Branding

Last night I watched the movie ‘Our Brand Is Crisis,’ in which Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton play two competing political campaign consultants in a South American election.  At some point Sandra Bullock’s character says: “Campaigns are either about love or about fear.” It struck me how much that applies to the current presidential election, but I also wondered if that statement completely covers what we are experiencing.  The Republican National Convention was primarily about fear.  Fear of ISIS and Muslims in general, fear of refugees, fear of Mexicans and undocumented immigrants, and fear of black men who believe that their lives matter.  But it was also about hate.  Hatred for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who should be either locked up or summarily executed, and hatred for all of the above groups: Muslims, whether refugee or not, Mexicans, whether documented or undocumented, and African-Americans, whether active in Black Lives Matter or just trying to survive.  The solution that will make all fear disappear is electing a law-and-order president, a Führer named Donald J. Trump.

Conversely, there was a lot of love at the Democratic National Convention, which was fittingly held in the city of brotherly love.  Love for Muslims, refugees, Mexicans, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and black men who believe their lives matter, but also love for police officers who put their lives on the line every day, love for soldiers who have been told that they are defending American freedoms in far away countries, and, maybe most surprisingly, love of country.  Normally you would expect a chant like ‘USA, USA’ at the Republican convention, but this time it could be heard where the Democrats were gathered.  Next to love, there was also hope in Philadelphia.  Solutions for problems that range from racism and discrimination, climate change and gun violence, to unemployment, student debt, lack of a living wage and social inequality can be found  by working together to implement a progressive agenda, which has been strongly influenced by Bernie Sanders’s campaign.  Electing Hillary Clinton, a flawed but moderately progressive candidate, and taking back the US senate, should make that possible.

The dark mood at the RNC gave the Democrats the chance to turn on the light, but it didn’t stop there.  Trump may be a branding genius, but he appears to have forgotten that branding is a two-way street.  By stating that everything in America is a mess and nothing works, he allowed for the Democrats to claim the mantel of nationalism.  By presenting himself as a future dictator he allowed for Hillary to embrace democracy.  The only ‘hope’ he offers is that he’ll solve all problems.

And there is no way back for Trump, so his campaign will only get gloomier.  He started doubling down today, by attacking General Allen, the former coordinator of American troops fighting ISIS, and the parents of Captain Kahn, who gave his life to save his men, because Mrs. Kahn did not speak much and her husband might have been prompted by the Clinton campaign.

The next 100 days will show what the electorate prefers, love and hope or fear and hatred.  Americans tend to think that their country’s best days are still to come, rather than that they’re behind us, so I like Hillary Clinton’s chances in her upcoming fight with Trump.

Hugo Kijne

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