Is the Best Way to Defeat Donald Trump by Ignoring Him?

If we’ve learned anything about Donald Trump over the last… fuck I don’t know like… 17 years? That sounds right. Okay so if we’ve learned anything over last 17 years of the 2016 campaign, it’s that nothing seems to stick to Donald Trump. That is, in terms of seriously damaging his popularity among the people who have already decided they’re going to vote for him. His polls may waver a few percentage points in either direction, but generally they’ve hovered around the low to mid 40s, always bouncing back when dipping below that. This indicates that his fans don’t seem to care what asinine and patently ridiculous things he has to say, they don’t care how racist or sexist or xenophobic or islamophobic his statements are, they’re going to support him to the end. And this inference is backed up by article after article. If you search “Trump fans don’t care about” in google you’ll come up with everything from the Guardian article stating that his supporters don’t seem to care about the recent controversy over his attacks of the Khan family to the BBC article explaining why Trump’s supporters have stayed steadfast over mountain of bad press related to that controversy to this New York Times Article stating that many of his supporters don’t even care if he’ll fulfill his promises if elected to why they don’t care that he lied about being against the Iraq war before anyone else and on and on and on.

This may seem nonsensical and logic-defying or even downright false – many of us have spent the last… how long has it been again?… 57 years?… of the 2016 election cycle repeating the same phrase as if saying it enough will make it true: “I mean, something’s gotta stick eventually right? One of these days he’s gonna say something so absurd and abhorrent that even his most devoted supporters will turn away in disgust.” Unfortunately, the fact is, that is never going to happen. I say this as someone who absolutely has no clairvoyant or psychic ability: there is nothing Donald Trump can say that will put him permanently below 40% at the polls. And as long as he’s above 40%, he has a chance. Again, this is not a guess, not a prediction based on some latent supernatural power – this is a statement that to me is essentially fact, because I have seen it play out over and over again and it seems to reflect the beliefs of his supporters as well.

And to tell the truth, it’s not that nonsensical either. Sure, it might be to us: everyone left of center, from Democrats to moderate Independents to Socialists. To our entire political bubble it seems completely incomprehensible that he’s even made it this far. We keep trying to evaluate his candidacy logically, when it is almost completely driven by emotion. And before we get into territory of belittling his supporters or building ourselves up to be the “logical voters” while mischaracterizing the other side as people incapable of logically thinking through the issues, let’s think for a moment about the “Bernie or Bust Movement,” which threatened to disrupt a Convention that needed to be executed almost perfectly. And let’s think of a specific type of “Bernie or Bust” voter, who switches from supporting Sen. Sanders to supporting Donald Trump. That makes literally no sense when thought about logically. Presumably these people (who do exist) got behind Bernie because they believed in his policies and his vision for the future. If that is the case, moving to Trump is about as far as you can go policy wise, experience-wise, values wise, etc., etc. So why do they do it? These particular voters make this switch because they were so emotionally invested in Sen. Sanders’ campaign that somewhere in there when the negative campaigning came out (something Sen. Sanders promised not to take part in) they became as emotionally invested in hating Sec. Clinton as they were in believing in Sen. Sanders. So their move to Trump has absolutely nothing to do with logic, it’s just the biggest “fuck you” to Sec. Clinton and the Democrats that nominated her that they can think of.

