Now Trump Owns Every Job Loss — Even Before He Is Sworn In.

Initially, I was worried by the report that Trump’s Carrier intervention is earning high approval.  But even setting aside the fact that the set up of answer choices suggests that the result is more rejection of traditional Republic orthodoxy about non-intervention in the economy, the long-term expectations set up huge problems for Trump.

Because from now on, every job loss leads to the question to the President-elect, and then the President — did you try to intervene on this one, did you succeed, if not why not, what did you offer/threaten?  Also, why did you do this for Carrier workers in Indiana, but not for me?

Given that these are long term economic forces, it’s the King Canute story but the other way around.

It also reminds me of the story of how Bill Clinton always wanted to go to Wall Street and ring the stock market opening bell.  And his staff would say, “but what if the market goes down that day?”



Focusing Research To Support an “Appropriate Unrigging” Agenda By Getting Beyond Symptoms

If I am right that our change strategy has to be based on understanding how Trump voters and potential Trump voters think about the term “rigging,” then we need to be doing research that shows how and why the system is rigged, and for whom.

My own personal feeling that much of the problem is that research, after currently being mediated through the media, ends up reporting on symptoms, but not on causes and dynamics.  For example, the recent numbers on suicide, health and life expectancy in declining counties did get widely reported, but I bet they made it through as just that, leaving the impacted population to fill in their own “low information” explanations, that probably focused on external threats, (drugs and foreign competition), rather than lack of opportunity caused by American corporate decisions, lack of health care caused by Republican de-funding, etc. (That hypothesis in itself would make a fascinating research project)

While we can not reshape the media, at least in the shot term, I fear, we can start to do research that focuses not so much on the symptoms, but on government and corporate behavior, with symptoms as only the afterthought, and with analysis of the mechanisms of the impact that causes those symptoms.

We should be conducting focus groups and testing messages that are specifically not about getting short term support for specific changes, but getting insight into people’s understanding of underlying dynamics and finding what would disrupt or replace those understandings.

For example, this paper from the FTC on big data raises many questions about the possible discriminatory and exclusionary impacts of big data.  I would suggest that these impacts might include pricing policies that have discriminatory impact on the declining county areas, others that make it harder for people from those areas to apply for jobs, or even get health care assistance online.

So the research needs to be about the direct line from the corporate behavior, in this case the use of big data, to the impacts that the population of those areas feel.

An economist would say these big data techniques help make markets even more perfect.  Others might experience them differently.  The point is for research to provide the information and does not allow victims to be set against each other.


Questions for Four Years On

Reagan’s winning question “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” has been the holy grail of candidates ever since, and its reuse has never worked, so its not enough to plan to use it again.

Rather we need to be thinking now about the equivalent that goes to the deeper motivations of the key changed voters:

Is the system any less rigged than it was four years ago?

Are those who the system was rigged for any worse off than they were four years ago?

Is your voice being heard more than it was four years ago?

Did the job you were promised come back?

Are we being kept out of wars like you were promised?



The Daily Trump Economic Self-Interest Report

Someone needs to set up a reporting and analysis system that collects, every day, the personal economic benefit to Trump and his family from each of his decisions.

The first priority is the decisions he made personally, or approved, the next is the ones made by others after discussions with him, and the last, biggest, is those made by those appointed by him, or under the supervision of those appointed by him.

Its a mammoth project, requiring first of all a full inventory of his economic interests.  The very fact that that will be so hard to collect underlines the danger to the legitimacy of the entire US government, and its reputation worldwide.

It may be that the only way we will be able to regain international respect is if we show by activities like this that as a country we are committed to its ideals.

It is one thing to ask American young people to die for a Trump Hotel.  It is quite another to ask solders from an ally to do so — or even to ask taxpayers in any country to bear a financial burden inspired by the protection of Trump family economic interests.  And what, finally, if such a conflict escalates, without anyone meaning it,  into nuclear war?  Just the perception of the threat is terifying to the idea of our national cohesion.

Imagine if John Kennedy had had a big hotel in Cuba confiscated by Castro.  How would the Bay of Pigs invasion have looked then?  How would allies and the UN have looked at US response to the Missile Crisis?  (Most who were not alive, do not remember how skeptical many allies were, and how the world mood only changed when Kennedy authorized the release of the spy photos, photos that would probably not be believed today.)

The Key Question for Pollsters and Focus Groups –What Do You Mean by “Rigged”

Obviously, the belief that “the system is rigged” not only resonated strongly in this election cycle, but was extremely powerful.

It was brilliantly powerful in getting people to vote against their interests.

But the thing we have to do to lay the ground work for a better political alignment is to understand what people actually think they mean by the phrase.  More importantly, we have to find the way to communicate the truth about how it is “rigged” in a way that is true, that appeals to a wide a variety of current perceptions, and that will build support for true “un-rigging.”

Here is a list of some of the things that people think when they respond to the phrase.

“I no longer get the help I used to.”

“Government is helping people who are not like me, and not helping me and people like me.” (Five Star Euphemism Alert)

“Government is helping banks and companies to take away from me.”

“I pay more than my share of tax and get nothing for it.”

“Nobody listens to me and my friends.”

“Government helps bad people.” (Four Star Euphemism Alert, but could refer to corporate malefactors.)

“People in government are just out for themselves.”

“Nobody helps the people who need help.”

“The system is run by people very different from me who want to impose their values on me and make me do things I do not believe in.” (Three Star Euphemism Alert.)

“Money gets you everything.”

I am sure I am missing lots of important ones — please add in the comments.

After identifying the generalizations that appeal, then we need to look for the indicia that people use — what do they see that convinces them of these generalizations.

Once we understand what is going on, then the “Trump Monitoring” can be focused on what will disabuse people of their allusions and help them develop better understanding.  In other words, first we find the facts that counter not so much the generalizations(those get explained away), but the facts that counter the believed facts that support the generalizations.  That is harder to ignore.

Of course, some of the generalizations are true.  The lessons from those are far harder, because we have to develop policies and examples that make them untrue.  That’s going to be the real challenge for the coalition.



Trump’s Voters and Putin’s Voters Are Similar in Many Ways – Strategic Implications

At the risk of overgeneralizing, subject to more careful analysis, and feeling badly for maybe stereotyping:

Trump and Putin voters are blue collar, in declining industries, with little hope of long term improvement.

Trump and Putin voters are racial majorities and think they should stay that way.

Trump and Putin voters expect the state to take care of them — although they say the opposite.

Trump and Putin voters often rely for a sense of self on the superiority of their country and religion.

Trump and Putin voters are suffering declining life expectancy, with significantly increasing suicide, drug above, overdose, and medical problems.

Trump and Putin voters tend to project the causes of their problems onto outsiders, those that they see as vulnerable.

Trump and Putin voters seem unable to vote their economic interests, or at least their long term ones.

It is the last one that raises the question whether a long term Democratic strategy of trying to get back the Midwest makes any sense.  The answer is that such a strategy only makes sense if enough of this population can go from seeing that the system is rigged to understanding who is rigging it and in what interest.

The Reason Trump Appeals — Shared Status Anxiety

An effective demagogue is usually one whose personal demons align with those to whom he seeks to appeal.

Example One:

Today’s headline in the New York Times:  What Drives Donald Trump? Fear of Losing Status, Tapes Show.

Pretty much all the evidence is that Trump voters are low education, white, male, and relatively comfortable.  In other words those suffering the worst status anxiety in these rapidly changing times.

A match made — but not in heaven.  And, one driving both to disaster.

The only way I can think of to break out of it is to explicitly address not just changes in the economy, but status threats and status anxiety — but its probably too late before the vote.