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How Democrats Can Beat Trump at His Own Game

How Democrats Can Beat Trump at His Own Game

April 2, 2019 10:58 pmComments are Disabled

We all know Donald Trump is terrible at so many things. Reading, for example. Or not lying.

But if Democrats want to beat him in 2020 they have to understand and defeat him at the thing he’s good at: marketing.

Trump is a man whose entire career has been built on the power of marketing, and implicit in that skill set is the ability to find what works to get attention.

Today’s case in pivoting on healthcare is a perfect example. Trump knows that in a week, the news cycle will have moved on to something else. But by branding the GOP the “party of healthcare” for a couple days, he learned valuable information. He learned that the American people aren’t going to give him credit for this as a voting issue, and he’d look weak compared to Democrats on it. He knows his base isn’t getting fired up about it. So, he moved on to the next thing.

Trump operates like a political entrepreneur, constantly testing political messages with his market. He’s made for our time: no other era has made the information gathering cycle so rapid as today. Previous presidents had to wait until the weekly paper, or poll results, or even elections to find out what’s working. Trump, on the other hand, has instant access to the world stage with everything he says, which is reported on, dissected, analyzed, praised, and criticized immediately by every facet of society. He can see in realtime what messages work and which fall flat.

What better Petri dish for a marketer to split test ideas?

Remember the caravan? That story started just like the healthcare claim. But that one went viral immediately. He knew he had hit a nerve. He could keep twisting the knife. The “party of healthcare,” on the other hand, was DOA.

You don’t have to like Trump to recognize the genius in his marketing skill set and how he uses the media to shape his message. If Democrats hope to beat him, they need to think like Pepsi going after Coca Cola, not JFK going after Nixon.

This is why I firmly believe the Democrat with the best shot at winning the nomination, and defeating Donald Trump, is Pete Buttigieg. I don’t particularly like him (I mean, he’s barely older than I am and he thinks he has the maturity and experience to be President. The chutzpah.) But he is something the Democrats desperately need right now: a brand.

You can see the stories about him already spreading virally like Trump and Obama before him: he taught himself Norwegian. He’s openly gay. He’s a veteran. He’s a Rhodes Scholar. He’s a small city mayor from a red state. Can you hear progressives and moderate Democrats opening their wallets?

His $7 million Q1 haul is nothing to snark at. And most of all, his youth and vigor give him charisma we don’t see from anyone else in the field except for Booker, Biden and (maybe) Harris.

If Democrats want to beat Trump, they have to beat him at his own game. They have to find a brand that can beat his. This isn’t politics anymore. It’s marketing.

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