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Trumped: How the Donald Broke Politics.
By David Erdely
June 2015, an announcement was made that would change the face of politics forever. It wasn’t a controversial policy of the president or another political scandal. It was one man announcing his quest for peace and to make this country great again. Of course at the time nobody took him seriously with the front page the following day on the Daily News reading “Clown Runs for Prez.” I’m not talking about Chris Christie or even Bernie Sanders. I am talking about the one, the only, the soon to be “Greatest Jobs President God has ever created” Donald J. Trump. Mr. Trump’s campaign would prove to be far more successful than anybody could have imagined. Many political analysts thought Trump would have been down and out of the race after a week or two. Nora Kelly of govexec went as far as to include a top three list why Trump won’t matter in the 2016 election in her article about Trump a few days after his announcement. After two weeks passed again they said it wouldn’t be before long that Trump would bow out of the race. But as time went on he grew stronger and saw his support rising. By July the then front runner Jeb Bush disappeared from the top spot and would never rebound. According to a poll conducted by CNN and ORC International from the weekend of June 27th Trump had 12% of the Republican vote with Jeb Bush leading with 17%. By the end of July, Trump had rocketed to the top of the polls with 18% and Bush falling to 15%. The Republicans were running scared and anyone watching the first Republican debate on Fox News could tell you the gloves came off and the republican institution came charging with arms swinging looking to take down Trump. It was reminiscent of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1938) where as Jefferson Smith said “Alright, I got up here and I started to open my mouth and the long and powerful arm of Mr. James Taylor reached into this sacred chamber and grabbed me by the scruff of the neck…” Well that’s what happened to Mr.Trump; the long and powerful arm of the Republican institution reached into the Quicken Loans Arena and tried to knock Trump to kingdom come. Well, Mr. Trump kept his head up and fought through it. This has been the story of the last four months. Mainstream media attacking and bashing him but yet he is still cruising along.
Today Trump has double the numbers with a whopping 36% of the vote and Bush a distant 3%. Simply by looking at the numbers one would assume that people love Trump and is endorsed by many. However, by following the news you can see that is not the case. And so here I am, trying to figure out, how is he doing it? How is Trump continuing to lead the polls? It is not a simple answer but I think I know how he did it. It’s all a public relations game and Donald Trump is a master of it. I also believe the media is attempting to beat Trump in the PR by pumping the public with inflated and perhaps heavily manufactured stories on those who do not support Trump. Maybe just maybe there really are many supporters and people who love him; we just aren’t being fed that. The other reason for his continued success his is use of social media which seems to be the key in being successful in campaigns as President proved in 2008 and again in 2012.
To understand many of the ideas and concepts in this paper we must examine mass media and determine and/or define mass media. It this case we will be looking at mass media in the world of politics. According to Eoin Devereux, mass media is “an essential element in the process of democratic politics by providing an arena and channel for wide debate, for making candidates for office widely known and for distributing diverse information and opinion; and a means of exercising power by virtue of the relatively privileged access that politicians and agents of government can generally claim from the media as a legitimate right.” So in other words wherever politicians can share their campaign ideas and policies and connect with the public. Mr. Trump is doing a fantastic job utilizing and controlling the landscape. The man is everywhere, you can’t escape him. And most of it is free publicity from the press.
The Donald feeds off the media and media attention, and he is getting a ton of it both positive and negative but mostly negative. Nevertheless, media attention for him is media attention. Trump knows how to turn any bit of media attention into propaganda in his favor. It is important to note that propaganda in its true sense is not the meaning you think of in your mind. According to Edward Bernays propaganda can be defined when “Any society, whether it be social, religious or political, which is possessed of certain beliefs, and sets out to make them known, either by the spoken or written words, is practicing propaganda” (Bernays 22). In a sense propaganda is very similar to campaigning and Trump is a master manipulator in getting the media to push his ideas/ beliefs across to the masses, even when they are being used against him. During his presidential announcement he spoke about building a wall on the US-Mexican border and making Mexico pay for it. Of course the media had a field day with that comment mocking him and ridiculing him “Donald Trump landed his helicopter at the state fair and offered to take some kids on a ride in the helicopter. Twenty kids took the helicopter ride with Trump. He dropped them off in Texas. They're now building a wall on the border." (Jimmy Kimmel) but at the same time the whole world was able to hear his idea and is probably one of the most well-known policies of any of the candidates. Mr. Trump said it best to Chris Wallace during the first Republican debate “If it weren’t for me you wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration Chris. You wouldn’t even be talking about it.” Indeed he makes a very valid point.
