Donald Trump didn’t make much sense at the Values Voter Summit, but he didn’t have to

Donald Trump just wrapped up his speech at the Family Research Council’s annual Values Voter Summit. And from listening to the speech, it was painfully clear why he initially declined the FRC’s invitation. Trump, who has almost certainly never read the Bible, despite using it as a caricature of a crutch on the campaign trail, is simply not very good at speaking the language of self-described values voters.

Clearly uncomfortable in his surroundings, Trump stuck to what he knows best: trumpeting his poll numbers, insulting his opponents, warning white people about foreigners and reminding the world that he is very, very rich. Here’s the clip from his speech where he comes closest to saying anything coherent about religion:

As Trump said, implying that he’d enact federal legislation to force businesses to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays,” free speech and religion be damned:

The word ‘Christmas.’ I love Christmas. I love Christmas. You go to stores, you don’t see the word ‘Christmas.’ It says ‘Happy Holidays’ all over. I say, ‘Where’s Christmas?’ I tell my wife, ‘Don’t go to those stores. I want to see Christmas. I want to see Christmas.’ Other people can have their holidays but Christmas is Christmas. I want to see ‘Merry Christmas.’ Remember the expression ‘Merry Christmas’? You don’t see it anymore. You’re going to see it if I get elected, I can tell you right now.

By the way, that list of stores that Donald Trump’s wife is apparently prohibited from frequenting presumably includes Trump’s own hotels, which have no problem with a more inclusive holiday message.

But apart from that, Trump’s Values Voter Summit speech was basically his regular bit on the stump, with the one other wrinkle coming when he cited the Iran Deal as an example of how little religious freedom Americans have left (what?). Trump had 20 minutes to speak at the event, and 19 minutes of those minutes were spent reminding everyone of what they already know: He’s rich, he doesn’t like foreigners or Republican politicians and he’s ahead in the polls. The Family Research Council presumably told Donald Trump that their event was dedicated to putting God back in the Oval Office, but Trump apparently didn’t get the memo that when they said “God,” they didn’t mean him.

Of course, none of that matters. At the end of his speech, he held up the Bible and walked off to the tune of “We’re not Gonna Take It,” which is really all he needed to do.

Because for all of the Religious Right’s deep concern for the moral direction our country is headed, it isn’t as if there are all that many buttons you need to push in order to signal to them that you’re on their team. Tell them they’re under attack. Tell them they should be in charge. Tell them their current Republican leadership doesn’t get it, and can’t take them to the promised land. Everything else is just window dressing.

It doesn’t matter if you have an internally consistent argument about how same-sex marriage will destroy America from within. It doesn’t matter if you really, really believe that life begins at conception. It doesn’t matter if you can explain why God loves the death penalty and hates abortion (even if the opposite is true). Donald Trump has gotten as far as he has in American politics on pure, transparent performance art because, at the end of the day, that seems to be what a big chunk of Republican voters want: to be entertained.

And they wonder why they can’t govern.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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23 Responses to “Donald Trump didn’t make much sense at the Values Voter Summit, but he didn’t have to”

  1. olandp says:

    Being a bully does work in politics, Republican politics, i.e. Dick Cheney (of course when dealing with the Dick, there is always the fear he will have you killed.)

  2. olandp says:

    The “self-described values voters” haven’t read the Bible either, but their “leaders” have told them what it says.

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  6. Demosthenes says:

    The Donald doesn’t have to make sense; indeed if he did it would hurt his campaign.

  7. BeccaM says:

    It would seem he did get permission. Or was given it after the fact. *shrugs*

    http://www.newsweek.com/why-dee-snider-let-donald-trump-use-were-not-gonna-take-it-campaign-stops-369563

  8. BeccaM says:

    Indeed. Or if he trots out his racist Chinese broken-English impressions, like that “We want deal” thing he did back in August.

    He seems to have only a few modes of interacting with people: Bragging, pandering, and insulting. None of those convey respect.

    It’s like he’s not only the biggest effin’ Troll in the Republican party today, he’s also the easiest TO troll. All you have to do is attract a little public attention that embarrasses Trump or makes him look like a stupid, bullying, bigoted buffoon, and he loses an entire night’s sleep going all ragey on Twitter.

