Archive for December, 2020

Lesson 579 Seeds of Autocracy

With Trump’s recent erratic behavior, it is very important to examine why his following remains so high. My investigation suggests five reasons:

  1. Trump’s early base were people angry with the extreme polarization in Washington. They had needs that were not being addressed, and quickly supported a person who promised to fix them. When he did not, they stayed loyal because his rallies continued to be entertaining, they didn’t see an easy political alternative, and destroying the bureaucracy in Washington always was appealing to them.
  2. There were also those people who said they liked his policies but hated his tactics. They benefited personally from a strong stock market, enjoyed Trump’s tax breaks, and possibly were associated with businesses that benefited from massive degulation.
  3. Still others saw career advances for themseves simply by pledging loyalty. Being close to power was thrilling for them, and the idea of being part of an autocracy was of no personal concern.
  4. Republicans in Congress quickly climbed onboard because they were like-minded. They represented far right districts at home and feared becoming the focus of Trump’s tweets. They were also worried about the violence of some Trump supporters. Therefore, it was not difficult to overlook his cruelty and the chaos produced by his daily tweets.
  5. Some have also found a strong racism dimension to Trump’s success. His obvious racism attracted other racists. But just as important, mainstream white people very likely let previously surpressed worries about minorities changing their neighborhoods effect their voting. And with job priorities and other benefits appearing to favor minorities, their voting also could have been influenced by feelings of resentment.

So here are two big questions about the future: Does Trump’s huge following indicate that he could get elected again as America’s first dictator? Or is it more likely that with this base of voters already in place, another control-obsessed politician who is more experienced in government, knows American history, understands international issues, sees no need for outspoken experts, and is still fairly likable, could get elected in 2024?

This much is very clear: Democracy post-Trump is not a sure thing… even in America.

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Lesson 578 The Biden White House

President Biden’s goal must be to overwhelm whatever noise others are releasing to disrupt his program agenda. Here is a proposed White House media organizing scheme for Biden to consider:

  1. Identity messaging. A small number of identity message points should be ready immediately to use as a part of speeches and official statements… beginning with “individual freedom, human rights, and equal justice.” Whatever is decided at the outset, however, can be fine-tuned or reshaped based on community focus-group outcomes.
  2. Community focus-groups. Professionally facilitated focus-groups should be held in targeted communities around the country to review branding message points, clarify issues, and identify needed actions. Opinion leaders should be selected to participate from civic, political, law enforcement, and social service organizations. Reports from these groups should be made public and used to fine-tune or modify the branding points.
  3. Media monitoring. A small group should be selected from the communication and media staff to monitor how mainstream reporters and social media platforms are describing the White House. They should circulate their findings to the full staff everyday, along with their recommendations if responses seem required.
  4. White House press conferences. Daily press conferences should be restored, with regular appearances from the President, cabinet members, and government agency heads. Truth and transparency must guide every statement.
  5. Social media team. A special team of social media experts should be formed to constantly bombard and dominate the media landscape with carefully shaped identity-reinforcing messages.
  6. Journalist relationships. Building relationships with key news reporters and TV anchors should be in the job descriptions of the senior communication and media professionals in the White House. This should include get-acquainted lunches… followed by occasional telephone “off-the-record” conversations.
  7. Integrated marketing task-force. A high-level communication and marketing monitoring task-force should be established with White House cabinet and government agency representation. This kind of group should meet regularly to evaluate the effectiveness of current branding messages, anticipate crises and issues, and brainstorm needed new strategic initiatives.

Important questions remain: Will Trump’s “twitter-noise” and vindictiveness harm Biden’s overall support? What will be the consequences between now and January 20th? Will mainstream journalists continue to report Trump antics as important news?

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Lesson 577 Institutions Save Democracies

Strong institutions inside and outside government are the foundation of democracies. They provide essential stability when democracies are threatened. Thus, most wannabe autocrats gut their government institutions of experts first, and then attack the major external ones in ways that make them struggle to survive. Autocrats believe they should make all decisions, at home and abroad.

People who want to study issues, policies, and ways to use their findings, find their way into government institutions, such as the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, and many more. They become the nation’s expert public service professionals. Others find leadership roles outside government in universities, thinktanks, nonprofits, charities, associations, etc. They provide stability in the American democratic system.

Our country has been going through a brutal attack on its’ democracy. Much damage to government institutions has been done. The state department, defense department, FBI, CIA have all been gutted. Outside government, higher education effectiveness is under fire, for-profit colleges are being supported with tax dollars, and nonprofits everywhere are fighting for their very survival.

A new White House will need to build more than a state-of-the-art communication and media unit. It will also need to rebuild the decimated government institutions and empower them to begin advising, and acting where needed. It will also need to reestablish proper verbal and financial support for America’s vital nongovernment public service institutions.

In addition to gutting essential institutions, the legitimacy of the recent election has also been under attack… clearly with building a family-run autocracy in mind. Many conservative republicans either are imagining benefits for themselves, or are in fear for their safety if they criticize. As a result, we have an entire political party appearing to support a wannabe dictatorship… a situation which would destroy our democracy.

The future danger goes far beyond the continuing noise of disgruntled politicians. The real danger is that our next wannabe dictator will know more American history, be more knowledgeable of foreign policy issues and challenges, and already have followers that will happily provide loyalty to a royal family. To protect ourselves, the best insurance policy we can buy is to build back all those critically important governmental and nongovernmental institutions.

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Lesson 576 A Fractured Nation

In this 24/7 cable news-dominated world, people everywhere are concluding that America’s democratic-republic experiment is simply not working. And the President’s recent erratic behavior is adding to that perception.

The current chaos must indeed be music to the ears of Russian, North Korean, Chinese, and Iranian autocrats who have been using social media to disrupt everyone’s confidence in America’s political system. Right now we are definitely vulnerable to both violent and cyber attacks… inside and outside our country.

Up until recently the simple “idea of America” has functioned as our promise that the country’s political leaders will always champion equal opportunity, justice, and human rights for everyone. Although their methods were not always uniformly effective, overall we have been able to demonstrate that like-minded allies working together will gradually be able to make the world more peaceful. The current White House, however, will be leaving our founder’s “democratic-republic” badly fractured.

To fix the damage, President Biden’s new communication team will need to have strategic and brand identity messages ready on day-one to rebuild national unity and reestablish world leadership. These identity messages must guide all official speeches and statements, and undergird all daily releases. And in order to dominate daily news headlines, this team will need to include a group of top-of-their-game Internet and social media professionals.

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