It’s an election year and the campaign is now in full swing. While former President Donald Trump appears to be headed for his third consecutive Republican nomination, current President Joe Biden is focusing on getting the facts straight about January 6th and delivering a message about how much worse it will be for everyone if Trump is reelected to a second term.
The New Yorker notes that Biden’s first campaign ad of the year, released on Thursday, “leans heavily on the history theme, interspersing violent images of January 6th with old footage of civil-rights and suffragist marches, of Martin Luther King, Jr., and American Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima in the Second World War.”of
“I’ve made the preservation of American democracy the central issue of my Presidency,” says Biden at the start of the ad. It’s a bold statement and the telegraphing of his strategy. But does the preservation of American democracy have currency with the voters? The definitive answer will come in November.
While I do question the strategic direction, I also want more from the spot itself. If the intent is to illustrate the danger of a second term for Trump, then why not paint a grim authoritarian picture for people? How about this, take a page from President Johnson’s 1964 playbook and truly scare the shit out of viewers.
Also, go on the attack. When the nation is about to slip into autocracy, there’s no reason to pull punches and no reason to act like an altar boy or Boy Scout. Here’s an idea to get people’s attention: take decisive executive action on guns and women’s healthcare, right now, and then release a flood of ads that don’t look like political ads at all.
Doctorates Make (White) House Call
On Wednesday, his first day back in the office following the holiday, the President hosted lunch for a group of American historians to advise him on how to frame the stakes of this election.
According to Politico, Princeton’s Eddie Glaude Jr. and Sean Wilentz, Harvard’s Annette Gordon-Reed, Yale’s Beverly Gage, and Boston College’s Heather Cox Richardson were among the attendees, as well as presidential biographer Jon Meacham.
“In blunt terms, the academics discussed looming threats to the nation’s democracy and warned about the slow crawl of authoritarianism around the globe.”
Well, hell, if the historians are concerned…
As a student of history, I appreciate that President Biden is consulting with people who know how to think deeply about the problems we’re facing as a nation. At the same time, the problem facing Biden and the Democrats is not particularly academic, and sadly, the idea that Biden is out of touch with “regular people” is reinforced by the professors’ visits.
In addition, the brand strategist in me is alarmed that the defense against tyranny in 2024 is the same as it was in 2020, which can be summed up as “I’m not a tyrant.”
Why the History Lesson?
On Friday, Biden made a speech at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The setting was intentional and historian-approved.
Here’s how the President framed the battle that we’re in today.
In the winter of 1777, it was harsh and cold as the Continental Army marched to Valley Forge. General George Washington knew he faced the most daunting of tasks: to fight and win a war against the most powerful empire that existed in the world at the time.
His mission was clear. Liberty, not conquest. Freedom, not domination. National independence, not individual glory.
America made a vow. Never again would we bow down to a king.
Do the American people need or want a history lesson? Do we honestly fear rule by a king? Is the existential threat to our nation our primary concern?
The mostly non-partisan independent voter may be more concerned with personal and family matters. Like how expensive things are today, the unending humanitarian crisis at the border, and how women don’t have the freedom to choose, even in certain life-threatening situations. These are real-life issues that matter to people and we don’t need a study or a poll to determine this. We merely need to listen.
There Are No Ivory Towers on Main Street
Historians provide context and make the past relevant, helping us to navigate the now. Thus, we badly need historians and would do well to listen to them, read their books, and consider their wise counsel.
Unfortunately, it’s not a popular field of study any longer. There were just over twenty-four thousand history majors in 2019, accounting for between one and two percent of bachelor’s degrees granted that year, a drop of about a third since 2011. At this rate, it would take 40 years to produce one million history majors. It might be a shame, but it’s also a fact.
Consequently, tens of millions of Americans are not tuned in to The History Channel, C-Span, or PBS each evening. No. The American media diet consists of one fabricated contest after another…The Bachelor, Housewives, Survivor, professional wrestling, mixed martial arts, man talk radio, first-person shooter games, and whatever dark channels of the Internet people happen to be surfing.
In this sort of programmed environment, there are no rules of engagement, the only rules are to survive and win.
How to Beat A Bully
Why do you think Don Trump is so appealing to his followers? Maybe it’s because he gleefully feeds them the red meat media diet they’re accustomed to, day after day in his ongoing master class of media manipulation.
Following Biden’s “save democracy” speech at Valley Forge on Friday, Trump mocked him.