When Machiavelli first posed the question of whether it is better to be loved or feared, he probably had no idea that centuries later, we would have found ways to make things easier for vapid, megalomaniacal billionaires to get a major party nomination for President of the United States. Even though he’s a Democrat, Frank Underwood would probably agree.
Now, to be fair, the explosive rise of Donald Trump can be laid square at the feet of both major political parties. The modern Democratic Party, no longer the party of Scoop Jackson, Harry S. Truman and Zell Miller, has taken the country in a direction many do not like. The modern Republican Party, no longer the party of Ronald Reagan, consists primarily of scared, feckless politicians who make promises but fail to keep them, even when they have a clear majority in both chambers of Congress.
Both parties, clearly, have become little more than exclusive clubs where most politicians feather their nests at the expense of the taxpayer. And voters are revolting.
Look no further than Massachusetts and other states to see this in action. As the Boston Herald, PennLive and other mainstream outlets have reported, some 20,000 have fled the Democratic Party to vote for a Republican. The phenomenon, known as “ditch and switch,” is being driven largely by Trump.
It’s possible some may be motivated by a desire to sabotage the GOP, but it’s more likely they are upset with the party and candidates. They like what they hear, and are breaking ranks. But as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story seems not to matter.
And why is that? What playbook are front-running, media frenzy inducing candidates using? Follow these steps for a sure way to make a mess of the American electorate. Place in oven, bake on high for a few months, and voila, one has hijacked a major political party.
Step 1: Disguise Yourself as an “Outsider.”
It’s a great American tradition to cast oneself as someone from anywhere but D.C. Everyone from The Unsinkable Howard Taft to Ronald “the Gipper” Reagan has emphasized another zip code even though they have close ties inside the beltway. Don’t worry if this is true or not; Even if you claim not to know what’s going down on K Street, or if you consistently donate and fundraise for both parties, it won’t be a problem.
Once you paint yourself as an outsider, the “Republicrat” establishment will hardly pay any attention to you. Being a perennial candidate who lacks any real substance, it’s easy to be written off. This works to your advantage, though. While a member of the party’s vanguard may ignore you because even acknowledging you might legitimize your candidacy, you’re free to practice the next step openly without fear of getting chastised too seriously.
Step 2: Be (Politically) Incorrect.
When you’re running for office, conventional wisdom would normally dictate that if you want to win, you need to be politically correct so as not to rock the boat of the electorate too much. One small misstep could have you sliding in the polls. Focus groups, teleprompters and speechwriters were once all the rage, and while they might help keep you from accidentally saying something that could offend someone, they fall short of you carpet-bombing your way to the nomination, so do the exact opposite. Besides, many Americans today — especially those in the GOP voting base — have become sick of political correctness and see it as a vehicle liberals use to control speech and thought (Google George Orwell). Moreover, teleprompters are now seen as crutches used by weak-minded individuals who must be told what they think.
The answer is simple. Throw decorum out the window. Be insulting. Attack debate moderators with blatantly sexist language. Accuse people with disabilities of being stupid and then make fun of them. Appear to take your time denouncing endorsements or statements of support from racists and then act like you don’t know what the KKK is. Tell the country you could murder someone in cold blood in broad daylight on New York’s 5th Avenue and not lose a single supporter. Tell voters you love those with little to no education. Make attendees at your rallies swear an oath to vote for you. Promise to ban whole groups of people from the country based solely on their beliefs, an idea floated by lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle after 9/11. Advocate war crimes. Compliment dictators. Quote Hitler and Mussolini. Insist international allies pay for U.S. defense projects to keep their citizens out. Then say that everything is negotiable. All of this should help with the next step.
Step 3: Lie.
Lying comes with the territory of being in politics, but this is normally used to accomplish a goal. Thinking like everyone else won’t get you very far in securing that nomination. Even though all politicians seem to do this, it’s essential that your lies fit the ostentatiousness of your goals, and are large enough to overcompensate for other shortcomings you may have. They need to be YUUUGE! It doesn’t matter if your answers are two Corinthians short of a full Bible, or if many of your most lucrative business ventures have led to bankruptcy. No worry if your statistics are made up or if you’re telling people you’re the most important type of person in America: you’re a job creator. If anyone calls you out on any of this, threaten to sue them.
Step 4: Media
The key here is to become irresistible to the news media so they have to talk about you. By now, you’ve said some things that have shocked more than a few people. You’re making the news— not because your ideas are carrying water, but because they’re shocking. They’re flashy and are difficult NOT to talk about because people are referencing you out of novelty. Soon, you’ll be trending on social media right next to the guy that can sing like Susan Boyle and the dog that’s friends with a giraffe. The amount of those views online will catch the glance of network producers who need better ratings to keep their jobs. With a little luck, your dithering passing as policy platforms will be followed by everyone.
Step 5: Lather, Rinse, Repeat
At some point, pundits and political opponents will observe that you’ve made a number of contradictory statements over the years. In fact, some will observe that you’ve made contradictory statements in the span of a single debate. They’ll even point out that you’ve given lots of money to people you now say are ruining the country. Never mind all that, you say. Don’t believe your lying eyes and ears. I’m not just great, you say, I’m YUUUGE! Just ask my followers, er, supporters. Anyone who says anything different is a lying liar who lies all the time. Don’t believe me? Just ask me! Then ask my supporters who also refuse to believe the evidence right in front of their eyes.
Consider, for example, the reaction to news that a Trump campaign staffer allegedly roughed up a Breitbart.com reporter. Despite audio and an eyewitness from the Washington Post, the candidate now claims it never happened. And his supporters believe him.
Then, if all else fails, just repeat all of the above, ad nauseum.
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