Campaign 2016

SATIRE: Trump, The Pop Musical; or, A Few Sugary Lyrics to Help Sell the Product

Originally published by the Huffington Post, July 16, 2016,

Now that Trump has triumphed with his nomination by the Republican Party, how can this businessman seize the public imagination on a broader scale?  Consider the marketing that has been central to making “Trump” a household name on TV and at hotels.  Consider music to sell the product.  Get ready, and sing it now: “Love, Love Me!  Love, Love Me!”…

An Open Letter to the Republican National Committee,

With Donald J. Trump in the winner’s circle of the Republican bid for the White House this fall, the Republican Party has got to turn from in-fighting to outreach.  The GOP needs to come together to find ways to raise Trump’s appeal to Americans as a whole.  Trump the businessman successfully presents his brand in the economic marketplace; now Trump the politician needs to present his political brand in the electoral marketplace.  Consider music.

Songs are more powerful than talk, arguments, or policy positions.  During the darkest days of the Great Depression, the Franklin Roosevelt campaign played the song “Happy Days Are Here Again” (1929) from their summer convention in Chicago all the way to victory in November.  Bill Clinton capped his 1992 nomination for president with the driving beat of Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” (1977).  Songs can be unifiers and motivators; they can say a few big things in playful ways; and with their appeal to emotions, they can leap right over arguments to create new narratives.  And this is just what Trump needs now, especially since he is carrying a lot of negatives with a lot of voters.

The Trump campaign needs a theme song designed to address three major challenges that the candidate will face this fall: questions about his relevance today, concerns about his character, and shocks about his style.  The pop singer Mika provides just the ticket with song “Love Today” (2007),

1-Trump’s Relevance: Love Today

Mika: “Everybody’s gonna love today, gonna love today.
Anyway you want to, anyway you’ve got to.”

We live in a time of changing social relations, with little consensus in the nation as a whole and lots of personal choice.  The conventions of traditional morality and religion carry increasingly less weight as people are following personal impulses in defiance of authority for choices ranging from romantic relations to voting.  The swift acceptance of gay marriage and the current attention to gender-free washrooms is no accident: these follow directly from citizens following their own drummer; the open atmosphere of social media is the model here.  Trump has ruffled some Republican feathers, but when we get to the general election, he is poised to hold on to the lion’s share of “values voters” who have been reacting against this impulse toward lifestyle choice.  Now is the time to begin to add to the Trump coalition by appealing to another set of voters, those who want those choices.

When Trump defies authority figures, he can appeal to two types of voters: social liberals and economic conservatives.  Republicans can present Trump as a champion of voters, especially among the young, who will like the liberal message, “love today, anyway you want to.”  And Trump can appeal to conservative voters who don’t want government (or big business) telling them what to do, in business decisions or in foreign policy.  When Trump says “Back off, authority figures!,” that will mean to them, “great: now I can do what I want!”  And Trump can back up this call for openness with his tough demeanor: as with the Mika song, “you’ve got to.”

2-Trump’s Character: Can Others Love Trump the Way Trump Loves Trump?

Mika: “Love, love me!  Love, love me!  Love, love me!”  

Donald Trump broke out of the crowded pack of Republican presidential candidates when primary voters endorsed him, not despite his ego-filled comments that made most political experts think he was sure to tank, but because of those comments.  Like Mika singing “love, love me,” or Frank Sinatra singing “if I can make it there [in New York], I’ll make it anywhere,” the businessman’s voters felt that his ego boosting was a train they wanted to catch.  He can present himself as a tribune of the people; they think of him as that powerful guy from within the system tough enough to make deals for his people.  When he’s boosting his I (“I’m a winner”… “I’m a genius”), his voters think of their own I getting a boost.

Until recently, Trump’s self-presentation would have been considered an outrageous illustration of his self-promoting character.  However, the contemporary focus on marketing in a competitive economy, has also brought a complementary personal version of marketing: the crafting of each person’s image for well-positioned public reputation.  In the public theater of jostling reputations, Trump’s self-promotion of his personal brand has become the norm; when many voters hear his ego on parade, they just think he’s performing a successful example of their own public task.  The sooner those Republican Trump-doubters get this message, the better for the party, and the better for its prospects in November.  After all, Trump is only taking the message of many recent Republicans to its logical conclusion: the market as universal guide to life.

3-Trump’s Style: Shock!

Mika: “Shock, shock me! 

Trump’s version: “I’ll shock you!”

Conventional wisdom has suggested that politicians should speak with moderate and inoffensive language; the wisdom in this is that in a complex and diverse society, this style will avoid offending particular groups.  Trump speaks with a common sense that has been circulating below radar for years, with promotion of a style brash, unbuttoned, and without worries about being offensive.  He is talk radio on the stump.  At the very least, this style gives the impression of honesty.  But there is more to this style.  It can’t be any old gruff talk; it has to be believable—it doesn’t have to be true, but it has to tell likely stories.  And this is a style well suited to the mass media of our age, which is filled with information that is itself shocking, and which is generally delivered with its own style of blunt, attention-grabbing delivery.  The Trump style is in tune with the times.

And Trump’s brash style is well positioned to bring in a whole passel of voters this fall.  This will surely appeal to security conservatives of both parties, those who support a strong military and favor its use in foreign policy.  Trump’s talk naturally follows from the positions of neo-conservatives who endorse a “shock and awe” foreign policy.  From this perspective, the United States as world superpower needs a massive military to intimidate other countries and to use with overwhelming force as demonstrated during the first weeks of the 2003 Iraq War.  That policy and that example can firm up the security hawks who have already been endorsing Trump.  His style can also appeal to another group of conservatives who have been weaker in support.  Evangelicals have expressed some doubts about endorsing a man who has married three times, has often expressed pro-choice positions on abortion, and has often seemed indifferent to the central evangelical call for divine forgiveness.  Trump’s style can cut through those theological and ideological differences because his way of talking lines up with the drama of the Bible’s Book of Revelations, and coincides with evangelical preaching built on passionate expression of feelings.  Trump’s style is political evangelicalism.

You see, my dear leaders of the Republican Party, this message does not include much talk of particular policies.  This is intentional.  First attract the voter with Trump’s contemporary relevance and with responses to critiques of his character and style, and the policy endorsements will follow.  A voter attuned to accepting his rhetoric is more likely to accept Trump’s policies on trade, immigration, foreign relations, and more; but without attunement to his style, the policies won’t even get a hearing.  As Mika says, “da da di da di, do,” which translated means, start with the music.  With this approach as the party’s tune, Republicans can control our democracy.  The path to victory starts with music.

Here is the song, ready for prime time and adapted to attract voters to Trump:

“Love Trump Today, Trump Today”

Da da di da di, do.
Da da di da di, do.
Everybody’s gonna love today,
Gonna love today, gonna love today.
Everybody’s gonna love today, gonna love today.
Anyway you want to, anyway you’ve got to.
Love, love me!  Love, love me!  Love, love me!

Shock, shock me!  Shock, shock me!

I’ll shock you!  I’ll shock you!

I said:
Everybody’s gonna love today, gonna love today.
Anyway you want to, anyway you’ve got to.
Love, love me!  Love, love me!  Love, love me!

Da da di da di, do.
Da da di da di, do.


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