“Modern propaganda is a consistent, enduring effort to create or shape events to influence the relations of the public to an enterprise, idea or group.” (Bernays 25). This idea relates to the Trump campaign in two ways. The first has to do with what many would call absurd and outrageous promises and ideas that Donald Trump has. While I’ll admit some of his ideas sound like good ideas and plausible, many may not be practical. But they are appealing to many and easy to understand. A good example could be deporting all undocumented immigrants. MSNBC was quick to say “Even if Trump were elected president, he would not be able to fulfill many of his draconian promises on immigration – including mass deportation of all undocumented immigrants. Trump’s ugly agenda assumes there are no Constitution, no separation of powers, and no checks and balances which would prevent him from carrying out mass expulsion of undocumented immigrants.” They went as far as to publish an article claiming his plan would cost between $100-$200 Billion. Whether or not these statements are true his plan is appealing to many. French social psychologist Gustav Le Bon explains this phenomenon, the imagination of the crowds, by saying “Crowds have always undergone the influence of illusions. Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim” (Ewen 142). Right now Trump is saying exactly what the people want to hear. Many say Trump appeals to those middle-lower class Americans who are fed up with our government, this is exactly why. He is providing the visions and images that many long to see implemented. He is in control of the American people by providing them with visions of an America that many long to see.
Trump is also a master of social media. Social media has become important in politics and elections over the last 8 years. “A political junkie can follow a campaign minute-by-minute with Twitter, watch it via live-streamed campaign events, or read about it on a growing number of niche news outlets devoted to covering even the most incremental developments in politics.” President Obama was really the first to use the full power of social media in his campaign in 2008 and again in 2012, and he was very successful at it (Hamby.) It can be argued that it was Obama’s social media saviness that ultimately won him the election. Trump has that same ability. While he takes to twitter to throw punches at his opponents, he also keeps his supporters/followers informed. Donald Trump has approximately 970,000 followers on twitter, more than Carson, Cruz, and Bush combined, and more than all the democratic candidates combined (CNN). With that kind of following it makes sense that he is able to get some of the polling numbers that he has been getting. However, Trump’s tweets are a lot like the verbal sound bites that are heard on radio or televised news; they are blunt, to the point and have that Trumpy tone to them.
Donald Trump and his presidential campaign is a show in its own, many critics have said that Trump is turning the presidential race into a reality show. Trump while very tactful has an enormous amount of charisma. It’s this charisma that attracts supporters and keeps them glued to his campaign. “The irrational energies of the crowd/public to which charisma traditionally appealed is transformed by the culture industry into the much more easily controlled (and exploited) commodified phenomenon of celebrity for the pre-primed mass-media audience.(Taylor/Harris 143). Donald Trump is a spectacle in himself. People wait just to see what he is going to do next. This is the kind of spectacle that Guy Debord refers to in his writing “Since no one can contradict it, the spectacle has the right to contradict itself, to correct its own past. The arrogant attitude of its servants, when they make known some new and perhaps still more dishonest version of certain facts is to harshly correct the ignorance and bad interpretations the attribute to the public, while the day before they themselves were busy disseminating the error, with their customary assurance.”(Debord N10). While this could accurate describe Donald Trump the only thing he doesn’t do is go back or flip-flop on an issue. What is interesting is the very first clause in his statement that no one can contradict it. The thing with Trump is that he will never admit he is wrong although many times he is not, but when he is and evidence is presented or there is a lack of evidence (vaccines and autism), he will never admit it or somehow finds a way to disapprove the argument hence no one can contradict him. Trump is the spectacle we love to hate.
So with all of the points and evidence presented, sense can be made on the success of Trump so far. But what about the future? Can he continue his relentless march straight to the White House? Well, so far he has managed to get through 4 debates, ruthless attacks, and a plethora of negative press. I believe he still has the steam to keep moving forward, although he seems to be hitting a few bumps in the road with his thoughts and feelings on Muslims. It is a tough road ahead for Mr. Trump but I believe he will make it to the white house despite what many political analysts say. If media history repeats itself, and I think it will, Trump will conquer the elections with the power of convergence. With great convergence comes great responsibility.
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