1/15/20: Every Democratic presidential candidate should stop trying to explain anything, unless he/she can do it in two sentences and a Tweet. Take Mary Poppins’ retort at Mr. Banks: “I would like to make one thing quite clear. I never explain anything.”
Trump groupies, acolytes, sycophants, MAGA cult members, religious fanatics always feel insecure. They follow the leader. He (these leaders are always male) is strong, speaks to their insecurities, helps them feel safe, protected, and “in” with the group (there’s strength in numbers). They say what he says, re-Tweet what he Tweets, chant for him, defend him from perceived danger, or attack. They see (Democrat) explainers and negotiators and compromisers and apologizers as weak.
So rule #1 for the Democrat: Don’t explain anything. Attack with strength to keep the bully at bay, or on the defensive. And/or Divert attention (Hey Mr. President, you’re shoe’s untied!). Then explain if warranted. If only the Democrats would react first with fire (and humor) to fight Trump & Republican fire, America would probably view them more positively.
Rule #2: POTUS 45 has taught us that theatrics sell. The best way to counter the bluster, the stonewall, the answering of a question with a question (e.g., Kavanaugh’s “Doesn’t everyone like beer?”), is to call it out and hammer it.
Rule #3: Go for the kill. Congressional Democrats in committee hearings offer the best lesson in how not to do that. They must instead become a party of stark statements, clear choices, and few apologies. Not a Republican “You’re either for us or against us” party, but an if this-then that party: Truman’s “If you want to live like a Republican, vote for the Democrats.” FDR’s “I welcome their (Republicans’) hatred.” Many consultants have addressed this difference between how Republicans vs. Democrats speak; heed them!
In committee hearings, on media or in public, that means a start with, “You are not answering the question,” and a move to, “When you say this, it means this” statements. Examples:
- We’re not hear to listen to you bluster and stonewall, (judge, Mme. Secretary, etc.). You are under oath here, and you’re just telling us that you’re hiding the truth. Let the record show the (judge, nominee, etc.) refuses to tell the truth,
- All of us here are under pressure, Judge Kavanagh. And we’ve all got sad family stories. But your daughter is not the nominee, you are. And you’re being interviewed for a job as Supreme Court Justice, not Father Of The Year.”
Lindsey Graham’s outburst should have won him these comments from Democrats:
- Well Senator, that was an Academy Award performance. Except we’re not in Hollywood. We’re in Washington, D.C., in the United States Senate.
- Let’s set this record straight. Senator McConnell made this a sham three years ago. For the first time in American history, he kept the Senate from holding hearings on a judicial nominee. Now he’s blocking the Senate from doing its job – to advise consent on nominees. So enough with this phony offense.
- In the hearing confrontation between former DHS Secretary Nielsen and committee Democrats, Rep. Gutierrez should have stayed put, and called Nielsen out: “Is this the best you can do — reduce this to a schoolyard fight? You are under oath. Your department is failing to do its job. You are the head of that department. You are lying to cover up your department’s failures. And we are holding you accountable.”
The Democrats have a sorry recent history of playing offense. During the 2016 presidential debates, Hillary didn’t turn on lurking-over-her-shoulder DJ Trump and snap, “Back off!” We lost trust she could stand up to any bully, domestic or foreign. When Obama wouldn’t stand up for collective bargaining and unions, honor his Syria “red line,” or defend Merritt Garland vs. Mitch McConnell, he lost national trust. When war hero John Kerry couldn’t defend himself against the 2004 Swiftboaters, people lost trust that Kerry could defend America.
The Democrats need to reverse that trend:
. They need to keep a running tally of Trump lies (now nearing 16,000). If Trump ever shows up for a Presidential debate, his Democratic opponent must keep track of the lie count: “Oh, that’s lie number 15,876, Mr. President, And that’s 877.” Twitter snap: “Will Prez 45 EVER tell the truth?”
. When Trump calls Warren “Pocahontas,” snap, “So what? You come from German immigrants, your wife’s a Slovenian immigrant, you used chain immigration to get her family here. When did you start hating immigrants? And you hate American Indianss, too?” The Tweet back at DJT: “Hates immigrants. Hates himself. So sad.”
. When Trump denies climate change, Democrats snap, “You’ve got a cellphone. That’s science – physics, math, chemistry, engineering, biology. If you don’t believe in science, don’t use your cellphone. Or your car. Or your TV.” The Tweet: “Trump says Earth is flat, wants to live in horse and wagon days. Trump For President, 1492.”
. When Trump talks great economy, Democrats must snap, “Great for rich people like you. Not for anybody else. But how would Trump know? He spends more time golfing than working.” The Twitter snap: “So rich, so clueless, and so bad at golf.”
Answer this question: Which is the party of backbone that stands up to bullies, makes clear statements about its visions and intentions, and follows through on them? Don’t you wish you could answer, “The Democrats!”?