolf Hitler, whose tactics also worked very well. Then he talked to Anthony Scaramucci about why he thinks Trump is so effective, despite his constant lies.

"What do you say to people, people like me, probably, who say he doesn't care about that because he's a man of the moment? He's an expert in resentment and he's using every chance he gets as president on the stump to use what he knows is the resentment out there among scads of people, working class people," Scarborough said.

"He tells them what they want to hear. He knows we'll react and he'll have the best of both worlds. He'll have their hearts and minds on the ground and he'll have them hating the media, who they hate anyway and it's working. it's altering, I think -- I don't know for how long --the presidency of the United States."

"You're almost in halftime, to use a football expression. I would be in the locker room saying the current game plan, his offensive strategy, is actually winning," Scaramucci said.

"You may not like him and find him distasteful. A lot of people do like him. You have to change the game plan. President Obama is a very articulate, very put-together guy. But his logical framework and the sentences he was using in this past thing that you just put on, is not going to work against Donald Trump. You have to change the dynamic and rethink the game plan if you want to beat him. Again, conceding every point you made about resentment, the geography and everything he does, it's all verifiable. There's no defense of it."

Which made me think of something Karl Rove once said -- that it doesn't matter what a political ad actually says, it's about what it conveys when you turn off the sound.

For years, I have tried to convey to progressives the importance of marketing your ideas. The real Achilles heel of the Democratic party is their insane insistence that all you have to do is point out the facts, and the votes will follow. No, no, no. That's not human nature.

I worked in sales for a decade, and I figured out early on that sales training would be really useful for Democratic activists. I proposed doing workshops on the topic again and again, only to be told our policies were all we needed. After all, we were on the side of right.

You see how well that worked out.

One of the first things you learn in sales training is to identify the prospective client's pain point. You couldn't just ask them, because most people can't articulate it, and were often too busy to sit down and think about it. So you had to have a conversation first. Then you need to repeat your solution, again and again.

Most of the sales people I worked with were Republicans. Most of them either played or coached team sports. They believed in working together toward a goal. At the same time, I began to notice that almost every progressive I knew either never played sports at all, or did independent, solitary sports, like running, hiking, or biking. That's a fairly important difference, because Republicans are much better at working together than Democrats. (As you may have noticed, we have a reputation for a circular firing squad.)

This is also true of our donors. Tell a Republican donor they need to support media infrastructure, and they write out the check. They trust their people to carry it out.

Tell a Democrat the same thing, and they still complain, "I gave a lot of money to Air America, and we got nothing." (Well, you did get a U.S. Senator and the top-rated cable news figure, but whatever.) They want complete control, they don't want to fund a larger idea.

The last Democrat I can think of who had a coherent message, an idea he sold to the voters, was Bill Clinton. As James Carville explained it in his book, "We're Right, They're Wrong," the new Democratic deal was that if you worked hard and did the right thing, and you couldn't make it anyway, the government should give you a hand up. Clinton didn't make it an outright slogan, but it was a good theme that ran throughout every campaign speech he made.

The Trump message is about the other side of the scale. It's about economic and white male grievance. "They" are hurting you and your family, "they" are taking your stuff.

Notice Trump never details policies, the way a Democrat would. He tells stories; he acts them out for his followers with passion and (nasty) humor. Yeah, he's also lying and shredding democracy, but he's always connecting with his voters -- their fear, and their anger.

Maybe we have enough angry voters to win this time. But if we do, and we want to keep control, we'd better learn to tell stories or we'll be in the minority again real soon.

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