My post about Donald Trump as a “bad” business person (bad because he has a focus on one-off transactions and NOT on relationships) prompted many phone calls today from the Trumpanistas in my orbit. I listened... hard. And what I learned, Hillary Clinton needs to hear.
The Trumpanistas were unanimous in stating that they believe the “government,” the “establishment,” “the Democrats” have created a “system” where the concerns of the Trumpanistas cannot even be expressed, never mind attended to. They believe they cannot be heard. That the “system” only cares about “its own concerns” and paying attention to its own “powers that be.”
They are sick and tired of being ignored. And they believe that the system has no desire to ever listen.
Hillary needs to undermine that belief ― by listening.
She needs to find a way to demonstrate that she truly can hear these people’s concerns. That their having those concerns does NOT make them “deplorable.” That she can and will give creative attention to how those concerns can be met.
If Hillary Clinton can demonstrate the ability, the willingness and the follow-through to actually listen to the concerns expressed by the Trumpanistas, she can win over many of the undecideds.
Trump is a voice for these people’s spoken and unspoken issues. Those in the lower economic end of this group truly believe that programs such as affirmative action, refugee resettlement, student loans, etc are designed (yes, designed — meaning with intent) to give select groups of “others” a way to get ahead of them. They believe that their hard work is often for nought. Just as they go to pull themselves up the ladder there goes the government raising the bar or allowing someone else to “cut” in line.
This is a REAL issue. Both that they feel this way and that they can tell far too many stories which fit the pattern.
It is a rage which is fueled by resentment. And, truth be told, we do indeed have a government which goes to great lengths to publicize certain programs and seems to forget to even mention others. Those who see the recipients of the publicized programs advance may feel that the advances have occurred at their expense. It is an easy narrative to tell. And, for far too long, it has been an easy narrative for those “in power” to ignore.
Listening will mean a great deal to these people. Trump can be a voice for their resentment and their rage, but Trump is part of the problem, NOT part of the solution. (He hires foreigners for jobs Americans can and would do, he cheats those does hire, he fails to pay taxes, he has a distorted view of life in American minority communities, and, at heart, he may well be a racist.) But, unlike Hillary, he gives voice to their frustration. These Trumpanistas have “given up” on the idea that the government can help them. They have “given up” on the idea that the government cares. It makes them desperate for “change.” They are the ones reacting to the appeal of “what do you have to lose?”
The Clinton campaign can address these folks two ways: 1) create a platform for their concerns to be expressed and 2) create a meaningful policy to deal with the “benefits cliff” — the sudden loss of benefits which can occur when a formerly struggling person or family gets somewhat established thanks to governmental programs or aid and then, BECAUSE THEY GOT THEMSELVES ESTABLISHED, they lose access to the very programs and aid that allowed them a modicum of success. Those who have fallen off of the benefit cliff HATE (yes ,HATE) the government for smashing their dignity. Many of them are Trumpanistas and those who are have engaging narratives to tell — the very kind of narratives which create Trump voters.
The benefits cliff is very real and government has not been very creative with solutions. So let me suggest one: Treat each recipient of benefits and aid programs as an equity investment. The goal is to get that person and their family stabilized, secure in housing, food, transportation, education and employment. View the investment as being of medium term. In return for NOT removing these folks from government aid for up to five years after they “income out” (earn too much to qualify), have them tithe that portion of their income which exceeds the benefit cap for ten years. They get effectively “extra” taxed only on that portion of their income which demonstrates their success. They get reassured that the programs are there for them if something goes awry. (And remember those on the cliff or just over it have little to fall back on when the unexpected happens.)
Investing in these folk would go a long way to addressing the frustrations of the Trumpanistas. Having such programs as policy proposals is a rebuttal to “they do not care.” The challenge with these programs is that the Republican Congress thinks it benefits politically from keeping these people on a precipice. Hillary needs to call their bluff. Propose this now and dare Ryan and McConnell to explain why they oppose it. Republican opposition to a SOLUTION completely undercuts any fantasy that Trump can create a positive change.
The other folks to invest in are the frustrated small business owners. They feel like they are drowning in endless regulations and, to them, mindless rules. They are spoken at and to by both campaigns but there is little evidence that anyone is actually listening. Create an ombudsman’s office. Staff it with college students and recent graduates. Empower the ombudsmen to speak to any agency which the small business needs to deal with or to seek relief from. Giving these small business owners access to someone on THEIR side — who is NOT a $300/hr+ lawyer — will make a huge difference. Charge the ombudsman’s office with collecting data on what regulations are “getting in businesses way.” The creation of real data can sometimes move mountains. Again, propose it now and let the Republicans balk.
Lest we forget, there is another kind of Trumpanista — the kind who have money. They do not face the benefits cliff (in fact, few of them will have ever even heard of it), but, just like their lower income cousins, they too feel the “system” is rigged to not even listen to their concerns. These are the store keepers who feel their taxes are going to waste, the business people who cannot understand why we spend money abroad and not at home, and the single issue folks who believe that “their issue” has been ignored.
Both kinds of Trumpanista would be shocked if there was a way to get their issues heard and seemingly understood. Technology offers a solution — open an issues Wikipedia. It would need to be moderated to remove the hate and the personality based complaints. But, a Wiki of issues with updates and commentary from the campaign about how the issue is being processed would go a HUGE way towards addressing the “they ignore me” concern.
Finally we must recognize that there are still other Trumpanistas. These are either the ones who are convinced that the only thing we can do is “throw the rascals out”or the ones who believe that Hillary is “evil.” They are voting for Trump. Hillary cannot win their votes. And, she should not even try.
The three programs I am advocating can deliver the undecideds. An issues-pedia, investing in the benefit cliff, and creating a large scale small business ombudsman’s program directly address the rational concerns of the Trumpanistas. They will negate narratives of frustration. They represent true change and not just vented rage.
The election is in 45 days. The path to change closes in three weeks. The time to act is now.
America’s future may well rest in the hands of the undecided.
Trump will give them voice.
Hillary needs to give them CHANGE.
The next decade will be determined by their votes.
I have described what Clinton needs to do to win. So now, HRC, are you fighting for us? Are you in this together? can you stand with the undecideds like you are asking them to stand with you?