Vanity Fair: Political Genius Trump Has Advantage With Idiots
Vanity Fair has a piece this week about the "low-information" voters who are going to help re-elect Donald Trump. See, those of us in the Twitter political "bubble" just don't understand what actually concerns the average Jane/Joe. Reporters who are in the same bubble have the benefit of passing conversations with "normies" in airports and are here to enlighten us.
[T]he stories and micro-scandals that obsess political and media insiders—often played out in episodic fashion on Twitter—matter little to voters who are too busy and too well-adjusted to follow every nanosecond of the political news cycle.
This assertion is hard to accept, considering that people were overly concerned with a lot of stupid crap prior to Trump's election. There was Barack Obama's tan suit and his un-American use of French mustard. They weren't all nuisances that Obama could ignore and laugh about later, like the "hilarious" claims that he wasn't a legitimate president. Obama's numbers with white voters cratered when he defended his friend Henry Louis Gates Jr. after a police officer racially profiled the distinguished professor in his own home. Shirley Sherrod lost her job at the Department of Agriculture after a Breitbart hit job. Anyone who spent years reflexively deleting email forwards from conservative relatives can attest to their high-information capacity for matters of low importance. They got worked up over all the people Hillary Clinton didn't actually murder, but suddenly they're "too busy and too well-adjusted" to care about Trump's marathon of scandals? How do you explain that?
This is because Donald Trump, despite his deep personal insecurities and lust for elite validation—and, indeed, his own use of Twitter—has derived much of his political success by ignoring Washington finger-waggers and connecting with the more primal instincts of his supporters, in whatever televised or digital corner of the media he can, with or without the good graces of the national press and savvy insiders.
OK, that's an explanation. We should've asked for one that wasn't total bullshit. The "primal instincts" of Trump's supporters are racism and cultural resentment, which the media never condemns or even calls out for what it is. The president regularly holds hate rallies where his supporters shout "lock her up!" or "send her back!" He's not a rock star populist. He's a know-nothing white supremacist who's also the least popular president since we started polling. The term "Washington finger waggers" only promotes Trump's personal narrative that he's some righteous Ferris Bueller thumbing his nose at a political class of Principal Rooneys. Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff aren't trying to ground Trump. They're holding him accountable for serious crimes. Trump also doesn't "ignore" his critics. He actively slanders them in public like an emotionally disturbed child. If white voters and even the media took exception with Obama suggesting a police officer acted "stupidly," they likely wouldn't tolerate a politician of color or a woman of any shade calling a sitting congressman a "little pencil neck."
The article continues to praise Trump instead of burying him. He "stumbled into understanding something crucial about the electorate" -- the electorate that hates him. He's made "politics about culture -- not just policy." (This ignores that his actual policies are racist.) Trump commands the "low-information" voters who lean right. Democrats aren't so fortunate with the "low-information" voters who might support their candidates. This is summed up in the hot mess of sentences below:
Not since Barack Obama have Democrats had a figure compelling enough to overwhelm the informational divides in our culture, to appear on all screens at all times and capture the attention of people who don't usually follow politics: black people, Hispanics, young people, low-income voters, and people who just think politics sucks.
That's a pretty general statement about black and Hispanic people. Some of us follow politics pretty closely, and not just those of us paid to write about them. Black and Hispanic people aren't some gelatinous demographic. We contain individuals. Some of us are even young, low-income, and "people who just think politics suck."
Former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau for Crooked Media conducted focus groups last year with voters from Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Miami. The Phoenix group -- affluent suburbanites -- sounded like a "Morning Joe" panel (not sure that makes them "high-information" voters), but Favreau was worried about the other groups who didn't follow politics as closely.
FAVREAU: Most of them don't like Trump at all, but since politics hasn't delivered for them in a tangible way, they're starting to ignore the circus altogether, which makes them very hard to reach.
Yes, this is why a Democratic presidential campaign based solely on "Trump Bad" isn't ideal, and we should nominate someone with, you know, actual plans (hint, hint). The upside of "low-information" voters is that it's truly anyone's ball game. Maybe we shouldn't literally force out perfectly good candidates before most voters start paying attention. Is it possible that we start presidential campaigns way too early and have far too many repetitive debates? That's crazy talk!
"Right now there are just too many of them," said Jessica from Milwaukee. "I'm not watching the Democratic debates. I mean, this is like The Bachelor. You don't watch on week one. There's too many. Like, I'll tune in when there's two weeks left and we've narrowed down the population. But I don't care enough right now. I want to see the number down to three roses, then I'll vote."
The irony is that the "high-information" voters in our bubbles are pruning all the roses for Jessica, and that's a shame.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.