The success of Trump’s campaign for the presidency came as a shock — even to those who were optimistic about his chances. His campaign has been frequently pegged as nontraditional; and retrospectively, some have even pointed to that quality as an explanation for why it succeeded. In truth, the fundamental principles and methods of the Trump campaign were quite traditional. It employed many of the age-old strategies of messaging that have always been used by political movements in their successful campaigns to overtake power. In my view, it was not necessarily the new media (Twitter, YouTube live, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) the Trump campaign used that made the difference, or the manner in which they used these platforms; rather, it was the old message, repackaged, that they were able to deliver to the American people through these new media, that propelled them to victory.
While reading George Orwell’s Animal Farm, I noted several of these traditional tactics, as they were used by the campaigning animals in their revolution to overthrow Mr. Jones and seize the farm for themselves. I will put their illustration in Animal Farm side-by-side with examples from the Trump campaign. (The clips I will use will be Trump’s platform campaign speech in New York on June 22, 2016).
Identifying the injustices —
In the opening pages of Animal Farm, the animals gather together secretly after their owner, Mr. Jones, goes to sleep. Old Major, the prize Middle White Boar, highly respected among the animals, inspires the animals to revolt with a speech about the injustices they have faced in life:
“Now, comrades, what is the nature of this life of ours? Let us face it: our lives are miserable, laborious, and short. We are born, we are given just so much food as will keep the breath in our bodies, and those of us who are capable of it are forced to work to the last atom of our strength; and the very instant that our usefulness has come to an end we are slaughtered with hideous cruelty. No animal in England knows the meaning of happiness or leisure after he is a year old. No animal in England is free. The life of an animal is misery and slavery: that is the plain truth.
Trump’s injustice: The system is rigged!
Trump always kept his chosen injustices at the forefront of his messaging: The system is rigged and the country abounds with problems — infrastructure is collapsing, we are losing jobs to other countries — due to politician corruption and incompetence.
The crumbling roads and bridges, dilapidated airports and the factories moving overseas to mexico or other countries — I know these problems can be fixed…jobs, jobs, jobs. Everywhere I look, I see the possibilities of what our country could be.
Establishment of the ‘Enemy’ as the cause of the injustices —
Old Major continues his speech by identifying Man as the cause of all of the aforementioned problems the animals have faced in their lives.
Why then do we continue in this miserable condition? Because nearly the whole of the produce of our labour is stolen from us by human beings. There, comrades, is the answer to all our problems. It is summed up in a single word — Man. Man is the only real enemy we have. Remove Man from the scene, and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished for ever.
Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. He sets them to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving, and the rest he keeps for himself. Our labour tills the soil, our dung fertilises it, and yet there is not one of us that owns more than his bare skin.
Is it not crystal clear, then, comrades, that all the evils of this life of ours spring from the tyranny of human beings? Only get rid of Man, and the produce of our labour would be our own. Almost overnight we could become rich and free. What then must we do? Why, work night and day, body and soul, for the overthrow of the human race! That is my message to you, comrades: Rebellion!
Trump: Politicians (including Hillary Clinton) have caused our problems!
Trump, like Old major, begins by establishing a general enemy: Politicians. They are corrupt, greedy, and incompetent — and they have created a system that serves themselves alone, at the detriment of the country and its people.
We will never be able to fix a rigged system by counting on the same people who have rigged it in the first place.
But since I am not a part of the rigged system — I am not a politician! — I can be our political savior. Here he has established a general Enemy (Politicians), and identified himself as the leader of their opposition.
This election decides when we are ruled by the people or the politicians. Here is my promise to the american voter: If I am elected president, I will end the special interest monopoly in Washington, d.c. Very important.
Transition from a general to a specific Enemy —
In Animal Farm, it is not all Men that are causing the miserable conditions of the animals on Manor Farm, it is Mr. Jones, the man who runs it. Nonetheless, Old Major uses the general — all Men are bad, since they created this unjust system and profit by it — to ignite the animals’ opposition to a specific man, Mr. Jones.
Trump uses this same progression, as he connects the rigged system, the abundance of problems, etc. to the specific enemy: Hillary Clinton. He attempts to establish her as among these awful ‘Politicians’. She is complicit in these political maneuvers. She caused your problems — do you really think she would now fix them?
Hillary Clinton is responsible for our economic problems:
Hillary Clinton supported Bill Clinton’s disastrous NAFTA. We have lost nearly one third of our manufacturing jobs since these two Hillary-backed agreements were signed. Among the worst we have ever done. Among the most destructive agreements we have signed. Our trade deficit rose 40% during the time Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. She should not be congratulated for that, but rather scorned.
Hillary Clinton is responsible for our Foreign Policy problems:
It is not just our economy that is being corrupted but our foreign policy, too. The Hillary Clinton foreign policy cost america thousands of lives and trillions and trillions of dollars, and unleashed ISIS across the world. No secretary of state has been more wrong, more often, and in more places than Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton is responsible for our jobs disappearing:
Hillary Clinton gave china millions of jobs, our best jobs, and effectively let china completely rebuild itself. In return, Hillary Clinton got rich.
He is attempting to establish her as the particular instance of the general enemy group ‘Politicians’. Framed in this way, she then can bear all of the populace’s frustration and anger if they themselves have experienced any the repercussions of any of these national problems. She is established as the root cause.
Present your Presidential pursuit as an act of service ‘out of the goodness of your heart’.
Another interesting political maneuver is to present yourself as seeking office merely out of charity, for goodness’ sake. It is quite a common tactic in political history, and it gives the illusion that you would be a trustworthy leader, one that is magnanimous, in contradistinction to the Politicians who only look out for themselves while they scheme to rob the pockets of the people. In Animal Farm, this tactic presents itself following the initial revolt, after Napolean drives out Snowball and ascends to unilateral leadership. Squealer, his Propagandist, is sent around the farm to ensure the animals that the stepping into power is a ‘sacrifice’ and an act of charity.
Afterwards Squealer was sent round the farm to explain the new arrangement to the others.
“Comrades,” he said, “I trust that every animal here appreciates the sacrifice that Comrade Napoleon has made in taking this extra labour upon himself. Do not imagine, comrades, that leadership is a pleasure! On the contrary, it is a deep and heavy responsibility. No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?
Trump: ‘I am running for President to give back.’
People have asked me why I am running for president. I built an amazing business that I love and I get to work side-by-side with my children every single day. We come to work together and turn visions into reality. We think big and then we make it happen. We absolutely make it happen. I love what I do. I am grateful beyond words to the nation that has allowed me to do it. So when people ask me why I am running I very quickly answer: I am running to give back to this country which has been so very good to me.
Establish group unity through collective song or chant:
Perhaps the most obvious tactic to establish political unity is the adoption of a collective song or chant. In Animal Farm, it is the ‘Beasts of England’ song, which is sung to conclude every meeting:
Beasts of England, beasts of Ireland,Beasts of every land and clime,Hearken to my joyful tidingsOf the golden future time.Soon or late the day is coming,Tyrant Man shall be o’erthrown,And the fruitful fields of EnglandShall be trod by beasts alone.
Drain the Swamp!
Lock her up!
There remains much more in Animal Farm that is worthy of comparison, but that’s all for now. Perhaps, someday, I’ll continue with a Part 2. Maybe in 2020.