Mark Souder: Welcome to Trump World
Monday, December 05, 2016 8:51 AM
FORT WAYNE – Many were predicting that when Donald Trump lost, he would form his own television network. Instead he won, and has taken over all the networks and all other media as well. He is a marketing machine.
President-elect Donald Trump at Carrier on Thursday, announcing he had saved 1,100 jobs. (HPI Photo)
1.) Trump is terrific at promoting his brand. That is what he’s always done. Members of the media have incredible angst over whether or not their constant coverage of him led to his victory. Yet they know that Trump has an intuitive ability to sense how to insert himself into every hot story. In old-fashioned media lingo, he sells newspapers. Trump is financially helping them at a time when media needs all the help they can get. Thus the angst.
2.) Trump uses his skill tactically, not just randomly. When there is a bad story about his personal life, or finances, he tweets some greatly exaggerated statement and media leaps at the bait. For example, the New York Times did a story on his financial conflicts but Trump tweeted the allegation that millions of illegal voters had deprived him of a popular vote victory. His supporters jumped to his defense, critics poured out scorn and outrage, which buried the more substantive story.
3.) Trump knows how to utilize the weekend news cycle. His tweets often are just before or during the weekend, which historically are slower news days. They also feature the Sunday talk shows that often define the past and future week’s news cycle. He has thrown all media off rhythm.
4.) Trump uses tweeting to deliver “red meat” to his followers regardless of what he is doing on his policy side. So, for example, he floated possibly revoking citizenship to Americans who burn our flag. He selected Steve Mnuchin for secretary of the Treasury, who used to work for George Soros, and had dinner with Mitt Romney.
5.) Trump understands that media has dramatically changed. He pays close attention to traditional media, understands how it impacts opinion leaders, and then leaps over them to the mass market through social media.
Can this Trump reality series obsession last, or will there be burnout? As an intense Notre Dame football fan, this year has made me fully aware that fast starts do not represent a complete game. Trump critics are worried that Trump may instead be the new Chicago Cubs – start fast, stay ahead, win the World Series in the seventh game and build a dynasty. Is Tom Ricketts as undersecretary of Commerce an omen?
To say that Trump has broken through the traditional limits of modern political debate is ancient commentary at this point. But I believe the Trump obsession is likely to sustain itself for a significant period of time. While total exposure and debate for24 hours a day, every day, certainly would normally lead to rapid burnout, peak election fever is rolling on unabated.
I believe it is because Trump has managed to make himself something beyond everything just being about Trump. It was Trump condos, Trump casinos, Trump steaks, Trump Air, Trump University, etc. He has morphed into interjecting the Trump “brand” into every part of our lives. His incendiary tweets force constant public debates on race, war, sex, crime, and money. Liberals respond in typical knee-jerk ways, or punch first, and millions join in the fray. We aren’t debating little things; we are debating big things.
As a bonus, we get Downton Abbey American-Style. What are Ivanka and Melania wearing, where will they live, do they have their fingernails out to claw each other, what about the former wives, what past scandal will emerge next week, are there pictures or video? Betting that Americans will tire of this denies what the entertainment industry sells.
The most amazing cultural phenomenon for over a year now has been the musical “Hamilton.” Hamilton is more famous now than when he lost his duel with Aaron Burr. With the aid of lecturing liberals who walked on the message of the play, Trump managed to insert himself into the Hamilton arena. Trump’s comments were not about the substance of the play. The liberal response undermined that message and let Trump turn it into a tapping of the deep-seated anger of many of us have about constantly being badgered while trying to escape.
Liberals seem slow to recognize that the flag-burning flap is not unrelated to Colin Kaepernick interjecting his protest into our enjoyment of football. This is Merle Haggard singing “I’m Proud to Be an Okee from Muskogee” in political terms. I’m no Trump admirer but I too am sick of all this ingratitude about our nation and the lack of understanding of what made us great (absorbing people into American Exceptionalism, not becoming internationalists). Let’s make America great again. Oops, Trump already said that.
In other words, Trump has made this not just about Trump. He just knows how to tap into deep divisions. Will he deepen them? Maybe. The arrogance of liberals is that they don’t seem to understand that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama each for eight years also deepened them. Liberals seem to think that “healing divisions” means that they prevail on social mores, drug laws, internationalism, government running the economy, etc. As long as it moves their way, and not in a conservative direction, it is “healing.”
So far Trump has picked a cabinet and top advisors from within the broad range of conservatism, from Wall Street to legislators. He has selected people in line with his views to head the relevant agencies. He has put intelligent and knowledgable people in “line” management positions and chosen some bomb throwers in “advisory staff” positions. Obama did the same thing, and his appointments were as left-wing as Trump’s are conservative.
Trump’s appointments do not please liberals but Trump won. Not Jill Stein. He’s even figured out how to work with Congress: Hire them, or their wife. All things considered, Trump is off to a good start. Who knows about tomorrow. Welcome to Trump World.
Souder is a former Republican congressman.