Thursday, February 07, 2019


The president thinks he has a catchy new catchphrase....

Trump is our Dunning-Kruger president -- he believes he knows more than the experts about foreign policy, trade, foreign intelligence, economics, tariffs, science.... Among his other areas of expertise, he seems to believe that he's the great phrasemaker of our era. To give him his due, a lot of his grade-school insults during the 2016 campaign caught on -- Crooked Hillary, Low Energy Jeb. But he had a distinct advantage then: He was going after careerist politicians who were, for the most part, not widely loved.

But it's harder now that he's president. Thirty times on Twitter, Trump has tried to brand Robert Mueller's team the "Angry Democrats" (either "13 Angry Democrats" or "17 Angry Democrats"; I won't bore you with the reason for the different numbers). Has this caught on? It really hasn't caught on even with conservatives. It's like one of those shibboleths you see on right-wing discussion boards -- a reference to an obscure fact or half-truth that was talked about for a few days on Fox and Rush Limbaugh's show, then dropped for fresher content, all while non-conservatives had no idea that the discussion was even taking place. "Angry Democrats" has not been one of Trump's successful branding efforts, although he clearly doesn't know that.

I don't think "presidential harassment" will catch on either. Trump's campaign nicknames were acts of aggression, while his catchphrases in response to the investigations he's facing all paint him as a whiny victim. I know that Republican voters have liked self-pity in their heroes at least since Nixon, but self-pity is the opposite of the chest-thumping bluster that helped Trump to victory in 2016. It's off brand. Besides, a significant portion of Trump's base consists of QAnon believers, who think Trump is just biding his time until he's ready to bring all his enemies to justice for their many crimes. The Trump of QAnon legend is powerful, although he's concealing that fact until the moment is right. He's not a victim, which is the impression "presidential harassment" conveys. So no, it won't catch on.

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