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‘The Point’ on why Trump needs to brand Dems with the S-word

As regulars of Black Ink may have noticed, I’m fairly obsessed with the transparent attempt by President Trump and his minions to attach the word “socialist” to every Democrat and the Dem Party in general.

There are a few Democrats who identify themselves that way. This includes, most prominently, Bernie Sanders (who technically, in some weird sense, doesn’t consider himself a member of the Democratic Party, even as he seeks its presidential nomination for the second time. Sanders calls himself a “democratic socialist,” but doesn’t run for office under that label on the ballot and has generally run for Congress as an “independent”).

Anyway, Trump refers now to many, most and perhaps all Democrats as “socialists” and their party as the “socialist Democrats.” I call this erroneous, rude, bullying and obnoxious. In my opinion, any Democrat who wants to refer to Trump as a “fascist” or the leader of the Fascist Republican Party would be justified in so doing as a matter of turnabout. I doubt they will, but it would be fun to watch him complain that they should not be allowed to call him by a term that he hasn’t embraced himself, even though it arguably applies.

Anyway, today I’m passing along a “The Point” column by CNN political analyst Chris Cillizza and Jamie Ehrlich; it raises the question of why Trump is working so hard to append the S-word to the name of the D-Party.

Cillizza and Ehrlich describe Individual One as “master brander Donald Trump.” They mean the b-word almost literally in the cattle sense, where a steer’s donor burns a brand onto the butt of those animals he owns. Lying Hillary. Pocahontas. Sleepy Joe. Trump assigns them all brands designed to make them unappealing, and, I guess, it works for him politically in some sad, sorry Trumpian sense.

If I’d pulled that crap when I was a kid, my mom would have grounded me until I figured out how obnoxious it was. I wasn’t even allowed to call people fat who actually were overweight. But Trump assigns derogatory nicknames that aren’t even rooted in real-world pounds and ounces.

Anyway, back to The Point. Cillizza and Ehrlich argue that the Republican base hates and fears “socialism,” and froths at the mouth at the idea that the Dems are the party that favors it.

Trump only has 40 percent of Americans who can stand the sight or sound of him. He needs them at a fever pitch so they will all turn out while he figures out some way to tamp down turnout among the 50-some percent who disapprove of the way he’s handling his job as president.

And he hopes that within that 50-some there might be enough who will be turned off by the idea that the alternative to four more year of Trumpism would be socialism. (Don’t mention here my previous point that several of the most beloved U.S. programs, like Social Security and Medicare, could easily be described as mild forms of “socialism.” They’re fine programs. Just don’t call them that. And change the name of that first to “American Security.”)

Read the whole Cillizza/Ehrlich analysis of Trump’s obsession with the S-word here. The column concludes thusly:

You getting it now?  If the choice in 2020 is between Trump and a Democrat, he likely loses. If it’s between Trump and a Democrat-who-is-really-a-Socialist, he has a hell of a lot better chance at a 2nd term,

The Point: There’s no positive message that gets Trump re-elected in 2020. (No, not even the economy.) Which is why he and his side are trying so hard to sell the socialism story on Democrats.

Comments (22)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/18/2019 - 09:24 am.

    The “S” word actually appears to be irrelevant. To the extent that Trump et al deploy it, they’re just appealing to voters who will never vote for a Democrat in any event. When Trump actually faces his opponent in the election, the “S” word isn’t going to win him the election.

  2. Submitted by Brian Simon on 07/18/2019 - 09:36 am.

    I’m not convinced it’s a sound strategy. While the socialism label certainly resonates with his base, it is not at all clear that it is effective at convincing swing voters that he’s the better choice. I’d argue that instead it underscores that he’s uninformed, desperate & throwing anything at the wall that he thinks will stick.

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 07/18/2019 - 10:33 am.

    I’m inclined more toward Brian Simon on this one. Many members of Trump’s base (and Trump himself) have no idea what socialism is, and wouldn’t recognize it if it bit them in the back end. I’d be very surprised, indeed, if none of Trump’s real estate developments ever received any kind of subsidy from a government entity, whether local, state or federal. I doubt that Trump knows himself, though his accountant might. Meanwhile, what should we call billions of your tax dollars and mine funneled to farmers as compensation for the economic disaster inflicted on them by the President many of them voted for – a disaster that came about as a result of that President’s mistaken trade policies and tariffs?

    In any case, I think Brian Simon is on-target with the notion that Trump is simply spewing terms he hopes the public will view as negative, and hoping, as his advisors have encouraged him, that one or more of them will stick. It worked for quite a few tin-pot dictators in the last century, and it has worked for numerous other GOP politicians with delusions of grandeur in this century. A serial liar like Mr. Trump can’t – or at least shouldn’t be – taken seriously as an arbiter of economic theory.

