Sound Advice?

If we are to correct the situation in Congress, if we seek either a democratic majority in one or both houses, or at least a better balance, if we seek to throw out the members of Congress who are in the pockets of big business and lobbyists such as the NRA, then democrats are going to need to get busy now.  It is easy, and I have engaged in it myself, to denigrate Trump based on his outrageous behaviours, but is that the most effective way to ensure our success in the November mid-term elections?  Perhaps not.  Can we learn from the lessons of a similar situation in another country?

Yesterday, I read New York Times writer David Leonhardt’s January 30th column titled, How Trump’s Critics Should Respond  in which he posits that the best way to counteract Trumpmania is to treat him like a normal politician who’s failing to deliver. Rather than focus on the circus aspect of this presidency, Leonhardt opines, we need to address facts to counter his many failures. If you think about it, it makes sense.  Trump’s many odious qualities are, after all, what won him the election (along with some help from the Russians, voter apathy, gerrymandering, and James Comey’s ‘October surprise’).

“The trouble with constantly disparaging him — as a person and as the Worst President Ever — is that it doesn’t win over very many Americans.”

There seems to be truth in this, though those of us who have engaged in such disparaging are hard-pressed to understand why his supporters are not appalled at his many, many blunders.

Berlusconi

Silvio Berlusconi

In his column, Leonhardt references an essay written shortly after Trump’s election by Luigi Zingales of the University of Chicago.  Leonhardt refers to Zingales’ essay as ‘the smartest essay’ written on the topic, and while I cannot claim to know whether it is the smartest, I would certainly say it provides food for thought.  Zingales is from Italy, where a wealthy, businessman demagogue, Silvio Berlusconi, served as Prime Minister during 1994–1995; 2001–2006; and 2008–2011. Berlusconi is famous for his populist political style and brash, overbearing personality. In his long-time tenure he was often accused of being an authoritarian leader and a strongman. Sound familiar?

Here are a few excerpts from Zingales’ essay, though I encourage you to read it in its entirety.

“Now that Mr. Trump has been elected president, the Berlusconi parallel could offer an important lesson in how to avoid transforming a razor-thin victory into a two-decade affair. If you think presidential term limits and Mr. Trump’s age could save the country from that fate, think again. His tenure could easily turn into a Trump dynasty.

Mr. Berlusconi was able to govern Italy for as long as he did mostly thanks to the incompetence of his opposition. It was so rabidly obsessed with his personality that any substantive political debate disappeared; it focused only on personal attacks, the effect of which was to increase Mr. Berlusconi’s popularity. His secret was an ability to set off a Pavlovian reaction among his leftist opponents, which engendered instantaneous sympathy in most moderate voters. Mr. Trump is no different.

We saw this dynamic during the presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton was so focused on explaining how bad Mr. Trump was that she too often didn’t promote her own ideas, to make the positive case for voting for her. The news media was so intent on ridiculing Mr. Trump’s behavior that it ended up providing him with free advertising.

The Italian experience provides a blueprint for how to defeat Mr. Trump. Only two men in Italy have won an electoral competition against Mr. Berlusconi … Both of them treated Mr. Berlusconi as an ordinary opponent. They focused on the issues, not on his character.

And an opposition focused on personality would crown Mr. Trump as the people’s leader of the fight against the Washington caste. It would also weaken the opposition voice on the issues, where it is important to conduct a battle of principles.

Finally, the Democratic Party should also find a credible candidate among young leaders, one outside the party’s Brahmins.”

This is likely the soundest advice we could get, yet it may be the most difficult to heed.  The temptation is strong to focus on Trump’s affairs, his belligerence, his name-calling morning tweets, where his policy failures fade into the background.

Leonhardt, in his column, points out one such failure that we have largely ignored:  the loss of jobs at the Carrier plant in Indianapolis a few weeks ago.  The same Carrier plant that became an icon in Trump’s campaign after he visited it and announced that he had worked a deal to save jobs at the plant.  Two other plants in the area are also laying off employees.  But did we hear about this?  No, instead we heard about Trump paying a porn star to remain silent about an affair.

