This is my latest Huffington Post on the elections: Presidential Branding: U.S. Election 2016
Presidential Branding: U.S. Election 2016
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump ran long and difficult campaigns. To many voters, it was a campaign about two public egos battling to prove themselves superior. It was about brand Clinton and brand Trump, and not so much the issues as the people.
Trump presented himself as the person who was going to “Make America Great Again.” As he branded himself as a strongman, the only one capable of saving America, he didn’t hide politically incorrect inclinations from the people. He espoused notions of sexism, racism, and professed dangers originating with Hispanic and Muslim immigrants. There was little in the way of party or platform that he stood behind; it was mostly just Trump, creating, as it were, a third party movement within the mantle of the Republican Party. Many Democrats, along with some Republicans, recoiled with disgust at the ideas he expressed, free of political acumen and restraint.
Clinton’s brand, on the other hand, amounted to a “white woman savior.” She was going to save the people of color from the financial and societal inequities that we find ourselves in. She ran with the slogan “Stronger Together” and made the case that if we stick together, women, men, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and immigrants, we will be stronger. According to her brand, America was already great and we need to just stick together and win this election.
Between these two brands, Clinton’s hopeful message should have won. Most of the world did not want any of the race conscious antipathies Trump was showing. As the Democratic National Committee proclaimed, “love trumps hate”. We want to share love and want this world to be a loving place for ourselves and for future generations of Americans from all ethnic backgrounds.
The Trump Brand’s tag line Make America Great Again begged the question. America is already great in most of the measures people may use. Its primary failures are in our astronomical prison populations, the “school to prison” pipeline that affects so many students of color, and weakening educational systems, all issues with which Trump constituents have no issue.
Clinton’s branding failed as people began to see her as she was presented by the political interests and journalists who wished to make a story out of her blemishes. With the email scandal and the Wikileaks emails coming out, the voters got to see Clinton, not as she was branding herself, but as someone who seemed authentically out for herself, just like Trump. Behind the brand, voters saw a self-seeking politician who, with her husband Bill, helped initiate the policies that led to the mass incarceration of people of color, and really stood only for white women.
American voters sometimes vote against their own best economic interest, voting for a personality rather than a credible policy. The culture of celebrity drives the economy, and sometime voters. As voters began to unpeel the layers and reveal the real Clinton, we began to see she had similar blemishes as Trump. Both Clinton’s and Trump’s ego-driven campaigns became clearer to the voters in what Chris Hedges calls, “Con vs. Con”.
At the end of the day, American voters voted with their hearts and emotions and chose the brand, Brand Trump, which would shake up the establishment which has been so corrupt for a long time. In so doing, we elected a racist, misogynistic, ableist, Islamophobic brand who mocks people with disabilities and prisoners of war and grieving parents of American war heroes.
When the heart chooses in politics, there is often pain, hurt, and agony. We shall see what is in store for us in the next four years –economic and social stability or disappointment, betrayal, and quite possibly buyer’s remorse.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim is an Associate Professor of Theology at Earlham School of Religion. She is the author of Embracing the Other; Making Peace with the Earth;Here I Am;Christian Doctrines for Global Gender Justiceco-edited with Jenny Daggers;Theological Reflections on “Gangnam Style”co-written with Joseph Cheah;Reimagining with Christian Doctrines co-edited with Jenny Daggers;Contemplations from the Heart;Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit;The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other; and The Grace of Sophia. She is a co-editor with Dr. Joseph Cheah for the Palgrave Macmillan Book Series, “Asian Christianity in Diaspora”.