While a grateful nation breathes a massive sigh of relief knowing that the Trump nightmare will soon be over, partisan control of the U.S. Senate will be determined by two key and incredibly tight run-off races in Georgia. First, we should agree that it’s simply amazing that Democrats have been able to make the once solidly red state politically competitive. Second, the Senatorial campaigns in the wake of Trump’s defeat is a fascinating study in rhetoric and messaging. It shows the real-time evolution of both political parties and crisply defines the vast and almost irreconcilable ideological divide that permeates America.
For Democrats, a bigger battle lies ahead.
Consider for a moment what just happened on Sunday, 11/15/20, as thousands of Trump loyalists gathered in Washington, D.C. for their “Million MAGA March”. These folks truly believe that the election was “stolen” from Donald Trump through coordinated, widespread, leftist-engineered voter fraud. Of course, they also believe in outlandish Q-Anon conspiracy theories and still laughably think Trump is some sort of genius.
But, OMG! There’s a lot of them. Although Biden decisively won the election by both the popular and electoral college vote, it’s particularly important to note that even after the demonstrable, numerous, and embarrassing failures of an unethical and incompetent administration, Trump still somehow won the votes of over 73 million Americans. Understand it or not, a great many of those votes were cast for Trump enthusiastically and without any reservation.
That should give you pause.
The sobering reality is that Trump and Trumpism have transformed American politics and deepened the stark ideological divide between liberals and conservatives, urban and rural, rich and poor. Unfortunately, a hallmark of Trumpism is shameless lying and constant, chaotic misdirection. Increasingly, Republicans are resorting to an “every dirty trick in the book” approach to winning elections. They readily employ tactics like gerrymandering and voter suppression. They castigate their political rivals as being part of a sinister socialist cabal that’s hell-bent on destroying American life.
Yet, it’s exactly what Tommy Tuberville said about Doug Jones in the race for Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat. Considering Jones’ bipartisan record of tangible, beneficial accomplishments and his observable rationale approach to government, Tuberville’s accusations against Jones were clearly fictional and beyond absurd. However, it didn’t stop a record-breaking amount of Trump lovers to vote straight Republican ticket and overwhelmingly vote for Tuberville who has no experience, no plan, and offers mostly hot, embarrassing air.
That is the bigger battle for Democrats. It’s about new, creative messaging and finding genuine ways to appeal to working-class and urban voters who have quite literally been brainwashed for decades by conservative media groupthink and fear-mongering rhetoric. They voted for Trump because they bought his gilded story and thought a “successful”, brash billionaire outsider could “drain the swamp” and help foreigners remember their place. It’s time for Democrats to take a hard look at their opposition and figure out why Trump was able to draw such a large base of support in spite of his corrupt, pathetic, and destructive presidency.
The real battle for Democrats is about communication. For too long, Democrats have ceded ground when it comes to political media and infotainment. Republicans have been largely successful in demonizing Democrats as nothing short of frothing anarchists. More importantly, Republicans have long invested in media and created an echo chamber of their own design. Democrats have a lot of catching up to do, but it’s vital, especially in deep red states like Alabama.
Democrats need to take the time to understand Trumpism. To understand the urban and rural divide and the rigged economic system that has exacerbated wealth disparity in America. The bigger battle for Democrats over communication and messaging lies ahead.
Like it or not, the red MAGA hat was brilliant advertising. Democrats should give that a little thought.
Clete Wetli is former Chair of the Madison County Democrats and a liberal political activist.