Wednesday, October 07, 2020


It's hard to argue with Jamelle Bouie:
It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true: Donald Trump is bad at electoral politics....

The past week has been instructive in this regard. Last Tuesday, he faced off against Joe Biden in the first presidential debate. Trump, who trailed Biden in national polls and in most swing states, had one job: to bring wavering voters back into the fold....

Of course, Trump blew it. He barked and ranted for 90 minutes, making the debate-that-was-not-actually-a-debate an alienating spectacle for most viewers....

The debate ... was also a showcase for Trump’s handling of the pandemic. Would he and his entourage take the situation seriously? Would they try to model good behavior for the public? The obvious answer was no. The venue, Case Western Reserve University, asked all attendees to wear masks. But Trump and his team refused, acting as if the virus didn’t actually exist. The president even mocked Biden for his dedication to wearing a mask....

When, in the wake of the debate, the White House announced that Trump and much of his senior staff had contracted the virus, the public response was something akin to “We told you so.”
Trump doesn't realize this, but he's good at selling to a niche market. His tasteless, more-is-more "luxury" brand has always alienated much of the public -- and delighted many other people. Trump wants to be adored, so he's spent his life trying to give the people who love what he does more of what they love, even though it's extremely offputting to the rest of us.

In business, and in entertainment (which was Trump's second career), there's nothing wrong with this approach. If you want to be rap stars and you're, say, the Insane Clown Posse, it's perfectly rational to compensate for your limited rap talents by using gimmicky iconography (clown makeup) and creating a mythology (fans are "Juggalos"). The result is that most rap fans despise the Insane Clown Posse, but the superfans regard themselves as a community, and even hold an annual festival called the Gathering of the Juggalos. The fan base for Trump's businesses has never been quite that loyal, but Trump's deplorables are much like ICP's Juggalos.

This can work if you're selling products -- intensely loyal fans might just buy more and more of what you're selling. But it doesn't work in politics, because every voter gets only one vote.

"Trump beat the virus because he's a strongman" is a narrative his fervent supporters love. They have brand loyalty. Alas for him, there probably aren't enough of them to reelect him.

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