As a centrist Democrat, I have voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1964. While I remain supportive of Arizona candidates for statewide offices, I am convinced that we are in dire need of major change at the national level. Our current president is blatantly divisive and has set race relations in this country back decades, while villainizing the men and women in blue who put their lives on the line to protect us. He has managed to double our national debt to over $18 trillion and has proven himself totally spineless in protecting our nation against the imminent threat of radical Islamic terrorism.
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, has struck a Faustian bargain with her former boss to keep herself out of prison. And I cannot fathom how anyone in their right mind could consider anyone as fit to serve as commander in chief who lied through their teeth to the parents of ambassador Chris Stevens and three fellow countrymen murdered in Benghazi, in order to protect her boss at a critical juncture in his re-election.
Watching the Republican National Convention got me off the fence to lend my enthusiastic support to Donald Trump in his unprecedented bid for our nation’s highest office. Despite the gross distortions propagated by the media, I witnessed a strongly united sea of delegates enthusiastically supportive of their party’s nominee. I was unequivocally impressed by the convention’s ability to orchestrate an impressive cadre of speakers, including former NYC Mayor Rudy Gulliani, talk show icon Laura Ingraham, the mother of one of the four men slain in Benghazi, and Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and his other grown children, together with his genteel first lady in waiting Melania.
The decisive factors in getting me off the fence were the nominee’s obvious heart-felt determination to tackle our nation’s pressing problems head on, while restoring our moral compass, together with his extremely capable team of advisers led by his grown children and son-in law Jared Kushner. Like millions of Americans, I felt that for the first time I had seen Donald Trump as a real person. I was particularly impressed by the genuine warmth and admiration shared between him and his grown children, all of whom spoke on his behalf at the convention.
To be sure, Donald Trump has a very rough road ahead of him in winning the election, especially as he is up against a decidedly biased and disparaging press. Having said that, I firmly believe he is up to the task, provided that he immediately undertakes some necessary course corrections, while toning down flamboyant the persona he has to date projected throughout his campaign. I will specifically address key items crucial to his winning the election.
- He must dip into his coffers and meet, if not exceed, Hillary Clinton’s projected campaign expenditures between now and Nov. 8. To put it bluntly, his campaign will be fatally flawed if he ignores the harsh reality that in today’s world many, if not most voters make their decisions based on media sound-bites, rather than thoroughly examining both candidates and their respective stances on pressing issues. According to data released by the Federal Election Commission on July 17, Trump is trailing far behind Hillary in terms of funds raised to date: $89 million vs. $264 million. Clearly he can no longer count on free publicity from the mainstream media, which is decidedly pro-Clinton.
Regarding his advertising blitz, Trump would be well advised to take the high road and strike a rational balance between the inevitable back-stabbing negative ads presented by both sides, and truly informative spots that definitively lay out how he plans to address the issues keeping voters awake at night.
- Lay his cards on the table. Along with his flamboyant charisma, Trump has earned a well-deserved reputation of being short on specifics and playing his cards too close to the vest. This has been very disconcerting to a huge segment, if not the majority, of the electorate.
If he truly desires to succeed, he must take decisive steps now to counteract this decidedly negative perception. For example, if he releases the names of his key Cabinet choices during the election, as some have suggested, that should resonate favorably with the electorate. Likewise, he would enhance his credibility by introducing some of the top military advisers he intends to rely on. He also needs to engage the services of top-flight accountants and actuaries to develop convincing projections to back up his oft-touted claims that he will substantially reduce government expenditures, along with taxes and our astronomical national debt, while concurrently rebuilding a first-class military second to none, building a much touted wall at our southern border, and creating unprecedented opportunities for all Americans to gain access to true financial security.
- He must convincingly counter the deep-seated fears of a large contingency of voters that his pattern of winging it on major issues will carry over into his presidency, with disastrous results. To date, his performance has been characterized by making totally outlandish – and often alienating – statements (e.g. “When I come into office we will immediately deport all illegal immigrants”) and playing them up to the hilt, then weeks later backing down to a more realistic and palatable position.
He has reached the juncture where the rubber hits the road, and most definitely must focus on “engaging his brain before putting his mouth in gear.” Otherwise, he will continue to alienate potential supporters and hand the election over to Hillary.
- It is crucially important that Trump and his team make a most concerted effort to reach out to key voting blocs that have historically leaned heavily toward Democratic contenders – this particularly applies to the black and Hispanic communities. His message of turning around our country’s economic slump and providing a path to good-paying jobs for all Americans, provided that they truly work hard to achieve that goal, should resonate strongly with both of these key constituencies. This will only pan out, however, if the message is presented in terms that apply directly to them, by messengers who have earned their trust and respect.
Along these lines, Ivanka’s strong charismatic presence should be fully exploited in bringing women voters on board.
- Above all else, Donald Trump and his campaign staff must learn from his past gaffes and his tantrums throughout the GOP debates. From this point forward they must consistently portray to voters that he is truly presidential material. It goes without saying that both Hillary and the media will viciously pounce upon any future gaffes and exploit them to the hilt!
Two recent disturbing examples immediately come to mind. The first is Melania’s convention speech. While I do believe her intentions were sincere, it is difficult to comprehend why she scrapped the speech prepared by two expert speech writers without attempting to work with them to reach a mutual accord. Instead, she prepared the talk on her own with assistance from an employee of Trump’s organization, and they both failed to utilize one of the numerous programs available to detect plagiarism. Indeed, one must raise the question: “Who the heck was watching the store when all of this occurred?”
While I doubt very much that Melania intended to plagiarize Michelle Obama, in politics perception is everything – and a misstep of this magnitude will be, and has been, fully exploited by both the other side and the pro-Clinton media.
And even more recently, Trump has made the colossal mistake of feeding into rumors that he may select ousted Fox News CEO Roger Ailes as his campaign manager. Triggered by the recent sexual harassment charges filed against Ailes by former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson, an additional 25 women have come forth with similar allegations.
While not implying any judgment concerning the possible legitimacy of these charges, one must again raise the basic axiom: “In politics perception is everything!” At this point it appears possible that Ailes may be an honorable man who might indeed serve as an exemplary campaign manager. I can, however, confidently guarantee that if Trump does appoint Ailes as his campaign manager, in the context of today’s highly charged political environment Hillary will make mince meat out of him in no time flat!
In this election year the stakes are incredibly high. Given the alternative, I submit that Donald Trump represents by far the best chance of getting our country back on track. In order to gain the confidence of the majority of the electorate, however, he must unequivocally convince voters that he is, indeed, presidential material.
John Newport is a writer and social-political commentator based in Tucson.