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Eric Ferguson recording video
Eric Ferguson recording video, possibly for a blog

Messaging matters even with COVID-19, or Trump’s Katrina

Messaging matters even with COVID-19, or Trump’s Katrina

We can get angry that Trump treats COVID-19 as just a PR problem, but as much as he’s made the pandemic worse than it needed to be, this is the rare case where he’s not entirely wrong. His messaging is working. Are you helping to counter it?

I’m referring in particular to how his polling numbers have improved during this crisis. Yes, you read that right, improved. According to 538, while Trump is still underwater, his net disapproval is the lowest it’s been since he first took office, minus 5.8% at this moment. This is despite how badly he screwed up, like ignoring intelligence warning he received all the way back in January.

You might be tempted to say it’s just the “rally around the leader” response we get in times of crisis, like the spike in approval presidents get when wars start. I partly agree, but that’s an explanation, not a solution.

Don’t overlook that Trump still has the “bully pulpit”. His poll numbers improved when he acted like he was taking COVID-19 seriously. He made an oval office speech, and has followed with daily press conferences. Yes, he keeps spewing nonsense, but the visual imagery is powerful.

What’s more, don’t forget that you are more attentive to news than most people: I take that as a given since you’re reading a candidate’s blog. Most people, however, aren’t aware of how much warning Trump had, how little preparation there was, and how much he says is nonsense. Can people forget already how completely he contradicted what he said just weeks earlier? Yes, very much so.

So we have to counter his messaging, and many have done that in terms of sharing correct information, but we’re talking specifically in political terms. People won’t know this is Trump’s version of Hurricane Katrina if they’re not reminded of how Bush Jr. made the same sorts of mistakes, like appointing unqualified loyalists and cutting funds for preparedness. And I mean WE.

If you’re just reading the news and not acting, you’re not accomplishing anything. That’s a general rule, and here’s a specific instance. If you won’t share the factual stuff, don’t be surprised when friends and family know nothing but what they get from conservative media, which as usual is mostly wrong. You don’t need to be experts in framing and messaging to follow this simple rule: people don’t know if you won’t tell them. Yes, spouting facts isn’t enough, and no, nothing will sway a determined trumper. However, a small portion of us are swayable, and that portion could easily decide the next election.

Getting that swayable portion to understand this is Trump’s Katrina is up to all of us.