I want to give a few more examples like this before I move on because I want to make sure that above all we are not demonizing the supporters of Trump, or the members of the Republican party, because absolutely nothing good comes of that, and we can’t afford to get on our high horse about how logical and pragmatic we are compared to them. I’m a supporter of Sen. Sanders. I was since the day he announced he was running as a democrat and I saw a post with his credentials and policy views on it. Now, late in the primaries when there was no way he could possibly win anymore and yet he pushed on with the attacks, I did get incredibly frustrated with his decisions and his campaign, but there was never a moment where I thought “if he were the nominee, I wouldn’t vote for him,” because even when I was incredibly frustrated with the way he was carrying on, I still believed in his policies, his record, and his vision for the future. To say that I, as a AnarchoCommunist who views Socialism as the best way to transition out of Capitalism, was not emotionally invested in the first candidate I had ever seen embrace the term “socialism” and even define himself as a “democratic socialist,” would be absolutely ludicrous and just flat out untrue. Sure, I logically agreed with his platform, but there was some damn strong emotion: I was feelin the Bern. And so were a lot of people. In fact, I knew damn well that 98% of Sen. Sanders’ policies would never get through Congress. And I also knew that he is not known for compromising on things he believes in (a good and bad thing), and on top of all that, I knew that he was too far left for many Democrats. Essentially, I knew it would be almost impossible for him to get any major legislation passed even if he was elected, and frankly, I didn’t care. That’s a lot to dismiss because you’re emotionally invested, but we do it all the time – on every end of the political spectrum. It’s really easy to get emotionally invested in a candidate, or a vision, or an ideal, or even a feeling a candidate gives you. So no, this article is in no way about criticizing Trump’s supporters for not being “high minded” or “pragmatic” or “logical enough.” Because no one political group can claim to be those things all the time, or even most of the time.

So what is this article about? Well, let’s trace back: (1) nothing Trump says will have a lasting negative effect on his campaign, (2) it is highly likely and almost a sure thing that Trump will go into election day with at the very least, a fighting chance, (3) it is not our place to berate his supporters, nor will it help everything. And then of course we have the title, which by  now you’re probably guessing is the answer because I, like, did not bury the lead in any way whatsoever. So far the media has reported relentlessly on every single thing that has come out of this bottle of Orange-Glo’s mouth, wait, no, Orange-Glo cleans things… hmm… okay… the media has reported relentlessly on every single syllable that has come out of the mouth of this 2-liter bottle of generic Orange soda called “Errrrnge” that was manufactured in 1981 (the year they started and permanently ended production due to contamination concerns) and for some reason had the seal broken, one swig taken out of it, and then closed loosely and left to fester in an Indiana garage until now. Whew. Insults aside (because that’s actually kind of the thing I’m getting at), we’ve seen Trump as the subject of literally countless late night show opening monologues, bits, and segments (and I do mean literally because you have to multiply by the almost already countless number of late night shows). He’s been the subject of discussion of I-don’t-even-want-to-guess-how-many-hours of actual news coverage. You get 110 million results when you type “Trump” in Google News, just the news section (which is, by the way, almost 28.2 million more than “Obama” gets at 81.8 million, and 35 million more than “Clinton” which not only would include the person he’s running against, Sec. Clinton, but also former President Bill Clinton). And the coverage goes on and on, both negative and positive, from YouTube to Twitter and from Facebook back to Tumblr and this jolly site, WordPress. Suffice to say, if all press is good press, he has a SHIT TON of good press.

This is where ignoring him comes in. Think about all the negative attention he gets (deservedly so, don’t get me wrong), but just think of the millions of individual items in various formats that just tear him to absolute shreds. I’m sure at least a few things pop into your head, I know a ton of things pop into mine. And honestly, I watch/read these things not because I necessarily need to know all the details of what his latest offensive tweet or statement was, but because I’m fucking scared, and watching a comedian rip into him and apply logic to the bullshit things he says at least makes me laugh despite the very real prospect that he could win this election *knocks on wood incessantly until my roommate yells and me to shut the fuck up*. And it also feels like the more people chime in on the “this is absolutely ridiculous please wake up America” parade, maybe, just maybe, we’ll start to dent in those poll numbers. But here’s the fact, as I’ve said it before: nothing he says and nothing the media says about what he says will make a difference to his supporters.

And honestly, a lot of his supporters are good, kind-hearted, open-minded Americans who may really dislike a lot of his rhetoric, but are still caught in a recession and when he promises jobs, and he talks about clamping down on immigration which they may associate with a lack of jobs, they gain that emotional attachment to him as a candidate that is fighting for them. We can’t paint them all as racists or xenaphobes, as tempting as that may be. And more to the point, I’d be willing to bet that the vast majority of his supporters don’t trust the media, and definitely don’t trust politicians, so when those pieces come out about how awful he is or how terrible what he said was or how bigoted so many of his policies are, they very likely don’t give it a second glance. We eat it up, but his supporters likely just see one of the many ways it can be dismissed, whether they think it’s the “liberal media unfairly attacking” their candidate, or “corrupt media who are conspiring with ‘crooked Hillary’ to make sure she gets elected” or any of the many narratives Republican leaders (and Democrats, don’t forget about the cries of Sen. Sanders’ unfair coverage in the media) have been spinning for years. They’re narratives that have been repeated so often, all Donald Trump had to do was pick them up and he ensured that his most devoted supporters would never look twice at a piece of negative media. And that’s not the voters’ faults, that’s a dangerous web that this country has been weaving for a long long time, aided by the 24-hour news cycle and broadcasters on cable shows that always need to be talking about something interesting.

