quack - n. 1) The characteristic sound uttered by a duck
quack - n. 1) An untrained person who pretends to be a physician and dispenses
2) A charlatan, a mountebank
As Donald Trump's once implausible presidential nomination has become real, Democrats are recognizing the psychological power of the schoolyard taunts the Republican candidate has used so effectively to diminish the stature of his opponents: Crooked Hillary, Crazy Bernie, Lyin' Ted, Little Marco. The question facing Democrats in this strange and frightening election season is how to brand Trump.
The Clinton campaign tried Dangerous Donald, which fell flat, and has been floating the moniker Poor Donald. Both choices hold none of the power of Trump's insults. Dangerous evokes a titillating thrill - Carlos Danger before being unmasked - and Poor Donald rings of elitist condescension.
The creator of the Dilbert cartoon Scott Adams, who also studies hypnotism and persuasion, recently appeared on the Bill Maher show and frightened viewers by repeating a prediction he made last year that Trump would win a landslide victory. Adams talked about the shrewdness of Trump's one-word descriptive adjectives that the candidate market tests with every ad-libbed diatribe -- it was Heartless Hillary before Crooked Hillary won out. What the cartoonist/hypnotist didn't suggest, or get the airtime to articulate during the usual melee of a Maher panel, were the word associations Democrats could use to counter Trump's legerdemain.
He scared me to sleep and waking up in the dark of night, I blended cartoons with crazy characters and out popped Quack Donald.
Quack Donald associates the Republican nominee with Disney character Donald Duck, famous for his barely intelligible speech. The name links (Donald) Trump's stream of consciousness chatter and contradictions with the relentless quack of a (Donald) duck. It also reminds Americans of the quackery Trump proposes daily: build a wall and have the Mexicans pay for it; ban all Muslims from entering the United States; praise the authoritarian Putin as a true leader; demean and reduce women's actions to the function of their reproductive cycles, as well as initially demand that women who undergo abortion should face punishment.
The list goes on and on as Trump offers inflammatory ideas and proposals to "heal" the country like a quack peddler selling fake medicine to suggestible crowds. He changes his mind daily yet is not held accountable - Flip Flop Trump doesn't make any headway because a growing portion of America prefers the lack of facts and constant quacking.
A quack is also a charlatan or mountebank, which is defined both as a person who sells quack medicines from a platform and a boastful unscrupulous pretender. The word originates from the Italian montambanco, derived from the phrase monta im banco, "one gets up onto the bench." The bench refers to the platforms on which 16th and 17th century charlatans stood to peddle their phony medicines. Contemporary Italy had its montambanco, Silvio Berlusconi, who left the country in shame and economic shambles, and we have ours, Donald Trump.
The former cruise ship singer, Berlusconi, however, didn't routinely erupt in volcanic anger like Trump, whose contradictory positions and attacks on minorities bring to mind, as Robert Kagan astutely described in The Washington Post, Benito Mussolini. And as I pointed out in another HuffPost blog, we must be vigilant about the realities and dangers of the road ahead. Most of America didn't recognize Fascism even when it hit them in the face. For over a decade into Mussolini's authoritarian rule, venerable institutions praised him: the Saturday Evening Post serialized his autobiography and the New York Times printed breathless portraits from its overseas columnists about the promising, forceful Italian leader.
The coming election will dangerously test the ideals of democracy and Democrats must fight back. Every one of Trump's crazy proposals needs a response that mirrors the technique of his taunts, so why not try Quack Donald. The name even comes with its own navy uniform duck suit. Put aside the profoundly depressing reality that after the intelligence, civility, and grace of Barack Obama we're forced to reach for our inner-eight-year-old to squarely compete. But sadly that is our reality and there is no time to lose. If it's not, as persuasion expert Adams says, about facts but about focus of attention then we need an equally effective nickname. So get quacking.