This isn’t going to come as a surprise to anyone, but the strategy Donald Trump is going to use against his impeachment and in 2020 is to play the victim. Everything that happens to him is because someone hates him. Whether it’s the media, the Democrats, the FBI, Nancy Pelosi, other Republicans, or some nebulous “deep state,” one thing remains the same: Everyone is out to get him.
He is the ultimate victim.
He seems to have picked up much of his shtick from victim pundits on AM radio or Fox News, where conspiracies abound and nothing is ever the fault of the Republicans they defend. Everything is some kind of conspiracy against these brave souls who sacrifice themselves for our country.
Like these victimization pundits, he targets easy scapegoats whom his audience often already dislikes rather than addressing actual issues.
You can’t reason with this victimization. But there are strategies for countering it. Especially because people don’t like to be known as victims. Here are a few strategies that I’ve found work.
1. Whenever someone tries to use this strategy, point out the victimization.
All you stupid libs have against Trump is evidence and several honorable witnesses and his admission and the admissions of Giuliani and Mulvaney and crap like that. Friggin witch hunt.
— Touré (@Toure) October 31, 2019
Here’s one that I like to use because it points out how ridiculous it is for Republicans to always be asking for increasing amounts of evidence. No matter what the evidence is, when it comes to a Republican, it’s never enough.
I also like to tag posts/tweets that are using this strategy with #OrangeManVictim. It almost always gets some likes and laughs.
2. Keep telling the same simple story that was confirmed in congressional hearings.
Everything in the whistleblower report was confirmed by testimony during the impeachment hearings.
Trump blocked and continues to block members of his staff with direct knowledge of the subject from testifying.
If you're having trouble following the impeachment hearings, let me summarize…
– Of those who were willing to testify under oath, ALL say Trump committed crimes.
– Of those who say Trump did NOT commit crimes; none were willing to testify under oath.
— Translate Trump (@TranslateRealDT) November 16, 2019
3. Ask Republicans to call the witnesses they want during the Senate trial.
During the House impeachment hearings, Republicans submitted a list of witnesses they wanted to call.
The idea was to paint the entire issue as, you guessed it, a Democratic conspiracy.
The list included:
- Hunter Biden.
- Devon Archer, former board member of Burisma Holdings.
- Alexandra Chalupa, a former DNC staffer and contractor.
- Tim Morrison, senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council.
- David Hale, undersecretary of state for political affairs.
- Nellie Ohr, former contractor for opposition research firm Fusion GPS.
- Ambassador Kurt Volker.
- The whistleblower.
Of these witnesses, David Hale and Kurt Volker already both testified during the House impeachment hearings.
There’s no compelling argument to have the whistleblower testify. Everything has been confirmed by other witnesses, and unmasking the identity of the whistleblower would have a chilling effect on future whistleblowers. The whistleblower is right to request anonymity under the law.
Mitch McConnell could call any of these other witnesses, though. Were congressional Republicans just whining during the House impeachment hearings for Fox News? Why won’t they call the witnesses they want when they have the chance?
If the Senate calls witnesses, it doesn’t have any excuse for not also hearing from any of the subpoenaed witnesses whom Trump is blocking from testifying. They include:
- Rudy Giuliani.
- John Bolton.
- Chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
- Robert Blair, assistant to Mick Mulvaney.
- Former deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman.
- Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought.
- Vice President Mike Pence.
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
4. Ask people to explain the Trump victimization conspiracy.
The idea here is that it’s very powerful when people reveal themselves. So you want them to reveal themselves. If they reveal themselves enough, you don’t have to say anything. You just have to sound rational by comparison.
In my opinion, this is a strategy that can’t be used enough. Instead of calling people names, encourage them to reveal their extremeness. When people reveal how extreme they are, they often isolate themselves. You may have also heard this strategy referred to as, “Give him enough rope to hang himself.” It’s the same principle.
5. Take away the reason for the defensive reaction.
So I’m going to let you in on a little secret that may not be so secret. The vast majority of conservatives know that Trump is guilty. They know he did it. What’s going on is that they feel that he’s doing good things for them, and therefore they defend him.
One of the standard conservative tactics is to threaten people that their lives will get worse if they don’t defend Trump. All the conservatives I speak to in conservative forums know that he’s guilty. But they’re afraid. They’re afraid that, if he leaves, something will happen to the economy.
You can address this by speaking to the fact that the things he’s doing are hurting most people. For example, here’s Robert Reich on what’s going on in the economy:
Two years after Trump & Republicans cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations:
—The gains have gone mostly to those at the top.
—Nearly half of all Americans are working in low-wage jobs.
—The federal deficit has exploded.
Once again, trickle down economics has been a disaster
— Robert Reich (@RBReich) December 22, 2019
I will also often follow this up with: If Trump’s ideas are so great for everyone, why is he spending so much time trying to rig elections?
Trump is going to play the victim from now through 2020. Don’t let him.
I think we should encourage it and ask people in 2020 if they want a president who is a perpetual victim.
David Akadjian is the author of The Little Book of Revolution: A Distributive Strategy for Democracy (ebook also available).