Its been a long seven days under Captain Cheeto.
This may have been the longest seven days in any Presidency ever.
In rapid succession, Captain Cheeto Dust has fired off missive after missive: the wall, tweets, executive actions, voter fraud, alt-facts, department blackouts, crowd size…you name it. The press has been scrambling to keep up. So have activists who are trying to process and parry the administrations frenetic fencing.
But activist friends, don’t fall for the distractions. Don’t exhaust yourself this early in the game. You don’t have to follow every folly of this administration. Don’t get caught up in the fog of war. Focus is the key. Focus and discipline are what its going to take to make it through this.
This Fog of War is made of Aqua Net
I don’t follow a lot of conservatives on Facebook, but the few I do have been talking about this post from Dilbert Creator Scott Adams.
In the post, Adams talks about the effect of flooding the press with “outrages” so that the press is left with little time, and fewer resources to process and report on these outrages. These reports, the speed and frequency of outrages, cause the opposition to become fractured…to lose focus and message discipline. It leaves the opposition with too many fake targets it can’t focus its attention on the real one. The result for both reporters and activists is a kind of kernel panic that either slow down or paralyzes both in a swirl of unproductive work.
This is a kind of military deception that Trump has used in business negotiations. He’s using it to great effect now.
I’m not a big enough conspiracy theorist to believe that he’s fully aware of what he’s doing. Maybe he is, maybe not. It doesn’t matter. Its his default when he’s starting the process of getting his way. He’s learned how to manipulate people. He’s learned that dividing opposition is the way to get what he wants. So, he sends his opponents scrambling to fan/put out false fires while he lays the groundwork for the big “deal”.
We can’t fall for it. We’ve got to hammer home a simple consistent message.
Stick to the Big Picture
Here’s a simple message to repeat ad-infinitum. (Thanks to this Mashable post for the base idea)
Trump isn’t draining the swamp, he’s filling it with more terrifying monsters.
These are the people who helped create and profited from all the financial crisis in 2007.
They passed the laws, pushed the lies, and paid the lobbyists to stop anything that would get in the way of their personal profit.
Drain the swamp? They are the swamp!
These guys, and their buddies, laid off or fired millions of Americans from good paying jobs so they could make more money off cheaper labor 4000 miles away. They evicted struggling families out of their homes over what amounts to a rounding error. They don’t see us as people, they see us as profit centers to be exploited.
Drain the swamp? They are the swamp!
His cabinet members passed laws making it easy to ship your jobs overseas and to keep your wages low. They lied and said if you just work a little harder you’ll “make it” while they sipped drinks that cost more than you make an hour. These guys are not your friends. They don’t care that your town is dying. Your pain is just another way for them to profit.
Trump isn’t draining the swamp, he’s the biggest lizard in the swamp, sucking up your hard work for his personal gain. Using your pain for his profit.
This is a simple message that can be repeated over and over again. It also has a lot of pivot options.
Pivoting to Specifics
Keeping the “swamp thing” alive is easy. Everything this administration does, from healthcare to taxes, regulations to foreign relations can come back to this “swamp” imagery.
Say its Jeff Sessions or Betsy DeVoss…”swamp monster”. If its rolling back bank regulations or weakening the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau he’s filling the swamp.
Rolling back healthcare? He’s feeding the swamp. Blocking science and EPA regulations? He’s going to turn your home into a swamp.
Maybe not everything falls into this swamp narrative as easily as some, but if you start with the swamp, you can pivot to just about anything.
It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about tweets or walls, regulations or healthcare…bring it back to the swamp, then say how you’re going to drain it.
The point is, don’t let the Cheeto in Charge drive us to distraction with his “million things to prop up my ego” strategy. Stick to a simple narrative that’s flexible enough to apply to anything. That’s what the GOP has been doing since Nixon with “states rights” and “entitlements”. We have to have a counter.
The key here is to give us a rhetorical device to tie what seems like disparate interests back together. To the casual observer we seem like we’re all over the place like we can’t agree with each other. In reality, these different groups ultimately support each other once you get under the surface. There just has to be something to tie it all together.
And you know what? Maybe the swamp thing isn’t the best way to go. But there’s something else like this out there. Something that uses his own words against him. Something that both highlights his failure to keep a promise to his supporters, and the American people.
Whether its this message or not, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is, whatever it is, it has to stick. That’s going to require a lot of repetition, and discipline from electeds, candidates, and activists.
Repetition helps the message sink in. If we’re going to have a chance in 2018, we can’t wait for the Cheeto dust to settle or implode. We’ve got to start kicking it up, focus our message, and fight the battles that matter.