Trump needs more votes, less applause
I’ve finally figured out what Donald Trump’s main problem is. No jokes, please. It’s because at his core he’s an entertainer who’s looking for applause, not a politician who’s looking for votes.
Applause makes you feel good on stage at the Improv or at the end of a Broadway play. But it doesn’t get you elected. If Trump really wants to save what’s left of Western Civilization from four years of President Hillary Clinton, he’s got to learn how to get his message out to more voters. When he gives his big policy speeches, he does fine.
The addresses he delivered recently about fighting terrorism and fixing the economy were generally good. They’d make good stump speeches and he should shorten them to twenty minutes and repeat at least one of them every day.
But the most important thing about those careful, joke-free teleprompter speeches wasn’t what Trump said or even how he said it. It was that he was speaking to the whole country, not just the people in the auditorium. He wasn’t seeking the instant approval of the audience with his “Crooked Hillary” shtick or promises to build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it.
In those two serious policy speeches Trump did what my father did in Berlin in 1987 at the Brandenburg Gate, when he told Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this Wall!”
My father wasn’t merely speaking to the huge crowd in front of him, he was speaking beyond them to all the people on the other side of the Berlin Wall who were not free. Trump has to start speaking to a wider, broader, larger audience — the independents and Republicans that he’s got to get to vote for him.
He needs to do it everyday. He can’t slip back to delivering his applause lines. We’ve heard those jokes. We’ll soon see whether Trump’s new team of Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon can make a difference in his behavior or focus.
Conway is a pro who knows what she’s doing. But you can hire the best people on the planet and it won’t help if you don’t listen to them.While Team Trump is in a hiring mood, how about finding someone who actually knows how to stage a campaign speech?
When Trump was in Wisconsin earlier this week talking about the economy and how the Democratic Party has failed and betrayed black people, I don’t think I saw a single black person. It was incredibly amateurish stagecraft.
It’d be like giving an important policy speech about the plight of out-of-work coal miners to an audience of nuns or guys in three-piece suits.
I realize Trump isn’t exactly surrounded by black supporters. And I know the part of Wisconsin he was in was 95 percent white.
But couldn’t someone in his campaign have found fifty black people to be in the crowd so the media couldn’t react in the knee-jerk way they did? My father’s media genius, the late deputy chief of staff Michael Deaver, would have had a thousand blacks in that audience even if he had to pay them to be there. Trump has to do a lot more learnin’ and a lot more hirin’.
And if he doesn’t do it real soon he’ll be back running his business empire, living a quiet life in Trump Tower and getting in almost as many rounds of golf each week as President Obama.
Michael Reagan is a political columnist. He is the eldest son of President Ronald Reagan, and is heard daily by over 5 million listeners via his nationally syndicated talk radio program.