Heather Havrilesky
Feb 3, 2017 · 5 min read

In just two short weeks, President Donald Trump has destabilized the globe and quickly eroded even our most trusted alliances. This is exactly what his likely sponsor Putin wants, of course. This is exactly what his white supremacist advisor Bannon wants — he’s said so on the record (“Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too.”). And if sowing fear in the populace offers the GOP an excuse to pump up military spending, so be it. Most Americans, however, prefer to sleep well at night. And if we’re going to take a clear, resounding stand against this unthinkable menace, we have to use his own tricks against him.

Think about how you might discuss the head-spinningly bad judgment that led to his first and failed military operation in Yemen. Instead of talking about how all special ops are sticky but President Obama, in spite of his flaws, was incredibly careful about not putting American forces in harm’s way, try this:

It was a disaster, a huge disaster, and totally preventable. Trump messed up. Completely incompetent.

Or maybe you’d say:

Those SEALs went in there, and got torn apart. Nightmare, never should’ve happened. Trump messed up, big league. Completely unstable.

And you’d also definitely say:

Impeach the guy. He’s an unstable person. Yemen? Disaster. Everyone knows it’s true. Even he knows it. Awful. Everyone agrees.

Sure, it sounds like an SNL skit. Nonetheless, this is how the resistance (and the Democrats in office and those running for office) must communicate now. With simple, repetitive talking points. Forget clever. Use Trump’s rhetoric. Reckless, scary words are the most useful words to describe him, because almost everything he does is reckless and scary. For example:

And the phone calls, to Mexico, Australia? Unbelievable. He wants to start wars. Impeach the guy. Totally unstable. Everyone agrees.

Another important rule of Trumpspeak? Don’t let anything go. During the election, we kept hearing “crooked” and “emails” and “Benghazi” about Hillary. So keep every single travesty on the tip of your tongue. Repeat, repeat, repeat to the point where you’re boring yourself. When some new horror comes along, add it to the mix, very few words, oversimplified:

Bowling Green Massacre? Total lie. An embarrassment. Kellyanne Conway is an unstable person. Let the mentally ill buy guns? Are you crazy? Terrible! Let Putin bomb Ukraine? Bad idea, very bad. Incredibly dangerous.

Then return to the big ones:

Look at Yemen. Disaster. Totally preventable. More nuclear arms? Is he joking? He’s dangerous. Unsafe. Has to go. It’s horrifying, an embarrassment. Everyone knows it.

If you’re not boring yourself, you’re not doing it right. Seriously.

It’s time to stop trying to sound like the smartest person in the room. Your psychoanalysis of our new president only makes you sound hung up on unimportant brainiac things. Details, issues, policy analysis? Those are great for longer pieces, sure, but they’re too subtle to spread virally on social media, and too complicated to inject into conversations and protests and action calls. Make sounds that any human can understand. Throw in some core values if you want, but make that simple, too:

He’s dead wrong on immigration. Everyone knows it. Doctors, academics, American citizens, treated like criminals? Terrible. An embarrassment. He’s unfit. He‘s gotta go.

Remember that simple messages will make you sound more trustworthy to a lot of people. Thanks, TV culture! Your detailed analysis of high capitalist corruption is not going to help that much. Instead, say this: HE’S TRYING TO START A WAR.

Of course, Democrats and progressives are incredibly afraid of using rhetoric of fear, like Trump and Bannon do. But isn’t fear our new reality? Aren’t we scared out of our minds over Trump, a man who has quickly demonstrated that he’s self-obsessed, unthinkably reckless, and utterly incapable of making even the faintest diplomatic sounds come out of his mouth? We can’t sit back and wait, because his mistakes are going to build on each other until they snowball into a global disaster.

And how would Trump say that?

We’re in big trouble, huge trouble. This guy wants to start World War III. We have to stop him. He’ll get us all killed.

Remember that standing up to Trump is not about creating chaos. Standing up to Trump means restoring safety to our world. This is a rhetorical strategy — linking Trump to danger, linking Trump’s removal to safety — but it’s also plainly true: We don’t have to set stuff on fire to make our point. That would only strengthen Trump, giving him an excuse to send in the militarized police while undermining human rights. Remember what we’re fighting for: Safety. Peace. Human rights. Preventing the US from becoming the laughing stock of the world, or worse, starting global conflicts with nuclear weapons in play.

So repeat the same simple messages. Then call your reps and say the same things. “We’re worried for our lives. We’re worried about our children. Trump is unstable. He’s dangerous.” Ask them: ‘Why aren’t you standing up to him? Why aren’t you protecting us?”

Remember the things Trump said about Hillary? The devil. An unstable person. Belongs in prison. Has tremendous hatred in her heart. Crooked. It’s clear now that every last one of his descriptions of her were, in fact, projections. And now Trump is saying, of his #1 enemy, Lindsey Graham, “He’s trying to start World War III.” You think he’s not projecting this one time?

Millions of people feel the same way about Trump. Millions of people are losing sleep over this man. Stop reading the horrifying news for hours, stop trying to be clever on Twitter, stop impressing your friends with your nuanced analysis of filibustering, and let’s all speak in one, clear, simple voice. Impeachment is political. Trump has committed impeachable offenses, and the list is growing, to the point where impeachment feels inevitable to many observers. A recent poll has four out of ten registered voters supporting impeachment, and that support will only grow as Trump and his advisors continue to behave recklessly. Republicans who stand by him are likely to find themselves on a sinking ship. So pick up the phone and use Trumpspeak:

Trump is incredibly dangerous. Incredibly dangerous! It’s obvious. He’s corrupt, he’s unstable, he’s reckless. Yemen? Disaster. Putin? Pulling the strings. We’re not safe with him in office. Totally unsafe. We need your help. When are you going to take a stand against this guy? When? He’s got to go. It’s obvious. Everyone agrees.

The Awl

Be less stupid.

Heather Havrilesky

Written by

@NYMag columnist & author of How to Be a Person in the World (Doubleday, 2016)

The Awl

The Awl

Be less stupid.

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