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Laughter is the Best Medicine
How Humor Might Keep Republican Fury at Bay
If you’ve tuned into the news at all lately, there is undoubtedly one story you’ve been bombarded with at every turn: the many (...many…many…) indictments of Donald Trump.
In case you need a refresh, here are the dirty details:
In March, a Manhattan Grand Jury indicted the former President, accusing him of falsifying business records in order to complete hush money payments to an adult film star;
In June, a Florida grand jury passed down an indictment accusing Trump of retaining and lying about the retention of classified federal documents;
In early August, a federal grand jury approved an indictment accusing Trump of conspiracy in relation to his role in the January 6 attacks on the US Capital; and
Last week, Trump was indicted on racketeering charges in tandem with alleged attempts to overturn his election loss in the state of Georgia.
It’s no surprise that Trump continues to be a media flashpoint, and that Democrats and Republicans alike have been eager to weigh in on the accusations.
It may be surprising, however, to hear that both Democrats and Republicans who are weighing in online initially responded with a similar sentiment: anger - though of course, the reasons behind the fury differ by political party. Democrats participating in the discourse - reminded of all of Trump’s underhanded attempts to overturn the election - are articulating frustration with the sheer volume of alleged crimes, while Republicans participating in the discourse are overwhelmingly upset with the - in their collective opinion - unwarranted attacks on the former President.
Each new announcement of a fresh Trump indictment has had a noticeable and interesting effect on the discourse: Many Republicans (especially on the far-right) have committed ever-more staunch support, while Democrats have begun to abandon direct confrontation. Democrats are instead attempting to ignore right-wing voters and forsake their anger in favor of delight at Trump's potential downfall, using humor to pillory the former President and his accomplices.
BIG TAKEAWAY: The best way to keep Democrats and undecided voters engaged in the realities and potential consequences of the Trump indictments without continuing to inflame and motivate Trump’s base is to keep online comments entertaining, humorous, and playful.
Republican social media messaging is generally more active - read: louder - and concerned primarily with feelings that the indictments are a concerted effort to silence Trump, a form of election interference, or an attempt to draw attention away from the simultaneous federal investigation of Hunter Biden.
Democratic discourse, on the other hand, is now less furious and primarily concerned with visual memes, quips and hashtags that sport a spirit of irony and take the former President to task, including the use of #lockhimup, repurposed from Trump’s own condemnation of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election.
Recent polling suggests that Trump’s favorability has continued to drop slightly, especially since the second indictment.
While many Republicans are divided on their support of the former president, those who are staunch believers are the most brash and abrasive and generate the most attention, potentially causing a skewed perception of the level of support he enjoys.
In any attempt to continue eroding this support for Trump and his crimes, it’s important not to encourage additional enthusiasm for the former President from undecided voters and the far right.
So here’s the bottom line: When it comes to holding the former President accountable in the court of public opinion, it’s best to find ways to stay engaged (and to inspire others to do the same) without encouraging his supporters (and voters on the fence) to become even more vocal with their support - and the best way to do that is to keep it light, playful, and entertaining. To paraphrase, Mary Poppins, the world’s most famous nanny, “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down…and perhaps helps the former President go to jail, too.”
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