When I was a kid, I remember asking my dad why we were Democrats. My dad, a tough, hard-working Swede never minced words. “Because,” he said, “Republicans are for big business and Democrats are for the “Little Guy.” I’ve never forgotten that and the fact is, that hasn’t changed. What has changed is the perception.
Today some 70 years later, Republicans are seen by many as being, “For the little guy,” and frankly I don’t know how Democrats are perceived anymore. How did we get from there to here? Well, I’ve given it some thought and I came up with this answer. With targeted communication, simple messages and a whole lot of smoke and mirrors, the Republicans won the Public Relations war.
After watching political campaigns with great interest for most of my life, I have come to believe that the Republican party is one thing and party membership is something else. I think Republicans, generally, are for the “Little Guy.” The Republican Party hierarchy isn’t. They tailor their messages to members in a manner that sounds supportive, but the party bigwigs support legislation that favors big business. Why? Who has the most money for campaign contributions, members or corporations?
The party keeps peddling the message that if big business is profitable they will create jobs. That’s the old “Trickle down theory.” The problem is very little trickles down. American companies today are making more money than ever — look at the stock market. The creation of new jobs, though, is not keeping pace. That’s because the profits are paid out in dividends to shareholders, in bonuses to management and in buying automated technology that eliminates the need for human hands. Then If there is any money left over, they might hire someone.
Winning elections is not about ideology it is about perceptions, about what we think a person is for or against. To win elections you have to make people feel something positive. We are bombarded with so much information today the human hard drive is easily overloaded. That’s why 140 character tweets are so effective. The result is that decisions are made based on how we feel, rather than on what we think. After all 140 characters doesn’t give you much to think about.
I don’t know who said it but this line explains a whole lot, “You may soon forget the words I used, but you will never forget the way I made you feel.” In all the Senate and House districts in the nation, more people feel good about Republicans than they do about Democrats.
The Presidential election was different. More people felt good about Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump, but because of the Electoral College, the Clinton campaign did not make people feel good in the right states. That’s targeted communication and the Republicans won that battle. In Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania they were able to effectively communicate that being Republican was better for the so-called “Little Guy.”
So why did the Trump campaign do so well? Here’s my theory. They focused on a very simple message aimed at blue collar workers. While the Democrats had a bunch of messages like equal pay for women, equal rights for gays, a steady, experienced hand at the wheel, and a lot more. The republicans said, “jobs, jobs, jobs.” That was their only message. And it wasn’t successful because there is high unemployment, there isn’t. It was successful because a lot of people don’t like the jobs they have and others can’t find one they like. The “jobs, jobs, jobs” message said something better is coming. Even though the message sender, Donald Trump was speaking out of both sides of his mouth.
Trump’s promise was tied to bringing corporations that had left the U.S. back here to rehire American workers. If you really dissect his message it is duplicitous, insincere and phony. He says corporations left here because taxes are too high, so he’s going to reduce the corporate tax rate and then as an afterthought he says, “And there are way too many regulations, an unnecessary burden of paperwork and red tape.”
The fact is the tax rate is not too high and that’s not why companies have left the U.S. They left the U.S. to make more money yes, but taxes had little to do with it. Some of them paid no taxes at all. Here’s the real reason they left, the one they won’t talk about. No corporation is going to say, “We’re going somewhere where they don’t have all those health and safety regulations so we can dump chemicals in the rivers, sell tainted food and hire workers without having to comply with the “Safety” hassle.” In some countries, they can even hire child labor and are allowed to make employees work long hours under conditions that would not be tolerated in the U.S.
Mr. Trump plays down the deregulation side of his message. He never mentions how much money companies will save if they are deregulated or how many people will get injured and die or what damage will be done to the environment. Those issues are never, ever addressed. He only says, “Their taxes are too high.” Now, if you want to believe that ballyhoo, go ahead, but Corporations exist for two purposes. One is to provide a good return on investment to their shareholders and the other is to pay their top execs very well. They have no national loyalty, no sense of patriotism and no conscience. Who better to help them than a man who has those same attributes.
So while the Republicans are now the party of the “Little Guy” we are strangely losing the middle class. Why is that? Are some of them getting rich and moving up? The answer is, very few. We’re losing the middle class because they are joining the ranks of the impoverished.
Republicans understood two things. One is that technology is moving so quickly old jobs are disappearing and we will always have people bemoaning the fact that they can’t find work. Secondly, they counted on the fact that most people get their information from headlines and from the social media and don’t do a lot of independent research. They know that if it sounds good and you are the first one to say it, you will own the audience. They counted on the fact that while many Americans were not happy with their jobs or were out of work, they were also proud Americans. That’s why Make America Great Again worked.
It doesn’t matter that the Republican party communicates conflicting messages because that’s better than the Democratic party that has so many messages that they have none. Does anyone really know what the Democratic party stands for? Can you give me that answer in a very short sentence? If you can, call the Democratic National Committee right now, don’t call me.
Again, here’s what happened in campaigns all over the country. Democrats were saying, “We are for the right to choose, marriage equality and a strong economy.”
Republicans were saying, “We are for jobs, jobs, jobs.”
Democrats said, “We want everyone to have healthcare, we want better conditions for veterans and we want to maintain our leadership in the world.”
Republicans said, “jobs, jobs, jobs.”
Which message is going to win? It’s a rhetorical question because we already know the answer. My point is that my party, the Democrats didn’t have a point. Bernie had a point. It was simple, “You’re getting screwed!” I heard that loud and clear.
When you ask someone to vote for you the reaction of the listener is, “Why, what’s in it for me.” Which answer do you think grabs him, “Maintaining our leadership in the world,” or “jobs, jobs, jobs.
Democrats if you want to win you have to have a point. You will never win by saying I have 40 points I want to make, 40 ways we’ll make America better.” No one is going to listen. When you can stand before an audience though and say, “I’m here to talk to you about jobs. Jobs that will allow you to feed your family, send your kids to college, and pay off your home. When you can say that, you will begin to win.
Donald Trump won because Americans bought into his message of jobs and overlooked the fact that he is everything that most of them despise and find embarrassing. If he gets his ideas through congress, the people who voted for Trump will soon be saying, “What was I thinking,” because the “Little Guy” will get the short end of the stick, just as Bernie suggested. And I will know once again that my father was right.
From where I sit, that’s the truth.