So, now we have to answer a question that might make us uncomfortable, but desperately needs to be answered if we’re going to advance in this election and do anything meaningful to stop Donald Trump from being elected. If those news stories and talk show segments aren’t for Donald Trump supporters, who are they for? If they’re not changing the minds of the people we desperately need to change their minds (and they’re definitely not changing their minds), then what is their purpose? Well, the uncomfortable answer is that they were never for Trump supporters. They were never even going to reach many of them, if any at all. They’re for us. They’re for all the left-of-center voters who are terrified by Donald Trump’s very existence at this stage of the election. It’s essentially just an echo chamber where tens of millions of Americans consume and then regurgitate Trump’s latest gaffe or a humorous takedown of the inaccuracies in his policy claims all under the pretense of hopefully showing someone who was going to vote for Trump that they really shouldn’t. The problem, well, problems are that just like any echo chamber, we’re not reaching anyone who doesn’t already agree with us, and on top of that, if we do happen to reach Trump supporters, we’re more likely to fan the flames of their passion for him than to sway them towards voting for Sec. Clinton or Dr. Jill Stein or Gov. Gary Johnson or even writing in Rep. Paul Ryan.

There’s the problem, now what’s the solution? Unfortunately, this time, the solution is something that we as a society are not very good at, especially not now: we have to *almost* totally ignore someone who is dominating the media. Now, when I say ignore, I don’t mean that we can no longer read a quick article on whatever news site we follow about what Trump’s most recent antagonism is. I certainly don’t mean we can’t stay informed on the election or even watch our favorite comedian or Late Night Show host discuss the latest happenings. There’s nothing wrong with staying informed, and honestly with how terrifying things may seem right now, there’s nothing wrong with finding a way to laugh at what scares us. What I mean, more, is that we have to stop giving web hits to everything with Trump’s name in it (except for this, give this lots of hits, yes?). Because right now and for the past… um… 168 years?… that sounds right… for the past 168 years of this election cycle, we’ve been telling the internet that we want more Trump. We want to see him crash and burn, we want to know what his response to the response to a pundit’s response to his response to an event was, we want to know how terribly economists think his policies will fail and then shake our heads and say “why are people voting for him.” It’s become a type of addiction, and it’s time break the habit. And obviously this distinction requires using our own judgement on where the line is between “keeping yourself informed” and “morbidly shoveling in all the information surrounding Trump that we can” is. For me, I have some guidelines that I’m going to start trying to put in place for myself (and it is difficult): (1) It’s okay to read an article about an event I don’t know about in most situations, (2) don’t read articles that tell me something I already know, even if it’s new analysis or information (e.g. don’t read an article by an economist who’s saying how much “The Wall” would actually cost and why it’s ridiculous to think that Mexico would pay for it… I already know that), and (3) pick a few comedians and Late Night Show hosts to stick with on the issue of trump so that I’m not watching every single comedy video about him on the internet.

Now, I have an example that might help clarify my logic on this. This might seem to be an odd comparison, but when Fall Out Boy went on their hiatus in 2009, I was devastated being that they’ve always been one of my favorite bands, and it was unclear whether the break was a hiatus or an actual breakup. The position I decided to take was that it was an indefinite break up, and to never expect to see them release new material or tour again. My reasoning behind this was simple: if I kept expecting them to get back together, at best I was spending their time apart incessantly wondering when they would return and at worst I would just keep waiting and waiting forever; on the other hand if I saw it as a breakup, went through the grieving process right away (and yes there are many types of grieving) and didn’t expect a reunion, at worst I would be right in which case nothing changes because that’s what I prepared for, at best, however, I would be incredibly pleasantly surprised at being wrong when they came back.

