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Turn the Republican Base Against the Republican Party: Part Two

To destroy the party, disillusion the voters.

In Part 1 of this article, I summarized how the modern Republican Party is devastating the American people. Even though they claim otherwise—of course, why wouldn’t they?—the GOP has been instrumental in ripping the country apart. Now, I will explore how we can use this against them. The actions (rather than just the words) of modern Republicans, if brought to light, can weaken their support and collapse the party.

We just have to get good at bringing their actions to light. It will require a clear strategy and a range of methods.

Assessing current support

The first thing we have to understand is that Donald Trump crushed his Republican primary opponents, and he did this by using two main threads of rhetoric. One: he was “anti-establishment” (even if it was ultimately a ruse). Trump aimed to convince the majority of the Republican base—and would convince them—that he is against the political and economic status quo. The Republican base is unhappy with how things are. In fact, many voters voted for Trump if only for the reason that they didn’t want Clinton, who ran on “America is already great” and a continuation of the modern Democratic Party’s pro-Wall Street, pro-corporate agenda.

The anti-establishment sentiment includes many Trump voters being against The modern Republican Partywhat it has been doing, and the direction in which it’s headed. Much of Trump’s support came from people who didn’t want to vote for “conventional Republicans”—the ones making up the rest of Congress. That’s why they voted overwhelmingly for Trump instead of the other “regular” Republican candidates in the primary.

The 2016 elections—both the primaries and the general election—has become known as an “anti-establishment” wave. Ted Cruz was Trump’s second-place challenger in the primaries, and while it may have ultimately been a lie, Ted Cruz also gave off the veneer of “anti-establishment.” Part of his campaign was to paint himself as a maverick and someone who would do the “right” thing, even if it was unpopular with the rest of the party. Cruz even took a page out of Bernie Sanders’s notebook, trying to play up his “small donors” and “grassroots” support. Of course, it was mostly parlor tricks (Cruz is much more indebted to the Koch Bros than the working class or middle class), but this was his persona in 2016.

Donald Trump’s second thread of rhetoric is that he promised safety (“Make America Safe Again”) and prosperity (“Make America Great Again”). Even if his analysis was wrong in blaming immigrants, refugees, Muslims, and “terrorists”—and even though we believe he is morally wrong in doing so—he was indeed speaking to a real and great sense of insecurity in the United States. And no matter whether his economic plan would actually bring prosperity, it is what he promised. Trump played off real fears in the electorate. Some of these fears, but not all of them, were related to sexism and racism.

These two threads that Trump ran on, “national security” and anti-establishment sentiment, give us a major clue of what voters really want. Yes, even Republican voters. People want to be safe. People want to have good jobs. People want healthcare. And the large portion of senior voters who went for Trump really do want their social security. (Donald Trump promised that he would protect social security, unlike most of his Republican opponents.)

People want other things too, of course, and some people want some different things. But everyone requires basic necessities, and we know that Americans are in pain. Americans know their government has failed them.

Trump is corrupt

In some ways, Donald Trump is different than the other Republicans. He is more open and bombastic in his inflammatory rhetoric—he says out loud what the Republican Party has traditionally preferred to keep in quiet. Trump is less informed about things that government officials should know, like where major countries are on the map. He is spontaneously absurd, in all things. So he is, in some ways, more dangerous than his predecessors.

In other ways, though, he is the same: Trump represents the same social and economic values of the rest of the party, and works nicely within the “corrupt” political system of legalized bribery. In short, Trump is no less corrupt than the other Republicans. And the other Republicans are what voters rejected in 2016. (See where I’m going with this?)

Trump promised to “drain the swamp,” but he has not drained the swamp. He’s intensified it, and it’s in plain sight. If we find good and succinct ways to make this known to Trump’s remaining base, support would continue to drop for Trump and the entire party.

Trump’s support is already low, and it’s been dropping. Trump’s approval rating currently rests at 38%, down from 45% around the time of his inauguration (which was already a low approval rating for a president-elect). He’s also lost nearly 10 points among rural voters, who were a strong demographic for Trump in 2016. Americans’ “trust and confidence” in Trump is also down about 10 points since inauguration.

Paul Ryan, speaker of the house, and Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader, have even worse approval ratings. More than anyone else, they represent Republican Party politics.

