The battle is joined. The Democratic and Republican tickets are now complete.
On November 3rd, Americans will go to the polls and…no, hold on, odds are that only slightly more than half of eligible Americans will vote for their new President.
But remember, Donald Trump won just 46.1% of the popular vote in 2016 (compared to Hillary Clinton’s 48.2%) and look what not winning a majority in a two-party system got him. In fact, in America, Canada and Great Britain, you can get fewer votes than your opponent and still lead your country. This happened last year when Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives won the most votes in our three-party system, but Justin Trudeau’s Liberals formed the government.
This is sad, unfair, even tragic. It should be changed. It must. But we have a more urgent problem: how to unseat Donald Trump.
I say “we” because the vast majority of us dread seeing America enfeebled and aren’t Americans ourselves. But also because I’d like us to pretend for a moment that we are Americans and have been asked by the Biden campaign how to shrink Trump’s base of Republican voters which seems unmoved by every appeal to shock, disgrace, shame and reason.
As of this morning, 57% of eligible voters disapprove of Donald Trump. This is a 7% decline in approval (and a 5% climb in disapproval) since April, following COVID, racial reckoning and a deep recession.
We might ask why these rolling catastrophes haven’t affected his popularity even more, and the answer is, ‘the base.’ According to a Forbes report in June, Trump’s “rock solid approval polling floor” is 40%. Or rather, was. The same Forbes Report charts the first crumbling of his base among rural Americans, white men, the Silent Generation and evangelical Christians.
Let’s leave the ‘get out the vote’ campaigns to others to figure out, and let’s do the same with the ‘suppress the vote’ campaigns.
Our job is to convince some of the nearly 63 million people who voted for Trump in 2016 to do one of two things: vote for Biden and Harris, which is wildly improbable, or not vote for Trump or anyone else, which is tough at best. We don’t have to convince all of them. As the numbers above show, just shifting a small number of Republicans can have an outsize effect on the result.
So, how do you change someone’s mind whose mind seems unchangeable?
We don’t need a life in politics to know what works. We just need to have some years under our belt, maybe brought up kids, and seen what changes our own minds when our beliefs grow seemingly distant from reality.
We know that blaming and shaming don’t work. Screaming at an anti-immigration, gun-toting Trump voter likely won’t change their mind. Righteousness may make you feel good, but it’s not a great persuasion technique.
We also know that waiting for Trump’s next ‘even worse’ behaviour won’t change many minds. It took less than an hour for the Democrat’s female-Black-Indian vice presidential candidate to be announced for Trump to call Kamala Harris “nasty,” which is his code for “any women I don’t like.” We all know the insults will worsen as November 3rd nears.
It seems to me the only way to convince a die-hard anyone to change their minds is to say: “Hey, we all make mistakes.” Not only is this true, but it puts us all on the same level. In fact, “We All Make Mistakes” could be a great theme for a whole separate campaign to defang Trump’s base. It could work on social media, of course, especially on the echo-chamber news outlets that both Republicans and Democrats veer to.
But it can also work on billboards, especially with those rural voters in places like Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina. One thing most of them have is a car, or often a semi. And what better way to convince someone that they, too, are just human than when they’ve got lots of time to think about it as they cruise the country roads and can’t be on their iPhones?
That’s what I’d do. I know it’s small and old-school. But again, in politics these days, no one’s looking to convince the majority of anything. America’s way too polarized for that.
My question is: what would you do to shrink Trump’s base?
Let me know and I’ll publish the best and brightest in a future blog.
In the meantime, remember: the best way to persuade somebody of anything is to Be nice. Be polite. Be Canadian.
As Winston Churchill said: ‘ Diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions.’