    That doesn’t mean his base won’t swallow every line he utters. True believers aren’t going to be swayed by logic or facts. It’s incumbent on Democrats at every level to get out the vote, because lies and hatred will be the Republican stock in trade for this election, and judging from the deranged behavior of crowds at Trump rallies (that there ARE crowds at Trump rallies brings shame on the United States all by itself), there’s a sizable audience for it.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 07/19/2019 - 08:03 am.

      It is both amusing and amazing to see the comments where conservatives defend the socialist welfare program Don Trump has initiated to buy the votes of farmers. The way they twist themselves into knots is a marvel to see.

  4. Submitted by David Lundeen on 07/18/2019 - 10:33 am.

    I’d like to see Democrats go on offensive over the C word – conservatism. Modern conservatism, in the Reagan sense, has nothing to do with actual conservatism. Modern conservatism is nothing more than socialism for the rich, and capitalism for the poor.

    • Submitted by Mike Chrun on 07/18/2019 - 12:19 pm.

      “Fascist” would actually be a much better word, David, and a heck of a lot more accurate; but Democrats have never been very good at those tactics compared to the right. Also, even though they have their liberal networks, there is nothing on the left that comes close to having the sway that Fox, and some of the vermin it spawned like Rush and Hannity, has.

      “Socialist” will be part of Trump’s campaign no doubt, but the foundation of it was on display in North Carolina last night and it’s called “racism.” It always has been at the core but it’s shifting more into the open now. It’s being papered over with the appeal to shallow patriotism that some of true believers on here spout, but the real ugliness is breaking through more and more. I really hope it doesn’t result in the death of one of the four women, or somebody else, of course.

  5. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 07/18/2019 - 11:57 am.

    If Republicans don’t like socialism, don’t expect younger workers to pay for your healthcare and nursing homes. As it is we scrimp on the things that allow poor children to thrive to pay for your ability to retire when many of you are still very capable of working to support yourself.

  6. Submitted by Misty Martin on 07/18/2019 - 12:12 pm.


    Paragraph three (3) in this article is what makes all the evangelicals that I come in contact with, cringe at the thought of electing someone from the Democratic party, the “S” word. Although I must admit that it seems slim pickings for someone such as myself to choose a candidate on the Democratic side that I can totally agree with, I’m thinking I will just have to go with Joe Biden, as his policies seem the most agreeable to me. I like Elizabeth Warren, but so many people I talk to fear her and her ideas for change, although a lot of them make perfect sense to me, that I hesitate to vote for her. That and the other possibility (and I hesitate to mention this one) but for a lot of voters (NOT ME!!!!) they hesitate to vote for the opposite sex for an office that has always been held by men, and I want someone who can defeat Donald Trump this time, and not waste my vote. I believe that was at least part of the reason why Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 (the fact that she was a woman running against a man) that and SO many other factors, one of them being that a lot of people either didn’t like her, or events that occurred while she was Secretary of State, i.e. the “Benghazi attack”, that some felt she was responsible for its terrible outcome with such a loss of life; the emails; etc., etc. For me, there was no question in my mind: ANYONE BUT TRUMP!!!!!!

    I suppose I have always been somewhat biased against the man and his mouth even before he ran for President, but in the time he has been in office, I find no reason to change my mind, and unless some miracle would occur between now and the 2020 presidential election (and I’m talking here of a “Damascus Road” experience, the one that changed Saul of Tarsus into Paul the Apostle) I cannot possibly see me voting for Donald Trump in 2020. And I really cannot see such a miracle/experience happening any time soon.

    But most, if not ALL of my evangelical friends (I am a born-again Christian, a follower of Jesus) support Donald Trump. I cannot. I really don’t have problem with Mike Pence except for his apparent hypocrisy in some areas (he once said some dastardly things about Bill Clinton, who was and is a choir boy next to this president) and he is like most vice presidents who are mostly nothing more than cheerleaders for the P.O.T.U.S. in office, but I think that for the most part, Pence lives as he preaches in his own life, and I do believe that he is a born-again Christian, even though his thoughts about immigration sound hard, much like those of his “boss”. And although I am not for “open” borders, I feel that where we are now is not what Jesus would approve of in any way, fashion or form, and I’m sure that it must sicken Him to see the atrocities happening there each and every day.

    But the “S” word scares most, if not ALL of my Christian friends, although I have pointed out to some of them what was said by Ronald Reagan once in the late 60’s (not sure of the exact date) when he was against Medicare because of the “S” word, and most of them would NEVER want to lose those health benefits now, so I’m open-minded about the “S” word; I feel that President Trump and his followers are trying to “scare” Democrats into voting Republican for that very reason; however, nothing scares me MORE than the thought of another term with Donald Trump as President. And that is where I stand today.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/18/2019 - 01:19 pm.