It makes sense, when you think about it, that the only way the democrats are going to see victory in November is to find good candidates who are above scandal, and who run based on facts and issues, with a solid platform that serves the nation and its people.  While I am a realist, and I know that the temptation is too great to resist calling out Trump’s clownish actions and speech, we need to also remember that this only plays into his hands, as it mobilizes his base to come to his defense.  Every single race in November is going to take hard work, patience, common sense, and restraint.  But this we must do, for the stakes are too high not to.

22 thoughts on “Sound Advice?

  1. We have an allied problem here. Ideally the current government should be a sitting target.
    However the opposition The Labour Party has two wings (well actually, as usual it’s about twenty-two, but let’s keep it simple)
    A. The Establishment wing who would prefer it no great rocking of boats took place, and let’s all try and get along, and who may or may not actually want to do something, or other…. as the case may be. And let’s try not to upset too many people, because we do so want the vote, please (Santa)
    B. The Jeremy Corbyn wing- Now whereas Mr C is a sort of pleasant fellow who means well, and does say some jolly important things, in a low key way; part of his following have less self-control than a van full of bad tempered dogs on a hot day; when it comes to tolerance and venom…well hello brothers and sisters on the Alt Right!
    As for coherent policies, well Labour may well have them, it’s possible, but no one in the General Public knows about them. Yes you could go and visit their website, which is not the point, they are not getting a message out there.
    Meanwhile as usual both wings snarl and snap at each others.
    Why is why Mrs May and her….errr….team???? are still there.
    Are you listening Democratic Party?

    Liked by 1 person

    • AAAaaaaarrrrgggghhhh … and Filosofa runs screaming into the night, holding her head and tripping over tree roots, perhaps even howling at the moon in practice for a future incarnation. And I thought two parties was impossible to keep up with!!! But no, dear Roger, neither the democrats nor the republicans are listening, for they are all too wrapped up in their own self-importance to believe that what goes on ‘cross the big pond can possibly be as important as their petty squabbles. 🐺 🌙

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good advice, Jill (and David and Luigi), but what keeps me up at night nowadays is the Democrats’ failure to hone a coherent, simple message. This whole “stronger together” thing ain’t gonna cut it, and as long as Democratic candidates are as tainted by Goldman Sachs money as Republicans, there’s a huge hypocrisy quotient. That’s why Bernie was so successful.

    Where’s the next Bernie?!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I fully gree with you, Kevin! I have three major areas of concern:

      1) we need candidates who are whistle-clean, who the republicans and the Russians cannot find a shred of dirt on
      2) the democratic party needs a message, and they seem to be adrift. I don’t think they have quite recovered from the shock of losing in 2016, bu they need to get their collective posteriors in gear and show a cohesive, clear, intelligent platform
      3) the candidates must resiste the temptation to get in the mud with the republicans. This cannot turn into a mudfest, but rather the candiddates must remain focused on communicating policies, platforms and ideologies.

      Ask me again why I am losing sleep? 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Part of the problem, as I see it, Jill, is toning down the language that is used to describe Dastardly Transgression’s transgressions. He has not made “blunders” as you so gently describe his political actions, he is committing outright political fiascos! Don’t let him off the hook. Call a crime a crime, not a blunder. Use straightforward language, not mushy peices. (Have you ever heard of the English delicacy, mushy peas? There is a play on words in there, but it goes over like a lead balloon if you don’t know what mushy peas are, lol.)
    But besides calling a shovel a way to move shit, you, Mr. Leonhardt, and Mr. Zingales are all correct in your assessment and prognostication for your coming election .
    Pound the inefficiency of Trumponomics into the American Electorate. Expose the truth about what his tax reforms mean to Middle America. Publish the real results of what income inequality is doing to America’s poor, and what it is doing for the wealth of the already over-rich.
    And keep it up like machinegunfire. Be louder than Republican bullshit, like the Nunes memo. Outshout the president, he is criminally responsible for destroying America.
    And as far as finding young Democrats who are above reproach, well, good luck. That piece of the puzzle, I fear, might be the hardest piece to find… But I do wish you luck…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Jill,

    I couldn’t agree more with David Leonhardt, Mr. Zingales and you. This approach would allow the Democrats to take the higher road. The president will always win if the democrats get in the dirt with him.