At the same time, this still means about 1 in 3 Americans approve of Trump, and perhaps 1 in 4 of Ryan, and 1 in 5 of McConnell. That’s still a lot of people to sway. If we can keep lowering the approval of those who still support the Republicans, then short of directly controlling all the voter machines (and getting away with it), the Republican Party cannot sustain its power.

Grand strategy

Art by Joshua Kahn Russell

See above: the spectrum of allies. The immediate goal is to move everyone left one space (or more when possible). Right now we’re focusing on those Republican voters who are more “neutral” (voting out of tradition, peer pressure, or lacking a good alternative) and we are also concerned with the “passive opposition”—who vote Republican for specific reasons and values—and may be lightly active in politics, and sharing their opinions on social media and in regular conversations—yet, are not hopelessly solidified in their partisanship.

These two segments make up the majority of the Republican base, and since efficiency is a real concern, these are the people we should engage the most in our effort to undermine the Republican Party.

(Confronting the “active opposition” is a topic of its own, and it must be noted that there will always be some kind of active opposition. The active opposition, however, relies on the “neutral” and “passive opposition” to maintain power.)

To effectively persuade the base away from the Republican Party—the neutral and passive opposition—there are many strategies to pursue, but here are a few that would be effective. We don’t have to change everyone’s mind—just some peoples’. And since we don’t have to make anything up—remember, the Republican Party has been factually atrocious—we just have to tactfully reveal what they’ve actually been doing.

Big strategy #1:  Expose the lies of Trump and other Republicans

“Since Trump’s personal brand is being “the boss” who does what he wants, one way to mess with it is to make him look like a puppet.”

(—Naomi Klein, from her book “No is Not Enough”)

Trump made a career and then became president by having a certain persona. Naomi Klein calls it a “brand.” Trump is the big boss. He’s an American success story. He’s filthy rich—he knows money, and therefore, he must be good at improving the American economy and looking out for the American people.

It’s a lie. It’s a story, but a false one. Donald Trump would be nothing without his inheritance. He’s declared bankruptcy multiple times, showing that he was not actually a “successful” businessman. He made the rest of his money by cheating rules and regulations, exploiting workers, and just being a terrible human being.

Do 1 in 3 Americans really admire the reality of Trump? I truly don’t believe so, it’s just that most of them are still stuck in the lie he has propagated.

This is one of the points we have to bring to Trump’s remaining support. Show, tactfully (more on this later), that the reasons they still like Trump are actually based on lies that Trump told.

As for the Republican Party—they are bent on taking away millions of peoples’ healthcare, just to make the rich richer. Trump goes right along with it—which gives us that advantage of pointing it out.

Nobody wants to lose their healthcare. This facade cannot last; we can help break it down.

Americans are sick of war, too. Trump promised, of course, that he would pull out of wars. He knew it’s what the vast majority of people wanted. And yet, once again, he lied. He is just as much a warmonger as previous, “conventional” politicians (that most people rejected in 2016 for these reasons).

We must expose the lies about our wars and the military-industrial complex, and how the Republicans—including Trump—enable it all.

Trades deals are another big issue, and one reason why Trump won the rust belt and other states that rely more on manufacturing jobs. Trump “likes making deals.” He promised to kill the TPP or “make it better.” Neither have happened, however. Point it out to Trump’s base.

There are so many lies that Trump has made; so many false and broken promises. Find them. Then, use them tactfully.

Big strategy #2:  Emphasize that both parties are corrupt (and so is the media)

Both parties are corrupt, and so is the mainstream media. This is a crucial part of the conversation if we are to sway Trump’s remaining support. A great many of Trump supporters and Republicans are distrustful of the Democratic Party, and the mainstream news. And rightfully so. This corruption is a major reason people voted for Trump. He vowed to topple the “corrupt” news, and take on the corrupt Democratic Party.

But once again, in reality, Trump is just a part of what he said he would fight. Find ways to show that to his base.

If we acknowledge in our conversations that the Democratic Party and mainstream media are also corrupt, it will remove a huge barrier in our opponents, who expect us to defend the Democrats and the media.

“Yes, the Democratic Party is corrupt, I agree. We have to do something about that. But the Republican Party is no better, and Trump is not solving the problem. Look at what they’re doing here…”

“Yes, the mainstream news is corrupt and corporate-owned. They don’t talk about the issues, and they lie for an agenda. But look: Trump and the Republicans do this same thing…”

#3  Engage in a discussion on alternatives, and softly promote solutions.