      It is interesting to me how the evangelical community of Christians is following the most destructive path with respect to credibility of Christianity in America.

      Of course, I have no standing of authority in this issue, but to me, the key to Christianity is : “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

      Of course “your neighbor” is not just the person that is just like you, it is also the stranger and includes your enemy.

      And sin is nothing more than defects and deficiencies in your relationships with your fellow humans and God–with the most common root of sin being the personal lack of grace, kindness and generosity in dealing with others.

      For those who believe in Lucifer, Lucifer is ecstatic at this point in time-Christianity is a mocking apostasy of the intent of Jesus’ message.

  7. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/18/2019 - 12:53 pm.

    There are 3 segments of voter–the “always Trump”, “never Trump” and “I dunno”.

    The branding and demonization are whipping the “always Trump” into a crusade to save America, whiteness and Christianity. It should be expected that they will militantly GOTV and obstruct the voting of potential non-believers. It will only get more fierce with the unstated goal of a group who will oppose an electoral defeat by any means possible.

    The same branding and demonization are reinforcing the “never” in the “never Trump” category but provide no guarantee of turnout, especially if the emphasis on the differences between the possible opponents lasts through the general election. I would expect a lower turnout in the “nevers” as opposed to the “always”.

    It really does come down to the “I dunno” category–not already offended or inflamed by Trump, who may or may not go to the poll to cast a vote that may reflect a relatively minor level of disapproval on some subject or another that they may or may not be well informed on. The best strategy for Trump is really to stoke the coals of hell-fire to break through to that voter (with the small risk that the “I dunno” voter may finally feel offense at the outrageous rhetoric).

  8. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 07/18/2019 - 01:52 pm.

    A sad and despicable line runs through these comments: that, to win, Democrats are going to have to imitate some of Donald Trump’s worst campaign tactics, like negative “branding” of opponents, name-calling, bashing. Ugh.

    We will not get Trump’s base to move at all, despite Mayor Pete B’s correct statement that, after their approval of Trump’s caging and mistreatment of little kids at our Southern border, no Christian evangelical has any right, ever again, to call themselves religious believers. Hypocrites, all.

    Democrats will win by talking about what they’ll do for Americans. If not enough Americans get out to approve that agenda, then we deserve the crazed and ignorant despot we’ve got now.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/21/2019 - 11:00 am.

      “A sad and despicable line runs through these comments: that, to win, Democrats are going to have to imitate some of Donald Trump’s worst campaign tactics, like negative “branding” of opponents, name-calling, bashing. Ugh.”

      I’m not seeing this in any of the Democratic candidates actually. No one is even trying to duplicate Trumps level of hostility or rhetoric. In fact many of the candidates are focusing on policy and initiatives, they seem to realize that merely attacking Trump won’t win the election.

      Democrats do have a documented historical problem with messaging however and to the extent that they accommodate Republican rhetoric they always lose. For decades Democrats essentially denied they were “liberals” for instance and acting like the label was some kind of fatal condemnation. I think some us are just saying you can’t let Republicans define you, you have to step out and define yourself.

      It’s also rather obvious that a little offense is a good idea, perpetual defense in politics is suicide. You can go on the offensive without being offensive.

  9. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 07/18/2019 - 01:58 pm.

    The Republican Party used to disavow someone as not being a conservative if they got out of line from the party dogma. You don’t hear that anymore because the Republican Party has turned into a “Junk Party” where anything goes. Blatant racism is okay, debt and deficits are okay, repeal and replace without an alternative is okay, polluted air and water are okay, only serving the top 1% is okay, Tax cuts sold to help the middle class, but didn’t, are okay, and the Senate has been turned into a one man vote. It all boils down to a party without any principles, compassion, ethics, morality, or commitment to the country. The cowards in congress have allowed it to happen all because they are afraid of Trump. So how is that optic going over on the world stage when the mighty US is afraid of one person? The Democrats appear content to wait for the next election to take care of the Trump problem. I suspect it is like a war vote. They don’t want an impeachment vote on their record. The Republicans have driven the moderates out of the party and all that is left are the extreme radicals who eat up Trumps nonsense. The US is not currently in a good place.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/18/2019 - 03:17 pm.

    Interesting take from Kansas:

  11. Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 07/19/2019 - 07:56 am.

    I have often said that Americans are the most manipulated people in the history of the world. Marketing, optics, public relations, it has all been perfected, there is no more search for any truth, it is all about what those in power want us to believe, in the advancement or Pax Americana.

