About 40% of voters approve of the job Donald Trump is doing. I don’t care if this makes you upset or thrilled. My question is, what do you think we should do about it?
You should read Diane Hessan’s terrific analysis in the Boston Globe’s opinion section today, based on her ongoing conversations with a panel of 450 voters from across the political spectrum, half of whom voted for Trump. Diane’s work includes two unique qualities: it’s unbiased, reporting without taking a partisan position, and it’s full of actual quotes from voters.
She found that over 90% of her Trump votes still support him. Here’s a sample of what they told her:
“You have to admit, Trump has done more in the 14 months he’s been in office to further the best interests of the country than anyone on the left can accept.” — Jack, California
“The establishment is turning out to be the Titanic — and the rogue captain is off on a speedboat.” — Theresa, Virginia
“[Regarding the tax cut:] Maybe an extra $252 every month isn’t much to her or to the liberal elites, but to me, it has been life-changing.” — Hope, Ohio
“Down here, there is a feeling of momentum. In our churches and even in our bars, people are talking about more business, more pay and less taxes. I know that there are other issues in the country, but when you are in debt and trying to feed your family, not much else matters.” — Ron, Mississippi
“I think Trump lies daily, and by that I mean, he’s a classic salesman. . . . Do I think he has stuff in the closet that he doesn’t want out and may lie about? Yes. I couldn’t care less. He never preached he was a saint and then all of the sudden we found out he had horns. We all knew this and accepted it.” — Kenny, Louisiana
“To me, he is very immature, but performance-wise, he’s doing a great job.” — Lucinda, Kentucky
Your outrage bores me
Did these quotes make you upset?
I don’t care.
At this point, outrage is boring. If you’re a progressive, sure, go ahead, say how awful these people are. Tell me how upset you are with Trump. Tell me what a bad president he is.
It’s not that I disagree with you. I just don’t see the point. I don’t believe any of the president’s opponents are in danger of sliding back towards liking him. Nor do I think that any of the people like the ones that gave Hessan these quotes are going to suddenly join you in your outrage.
But I am interested in an exercise, not in more boring outrage, but in analytical thinking. If you can think straight when you’re upset, you’ll be much more effective.
So, imagine for a moment that you are a Democratic or Republican strategist. Accept that attitudes like the ones Hessan has described are real and that, if they haven’t changed in the year since Trump has been in office, they’re not going to change now. What should you do?
What should Democrats do?
You are a Democratic strategist. Here are some possible strategies for Democrats and the Democratic party. Which would you use?
- Be as loud and outraged and resistant as possible. Nominate candidates in favor of single-payer health care, free state colleges, higher taxes on Wall Street, and repealing the Second Amendment. Take advantage of this moment to steer the country as far left as possible.
- Make Trump the issue. Have all candidates talk about Trump and his transgressions as much as possible. Run against him, not against Republican opponents.
- Seek the majority without enforcing ideological purity. Nominate candidates that match local constituencies. This includes pro-life and pro-gun Democrats that can win in balanced and conservative districts and states. Concentrate in winning back Congress, then thwarting everything Trump does.
- Demonize the other side. Create a caricature of heartless, racist, greedy Republicans. Run against that.
- Make impeachment the issue. Describe how we need to elect Democrats to impeach the president.
- Identify policies that appeal to suburban and moderate voters. For example, talk about lower taxes for the middle class and higher taxes for people with higher incomes; an assault weapons ban; higher funding for education; entitlement reform; practical suggestions for fixing the Affordable Care Act. Be the “we can fix it” party. Run against Trump’s incompetence.
What should Republicans do?
You are a Republican strategist. Here are some possible strategies for Republicans and the Republican party. Which would you use?
- Get behind Trump 100%. Focus on how Trump is radically dismantling government programs and regulation, and how, ignoring the tweets, he’s making progress.
- Run on conservative priorities. Identify conservative issues, such as rolling back gun control pushes, busting public unions, reducing government spending, nominating pro-life judges. Run on the idea that progress on these is what matters, and a Republican congress can achieve them with a Republican president in office.
- Run against Trump. Run as never-Trump Republicans. Hold up conservative ideals. Say that we need Republicans now as a bulwark against Democrats, but we can dump Trump in 2020.
- Demonize the other side. Identify liberals, minorities, and immigrants as enemies of America. Create a caricature of greedy, bleeding-heart Democrats who want to take your money and give it to people who don’t deserve it. Run against that.
- Make impeachment the issue. Describe how we need to elect Republicans to keep Democrats from impeaching the president.
- Identify policies that appeal to suburban and moderate voters. For example, lower taxes for everyone; common-sense limits on gun regulations; entitlement reform; practical suggestions for fixing the Affordable Care Act. Be the “we can fix it” party.
I look forward to your practical suggestions for what either party should do.