The Trump Identity

Trump's personal brand is personal identity politics.

Donald Trump released his budget for the next fiscal year, and it's a doozy. 

Over a trillion dollars in cuts to programs he just promised to leave alone. How does he do it? How does he get away with it? His backers in Congress are happy with these cuts; they are part of the GOP agenda. But a lot of his followers and even more of the voters he's counting on also count on these programs. They're who he aimed his empty promises and false reassurances at, after all.

The key to Donald's success in this area is his own personal flavor of brand management, where specific people are made to be identified with certain comments. Donald Trump, who touts his ability to sell a snowjob to his investors as part of his business savvy, repeats over and over again that he's the guy who tells the truth and just as crucially hangs epithets like "Lyin'" on his rivals. 

Having established himself as The Honest One, he tells his flock that he's going to protect their coverage for pre-existing conditions or that he's not going to touch Medicare or Social Security. Anybody who reports otherwise must be "fake news"... he's attacked the media from day one specifically so that anything negative or contradictory of his message they report can be doubted if not dismissed right out of the gate.

Donald Trump never delivers on substance because he has no substance to deliver. He doesn't care about substance. He doesn't care what the truth of the matter of Burisma and Biden and didn't care if Ukraine performed an investigation or not; the goal was to have the announcement, with as much pomp and puffery as possible. From his point of view, this makes perfect sense. The announcement of an investigation that ultimately went nowhere and was very likely cooked up by Giuliani allies in the New York FBI office helped sink his opponent in 2016; the actual investigation turned up more suspicious things about the investigation than it did about Hillary Clinton.

Remember when he went to Florida to announce the start of his 2020 re-election campaign? It actually begin in January of 2017 and never stopped. At that appearance, he announced his new campaign slogan, "Keep America Great", which he had already been using for months.

Donald likes to announce things because an announcement by its very nature sounds official and important, worth paying attention to. "I'd like to make an announcement" said before a bit of personal news changes it from small talk to something portentous. The stubborn bit of the US cultural consumer psyche that assumes there must be some Them somewhere that is minding the store, making sure no one says anything too dishonest because if anyone did They would put a stop to it, tends to put more stock in things that are announced than things that are just said.

Trump's peculiar genius for branding relies on an understanding of this. He can use announcements and pronouncements to position himself as being for certain things, standing for certain concepts. If his brand is sufficiently strong, then it won't matter what happens or doesn't happen next. If anyone believes that the successful businessman suffered a bad turn, then it must have been very bad luck indeed, and surely anyone else would have fared even worse. If the healthiest president in history suffers a medical emergency, surely a lesser mortal would have been struck dead by it.

If the man who fights for you and who promised to protect your social security is cutting the budget... it must be sadly necessary. He must be cutting waste and graft to try to save social security, just like he promised to do.

Because he's honest.

We know he's honest because he told us so, and we believe him because he's honest.

Ultimately, it's identity politics reduced to its most compact and efficient form. Trump is believed because he has crafted an identity for himself where Trump = Believable.

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