Most people are interested in democracy. Again, we all have necessities. At the core of our discussions should be, first to listen, and then, to suggest that these problems can be solved—but not by Trump, and not by the Republicans. He’s not solving the problems, he’s making them worse.

It can be very effective to accompany visuals in your arguments. A good model for this is Bernie Sanders’s social media accounts. Sanders’s media team is very good at presenting clear and colorful charts and graphs that make it easy to understand the problem, and also, what could be the solution.

I tend to save these in a folder on my computer, and employ them when appropriate. But this is only effective if we take the other steps—like not trying to crush the opponent and simply “win” the argument, but to engage earnestly on the issues, and then use evidence to softly back up our point.

(In my opinion, “beating” the opponent and “winning” arguments should be reserved for the powerful, active opposition. *Cough* people like Joy Reid and Peter Daou, and all the powerful Republican loyalists who use their power to destroy. That’s a different article.)

#4  Relate and show your own shared humanity.  

We’re all human. That has to be understood while we are engaging our political opponents. Nobody is going to change their mind when they are treated badly. Empathy is so important.

Like I just said, there are exceptions. For example, when Bernie Sanders debates Ted Cruz on national television on the merits of “free market” healthcare, versus “single-payer” healthcare, I would want to win that debate as strongly as possible, even if it absolutely humiliated Ted Cruz in the process. That’s because so much is at stake in that situation.

But this is not what we’re trying to do with the majority of our political opponents, who are regular people, that we wish to budge or persuade within the context of a personal conversation.

Methods and sources

Efforts must be made to reach out, in various ways. This can be through social media, canvassing, door-to-door, family gatherings, town hall meetings, and so on. Be creative in finding how and where to engage Republican voters. When confronting the “neutral” and “passive” political opposition, here are some tools to be effective in persuasion.

-Don’t be insulting. Be positive when possible.

Acknowledge their experiences as real. I know, it can be difficult. But this is what is more effective. Proceeding as if it as a fight to be won or lost—and failing to listen to, and understand, the opposing point of view—will assure that nothing changes. The “opponent” may even entrench their own position, as a self-defense mechanism.

Take a note from a Bernie Sanders’s town hall in West Virginia, in May this year. Sanders went to “Trump county” to engage with a majority of Trump voters on the issue of healthcare. By its end, the crowd was agreeing with Bernie Sanders and clapping for the idea that “healthcare should be a right of all citizens.” Then, Sanders dropped how we could do it: a single-payer, Medicare-for-All system.

-Use the right-wing’s own words, actions, and sources to expose corruption

The Republican base is largely wary of political and economic corruption. Sure, not everyone thinks things are wrong, but a lot of people do. I mentioned already that we should expose corruption, but even better is using right-wing sources against the right-wing.

Fox News is one source that many right-wingers trust. But what about when they post things like the following tweet? It’s cognitive dissonance time: Is Fox News lying, or was Trump lying?

We’re trying to plant a seed of doubt here—at least—which would open up our opposition in the future to shifting positions, if not now.

Another method is not necessarily to use right-wing sources, but any source that clearly and honestly shows a misdeed or a broken promise-—an undeniable display of corruption from Trump and the Republicans.

For example, this Vox article is simply repeating what Chris Collins, a Republican Congressman, said out loud: “My donors told me to pass the tax bill, or don’t ever call me again.”

See, we empathetically point out: the Republicans are still corrupt, and here’s exactly why they’re doing what they’re doing. Not to “improve” your healthcare, but to please their donors.

Trump does the same thing. And he goes along with the rest of the Republican Congress who does this.

Trump and the Republicans are lying about the tax bill. Trump is going along with corrupt Republicans who want to pass the “reform,” only because their donors said so. Find ways to prove this, and engage softly with the neutral and passive opposition.

If you can find a right-wing source saying this stuff—even better.

Finally, there is a simple tactic that could be effective against the “Christian” right—if not immediately, then once again, to plant the seed of doubt, and open up their minds for future shifting. Here is the main idea: simply compare Jesus’ words and actions to those of Trump and the Republican Party.

