Welcome to Behavioral Politics
Miles Gloriosus

I like you, Roman Soldier Miles Gloriosus.

IMHO: one thing Trump tapped into, which Clinton did not, was at least the appearance of a sense of urgency. Do not get me wrong: this man could not give two fucks about Joe or Jane Sixpack.

But the presidency — at least since FDR took to the airwaves — is not a bureaucratic position, but both a figurehead monarch and a screen upon which people want to see their sentiments reflected. Clinton could be a good figurehead, but couldn’t accept the projections of others. Rightly or wrongly, there was a faint whiff of Marie Antoinette about her that she simply couldn’t find any wrongs to right in America — even when evidence mounted.

Eventually, it became too easy for anxieties to simply be projected upon her — in the form of the vague threat of her emails, or Anthony Weiner or god knows what else the Republicans could dredge up.

Trump, on the other hand, could act as a figurehead and could accept the undefined anxiety of flyover country USA. He could find plenty wrongs which he could right, but it was mostly garbage about immigrants and Muslims instead of, say, the avarice of finance — can’t piss off his creditors and/or potential cabinet members! — who are the real culprits in the decimation of both home values and the industrial tax base of the heartland and South.

This is not to suggest that Democrats can’t do this. Obama’s approval ratings are reaching scarily high levels — America loves him, as he leaves us — and it’s because he accepts America as imperfect but as perfectible. But it’s also because he could look people at a plant scheduled for closure, and he could be bothered to have compassion to accept the slings and arrows and still have a coherent message.

Let policy wonks decide what the better solutions are than Trump’s in the 2018 and 2020 elections. But in terms of the public perception war, Democrats need to stop dilly dallying around the issue: a lot of America is hurting.