    If I had a magic wand, I would have the democrats point how how he treats others, with specific examples, how his policies have done harm with average day Americans with details. There is no need to personally attack him.

    I would do a lot more educating as to how immigrants are not criminals or leeches of the welfare system, or how income inequality works and how the 2017 tax cuts bill exacerbates this as well as the US deficit.
    I would point out that we all want a booming economy but one which is fairer to everyone, in addition, I would rermind republicans that most voters want everyone to be treated with decency as well. This is not a binary choice.

    As I was visiting Italy in 2015 and 2016, when I was asked about Mr. Trump, I would tell them that he was the American version of Silvio Berlusconi.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so very right, dear Gronda. I keep thinking of Michelle Obama’s words: “when they go low, we go high”. Easier to say than to do, but you are so right … the democrats will not win elections by mud-wrestling. We must remain focused on communicating policies, platforms and ideologies. Hard to stay focused when there is so much dirt to react to, but we must. Hugs!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am not fan of trump’s, but the democrats are no better. As a lifetime Patron level member of the NRA, I did take them to task for not supporting a true conservative candidate for President – one outside of the two “main stream” candidates we had last November. I think their message would have been better serves endorsing a conservative, Constitutional candidate than either of the two major parties.
    The democrats are far too liberal for my tastes and a the republicans lost me with their movement towards isolationism and populism. The only way I will vote for either major party is if someone credible runs an opposition campaign in the republican primaries in three years.
    Thanks for the insight to how to deal with a president who, is by all accounts, a start raving lunatic. For myself, I’m pledging to just stop writing about him and focus my energies on bettering myself I speak out against him at the ballot box!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are wise, when you say “I speak out against him at the ballot box.” You are quite right … everything else is detritus, but unfortunately the detritus often drives people’s votes. For the record, I am an independent, though many think I am a registered democrat because my views are liberal. My general stement of belief would be that everyone deserves to be treated fairly and equally, that no one religion, race or gender is better than another.

      It is rare that a conservative visits my blog, and rarer still that one comes back for a second look, which makes you unique. I think you are more moderate than most who have dropped in here. So, I hope you won’t mind a couple of questions in the interest of me genuinely trying to understand the conservative view. 1) You say the democrats are far too liberal for your tastes. May I ask in what way? What policies or ideologies of the democrats do you disagree with, and why? 2) Who, among currently-known potential candidates, ie., members of Congress, state legislators or governors, would you support as a potential presidential candidate? And 3) at some point in the future would you be interested in doing a guest post for me?

      I genuinely do wish to understand the differences and also try to promote civil discourse that cuts through the polarization and ugliness that is currently seen. I think that as long as people respect each other, take time to actually listen to the other side, we can come to a meeting of the minds. Yes, I’m a bloomin’ optimist, but hey … somebody has to be, right?

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment … I appreciate it greatly.

      Like

  6. It sends a message that the only faults you can find with Mr Trump or anyone else is their background and past behaviour; it is skeleton in the cupboard politics and implies you have no other reasons for condemnation. The next unfortunate step is to silence any opposing position by shouting them down or refusing them a platform.
    This does not mean we cannot expect good moral behaviour from those who claim positions of authority , but these days a wide spectrum of acceptable behaviour is condoned by western democracies within the law of the land.

    Liked by 2 people

    • As always, you speak good sense. We are allowing emotional response and reaction to dominate, and it does nothing to help bring the two sides together. But it would seem that we have polarized so far that there is no way back. Any thoughts on how to fix the problem? Good to see you, Kertsen … I’ve missed you!

      Like

      • Always approach a repub with right hand extended, and left hand relaxed and empty at your side. Keep the handcuffs ready for when he/she extends their hand, and you can lock yourselves together until you can beat some sense into their block heads!
        But seriously, make the first move, and keep it friendly. Be sincere. Catch them off guard. And don’t be a fraid to enter the lion’s den. In my experience most people have at least one decent bone in their bodies, and they are more willing to expose it in the safety of their own home, or office. Draw that bone out into the open. Give it some room to grow. Probably it won’t change anything, but at least you will have tried.

        Like

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