Bringing this back to Donald Trump, if we collectively take the stance that nothings going to stick to him so we should just focus on our own candidate, the worst that can happen is that we’re right in which case we’ve spent so much more energy building up Sec. Clinton and getting people to vote for her than we might have otherwise. However if we’re wrong, that’s almost a best case scenario because we’ve still put all those resources into the Clinton campaign while we let Trump dig his own grave. And to be honest, if there are people that are going to destroy or derail his campaign, it’s prominent Republicans. It’s Speaker Paul Ryan or Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finally pulling their endorsements. It’s not gonna be the amount of hits overly exaggerated HuffPo articles get that are titled the way they are because they know that getting our hopes up that he’s finally done is the best way to get mega hits. I have HuffPo set as one of my home pages and I can’t tell you how many times in the last 4-5 months their home page story has been something like “Are We Finally Seeing the End of Donald?” or “Trump Campaign in Utter Chaos” or “Trump’s Disastrous 48 Hours.”

So, for my money, I think it’s better to change our approach. We need to admit that he really is the Teflon Don, and nothing will ever stick to him, and in that spirit, we need to give up the circus act of madly trying to tape and pin and nail scandals to him only for them to fall off or be absorbed or whatever happens there. Instead? Let’s focus on getting people to commit to voting for Sec. Clinton this November, and let’s focus on getting our Senators and Representatives elected that we can believe in. Because we need to realize that Donald Trump is not a joke anymore, and he more than likely will go into November fighting no matter how many scandals he trudges through. If we want to make a real difference in this election, the answer isn’t to repost an report on Trump’s financial history. The answer is to stop taking swipes at something we can’t hit, and instead work on promoting the candidate that can beat him. Instead of Team Anti-Donald, we need to be Team Hillary.

Note: this article was edited on 8/5/16 to add the last two paragraphs before the final paragraph (Paragraphs 10 & 11), as well as add to the paragraph before those (Paragraph 9).

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4 thoughts on “Is the Best Way to Defeat Donald Trump by Ignoring Him?

  1. Maybe you wrote this before the latest polls, after his conflict with the Khans, his pettiness over Paul Ryan and criticisms of Kelly Ayotte, but it seems the accumulation of his impulse control problems is finally causing an implosion. GOP biggies are dismayed, staffers say they are “suicidal”, and that Paul Manafort has given up trying to advise, because Trump listens to no one except his kids. Clinton now has a 10-point lead nationally. I say keep baiting him. He can’t let any criticism alone, no matter how trivial, and it makes him look nuts, unstable, out of control, even to Republicans.

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    • No it was after. He’s been through things like this before, even with the staff problems if you remember how tumultuous his “shell of a campaign” was around Convention time. There’s always been tons of leaks out of his campaign, but if look back through the history of the General election polls, there are moments where Clinton seems to break away and he flops below 40%, but he’s always come back. Now like I said I’m no psychic so this may be the one he doesn’t come back from, and I’ll overjoyed if that’s true, but I doubt it is. I just think we’re dealing with a whole different monster here.

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      • I agree the monster is one we haven’t seen since 1964. What’s unique in the numbers this time is a candidate having an increase in negative numbers as a result of their own party’s convention. Trump’s supporters gave him a short “bump”, but at the same time he gained several percentage points worth of active opponents. He’s polling at near zero among blacks, and lower among all women than any recent candidate. It’s Republican women who are driving the call for an “intervention”.

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        • Yeah it’ll be very interesting to see how it plays out. I mean in an ideal world he doesn’t even make it to the elections cuz the republican powers that be have enough of him, though that could cause some major unrest and I know Trump isn’t beneath encouraging riots. But yeah you’re absolutely right. And what’s really interesting is that that convention was the Republican Party becoming Trump. So it was like people said “okay I like you, but not that much of you.” And definitely combining Clinton’s (at least partially undeserved) negatives and Trump’s (very deserved) negatives it makes the choice that much harder for the country as a whole. And yeah it’s absurd to think he can win the general without women, black Americans, Latinx/Hispanic Americans, but I don’t take anything for granted this election, especially with the voter suppression of minorities going on.

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