Believe me, there’s plenty of material there. The Republicans, and Trump, too, are the opposite of what Jesus preached. We must believe in humanity enough that many “Christian” Trump supporters can learn to see this. Finding and employing sources that have Christians railing against Donald Trump would be helpful.

-Swallow the pride of labels and partisanship.

Bernie Sanders would often say how he doesn’t believe in “blue states and red states,” Republicans and Democrats, etcetera. These are false divisions, used by “the ruling class” to divide us. We have many, many shared interests: the basic necessities of life, at the very least, many of which Trump and Republicans are factually destroying.

If you are a “left-winger,” like me, it helps not to come out with this, at least not from the beginning. This is not lying; it is simply engaging on an issues-basis, rather than rooting the arguments in political ideology.

In the WV town hall, Sanders broke through the fear of labels (“socialist,” etc.), and simply listened and spoke about issues that were important. Sanders is one of the few political figures who is very good at breaking down these barriers. He made a career of it. In Vermont, he is still preferred to Republican candidates by many Republican voters.

(Naomi Klein is another who is good at this, by the way. It would be helpful to study how she engages in issues with “neutral” and “passive opposition.”)

And when terms like socialist and left-wing are mentioned, they should be nullified by speaking the truth about these positions—we are simply concerned with democracy, and a better world. Aren’t you? The label is not as important, and we should be willing to concede the label when necessary. Sometimes, we just have to get over the pride we may have in our set of theory and ideals. Then, we take it back to the issues that are important.

-Social Media

Social media is an effective way of reaching people, hashing out issues, and even changing minds and making political change. And for some people, due to work, family, and other time restraints, it can be the only activism they’re available to do. It can also be the only kind of activism someone is capable of doing, as anxiety, disability, and other personal constraints may prevent further activism.

Many Twitter users are already politically involved and interested. There is a huge segment of “right wing” Twitter that the rest of us rarely venture into (follow some of the right-wing leaders and pundits, and look into their comments, to follow the rabbit-hole into right-wing Twitter). I would suggest venturing into that segment, and not just engaging in a combative way, but effective ways that are persuasive. See this article and this article and this article for more studies on effective (and ineffective) ways to persuade in discourse. (Each argues a similar core idea: that we should relate the argument to our opponent’s values and perspectives, not just try to “win” the argument by forcing our own values and perspectives on the opponent.)

And here are a few suggestions to protect yourself online:

  • Remove personal information from your social media account, especially if you think that occasionally you will ruffle feathers. (Be judicious about when it is or isn’t effective to instigate.)
  • If you think it will be too risky to use your main account, make an anonymous account solely for this purpose. Remember not to be a jerk just because you’re on an anonymous account. All the previous strategies and tactics still apply. We want to be effective, not just rude or “winning.”
  • Use a VPN and other security measures, like privacy badger. Read up on how to set good passwords and secure your account. These will help make it more difficult for anyone to discover your identity or take your account. (Honestly, you should be doing this with your normal accounts anyways.)

-Engage in person

Find ways to engage demographics that we don’t normally engage. Go into cities, communities, and neighborhoods that seem neglected by left-wing politics. We have to fill the void and give Republican voters an alternative. The Democrats have done a terrible job at this, so it’s up to us. Joining an organization, and building working groups and campaigns to reach out to Republican voters, is one thing we could do a lot more.

Conclusion

This is simply a general guide, not all the possibilities. The truth is that the Republican Party is doing a lot of really bad stuff, and most people’s partisanship is not truly strong enough to maintain in the face of the reality that the Republican government is corrupt and doesn’t actually care about us.

Donald Trump included. He is no different. We have to make all this known.

The base of the party is the party. Without a strong enough base—its collapse is inevitable.

I hope you take this overall strategy and develop it for your own circumstance, and put the idea into practice, in some way. The US government, including both parties, currently hold a low trust and respect from the public. The time is now to break the lies and build an alternative. For this, we must engage large swaths of the opposition—in ways that will effectively move them to disengage from the Republican Party, or even go against it.

The goal is not to hate “government,” but to make it work for us. Trump and the Republicans are not the solution. But we can still build a better world. That is the message we must spread.

 


For suggestions and organizational efforts, click the birdie in my bio to find me on Twitter.

Written by Sammy Kayes

Sammy Kayes

Sammy Kayes is an educator and activist in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter @left_judo.

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Turn the Republican Base Against the Republican Party: Part Two