    Listening to Republican media, the constant refrain is, major media is leftist. I roll my eyes every time. Major media in America is corporate, those corporations are in bed with the State/Intelligence Community, they are about eternal war, and austerity for the many/every advantage for the few, AKA neoliberal (which was a “conservative” movement to “liberalize” markets. Confused yet?)

    The original meaning of fascist was the unification of “corporations” with the State to advance imperialism. That pretty much describes both parties, Dem and Repub. What you and I think doesn’t matter, both parties do as corporate America wants. We do not have the “freedum” of conservatives or the “democracy” of Dems, we have rule by corporations, banks and billionaires.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 07/20/2019 - 07:54 am.

      Ever notice how those at either/both end(s) of the political spectrum are always quick to point out how everyone between the extremes are manipulated drones, incapable of unique thought because of the pervasive influence of the world around them? Corporate mind control and the always evil MSM?.

      But; they are always quick to point out, they are the ones too smart to fall into such a trap that so easily ensnares the rest of us.

      Why are all the really smart fellows (gender neutral) always posted at the political extremes? Inquiring minds want to know…

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/21/2019 - 10:50 am.


        You’re asking us to explain why the extraordinary never emerges from mediocrity. Just think about that for a moment and I’m sure the answer will reveal itself.

        You’re also constructing a landscape that defines anything out side a narrow status quo as “extreme”.

        You are correct however that those who are manipulated don’t realize they’re being manipulated by definition. The thing is we can’t identify the manipulated by locating them somewhere on an artificial political spectrum. It’s not their political orientation that matters… it’s their numbers that make a difference.

        • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 07/23/2019 - 08:57 am.

          Well, I think we need to better statistically describe outliers. I would offer lets call it +/- 2 standard deviations or 95% of the population: Leaving 2.5% or so on the extremes of the right and left.

          I would hesitate to call that big old hump in the middle of the curve as “mediocrity” and those 2 little tails at the end “exceptionalism”.

          I would agree that Trumpism is skewing reality right now through an alliance of (1) true believers and (2) true hypocrites who are willing to trade Trump goodies like tax cuts and judicial appointments in exchange for ignoring all manner of outrageous behavior.

          The ones will be buried in their MAGA hats and the twos will soon being seeing their chickens come home to roost…

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/25/2019 - 08:54 am.

            Actually Edward, there’s nothing particularly statistical about imaginary bells curves. A bell curve is the wrong model for this scenario.

            It may be a common “centrist” fantasy but in reality political affiliations, ideologies, etc. don’t distribute along “normal” curves, with centrists at the top. Trump won the election but that doesn’t place him at the top of a bell curve with those who didn’t vote for him distributed on either side for instance. This is why when we look at election results or any numerical analysis, you don’t see bell curves.

            Now if you want to associate something like an average IQ with mediocrity, you could use a bell curve to describe that distribution, but in Statistics we don’t limit the tails of the distribution to 2.5% on either side. Distribution is determined by your actual numbers and data, not ideology. For in instance with IQ’s the distribution on either side of the apex is usually something like something like 35%, 14%, 2%, and .01% The cluster in the “middle” is more like 60%-70% not 95%. At any rate, regardless of the number of people who cluster in the mediocre range… they’re mediocre, that’s a qualitative observation. You idea that the middle “ends” at 2.5% on either side a actually defies the whole idea of a bell curve.

  12. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 07/23/2019 - 08:37 am.

    I wish one of our progressive candidates would lay down the socialism gauntlet to the Rs:

    “If you want to attack socialism at every opportunity it is high time to prove your true opposition to socialism and call for the end of Social Security and Medicare. These are socialist programs We know that because that is what your party clearly called them when they were established and also opposed them with all their power. If you won’t call for their elimination, at least explain the difference between “good socialist things” you support and “bad socialist things” you oppose. And if you can’t do either, please exit the conversation because you are not serious about understanding the issues of the day or solving them.”

    • Submitted by Dave Carlson on 07/25/2019 - 02:00 pm.

      No, Trump and the Republicans will not renounce or admit to efforts to eliminate Social Security and Medicare because that would directly and starkly affect much of their base, so they will just make not-so-subtle but disguisable cuts in these programs (reference: Trump’s budget proposals). And no, they will not renounce or eliminate socialistic farm and corporate welfare subsidies because that would directly and starkly affect the other part of their base. They will just continue to co-opt the terms “socialism” and “freedom” to suit their cause… and unfortunately it has worked.

  13. Submitted by Jim Marshal on 07/24/2019 - 03:20 pm.

    The more that Trump and his despicable cohorts label their adversaries ‘socialists’; the more credibility that word and those with that label will gain over time. History will not be kind to Trump and his legion of grey haired, authoritarian minded, battleship hat wearing supporters.

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