Over the weekend, Republican candidate Donald Trump was forced to deal with increasingly negative publicity pointed at his primary campaign, as more moderate and “establishment” Republicans grow increasingly concerned about Trump’s likely nomination as their presidential candidate. Trump’s campaign continues to snag at every turn: within the past week, his rally in Chicago was cancelled due to clashes between protesters and supporters inside the venue, and his campaign manager was accused of grabbing a reporter from conservative news site Brietbart so hard that he left bruises on her arm. Both the media and members of his party are accusing him, almost everyday, of being a liar, a racist and an instigator of violence. And yet, remarkably, Trump still won the majority of the delegates awarded in the March 15 primaries, including the 99 delegates Florida gave out in a winner-take-all style.
It has become distressingly clear that Trump’s supporters are with him for the long haul and are not likely to be swayed by his aggressive, hostile or discriminatory statements and actions. Trump publically acknowledges that his supporters stand by him despite his absurd decisions that would have traditionally ruined a candidate’s shot at the nomination. In January, Trump declared to a crowd in Iowa that he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and still wouldn’t lose any supporters. And, while this is probably a bit of an exaggeration, polls have shown that Trump’s negative actions do not sway his voters – in some cases, they have only bolstered his popularity.
In another telling study, Vox recently found that most voters (Democrats, Republicans, and Independents) felt more negatively towards Trump after watching attack ads targeting him, while Trump supporters, “remain unswayed or think more favorably of Trump after these attack ads.” The Vox article describes how the majority of attack ads against Trump try to expose him as a “bad Republican” or a “bad businessman” – traits that negatively impact more traditional voters’ opinions, but do not effectively sway the opinions of Trump’s support base (most of whom did not vote in the past two elections). These ads make Trump look flaky and more liberal than the self-image he projects today, but they do not address the “fervor” and “anger” that characterize the majority of Trump’s supporters and that permeate the character of his campaign. Vox notes that a large issue with these ads is that Republicans do not know whether or not to trust the negative content, since the majority of Trump supporters are thoroughly disillusioned when it comes to the “establishment” and the current state of our government. These attack ads are offshoots of that “establishment” – more traditional candidates trying to take down the interlopers. Vox suggests that the attack ads should instead address “the underlying fear of people who are terrified of him winning.” His opponents should cultivate the same negative gut reaction that Lydon B. Johnson’s 1964 “Daisy” ad utilized in his fight against Barry Goldwater (a politician that Trump was recently compared to in a viral Facebook video).
Some people, however, are beginning to understand that a break from traditional media approaches is necessary if they want to attempt to block Trump’s nomination. The creator of the Internet photography sensation Humans of New York, Brandon Stanton, took to his social media accounts on Monday to call out Trump for encouraging “prejudice and violence in the pursuit of personal power.” Stanton acknowledges in the same open letter that it is unlike him to get involved in political matters – but now, he states, opposing Trump has become a “moral” matter. His letter was shared on Facebook over 967,000 times and re-tweeted over 33,000 times by mid-day on Tuesday. Stanton’s work is admired by many and his social media accounts are some of the most followed – so presumably, his message reaches at least some who avoid traditional media coverage of politics. These alternative ways of speaking to voters – either through a different kind of attack ad or different media channels like Humans of New York – might be the more effective method to prevent Trump from moving forward. At this point, he seems unstoppable – but if we continue to try a variety of methods to spread awareness of Trump’s extreme bigotry, we might just get through to the necessary voters.
Emily McEvoy is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences majoring in Government and minoring in Communications. When not writing her column for The Daily Sun or enthusiastically catching up on the newest political scandal, she can be found outside running or playing soccer. The McEvoy Minute appears on alternate Tuesdays this semester. You can reach Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org.