  9. Thom Allen says:

    Maybe he thinks that the photographer stole the image that Trump wanted to portray. You know, the totally packed room, wildly adoring supporters waving Trump banners, etc. Instead, they saw a room that had a significant number of empty seats.

    Ever since Trump made his “bleeding” comment I can only imagine how damaging he could be as president. Can you imagine the Donald saying that same thing about Angela Merkel and the reaction it would cause?

  10. Thom Allen says:

    I wonder if he got permission to use “We’re Not Gonna Take It” of if he just decided it was his to use?

  11. BeccaM says:

    Still more evidence of Trump’s unfitness even to be a political candidate, never mind President of the United States:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3248214/It-s-godd-n-unfair-Trump-says-photos-half-South-Carolina-ballroom-look-like-schmuck-audience-crowded-podium-near-him.html

    Donald Trump insisted on Thursday that photos showing his speaking to a half-empty South Carolina ballroom were unfair and told a skewed story.
    (snip)
    Photos distributed by wire services and amateur snapshots tweeted by journalists on the scene showed six rows of empty chairs at the back of the hall.
    (snip)
    ‘The photographer is a f***ing thief,’ an exasperated Trump boomed in a telephone interview, referring to the Associated Press photojournalist who shot the initial picture. ‘Tell them they’re a fraud, whoever took it. I just got killed on that thing, and it was just really unfair. It’s goddamn unfair.’

    “A fucking thief?” What the hell is that supposed to mean? Seriously, can anybody imagine this petulant man-child egomaniac running the country? I can’t even imagine him finishing out the primaries, assuming he even makes it that far.

  12. Thom Allen says:

    You mean stRUMPet.

  13. Zorba says:

    I agree, k. Except for one thing. In Trumpville, it’s pronounced “yuuuuuuge.” ;-)

  14. BeccaM says:

    Another version of a typical Donald Trump speech:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnQYtbbsJzM

  15. The_Fixer says:

    Exactly correct.

    Trump has had the success he had for two reasons. First, he inherited wealth. You can’t really do that in politics, and if a person had a parent in government, they get thrown out if they can’t do the job.

    Secondly, he’s a bully, that’s how he gets people to do what he wants. That does not work when you’re President – at least not for very long.

    Yup, he’s an imitator and not very good at it. Even if he gets elected (and I don’t think that will happen), he would be a miserable President.

  16. 2karmanot says:

    Opps, my refusal to speak home school slipped out.

  17. 2karmanot says:

    Brava Becca…excellent article! The only Huuuuuuge thing about the Trumpet is the STUPID.

  18. BeccaM says:

    Here’s an experience with which many are familiar: Let’s say you’re a professional writer, or a professional at anything. You worked hard to learn to do what you do, and to do it well. You spend years or decades perfecting your craft, or at least becoming as good at it as you can hope to be. If a writer and you use “ur” in an instant message, it’s because you’re trying to save a few characters, not because you don’t know how to spell and properly use “you’re” and “your.”

    Then along comes someone who is borderline illiterate who claims he’s writing a great novel. He proudly wants to show his manuscript to you because “you’re a writer too!” (Although having decades of experience and a college degree in the subject, you cringe and die a little inside upon hearing the boast.) The work in question, of course, is just as horrible as you feared it would be. It’s an imitation, a caricature of a novel by someone who’s read novels and thinks all you have to do is try to repeat the pattern.

    Trump is like this with politics. He’s seen politicians. He’s heard them speak. He no doubt has some rough idea of how government works, but that’s as far as it goes. Yes, he’s popular among the GOP’s radicalized base because Trump has paid attention and is giving them the full-on far right populist messages they want to hear, including the parts the Republican inner circle have forgotten. Such as, “NEVER tell the voters you are going to cut Social Security and Medicare.”

    However, other than imitating politicians as he’s doing now, Trump has no clue whatsoever what it takes to be one. He has money to spend and a wingnutty basic message, but that’s it. The guy has no more than a surface knowledge of anything outside of corporate business, including gaping holes in knowledge of civics, constitutional law, basic details about America’s system of government, foreign and domestic policies, diplomacy, religion — you name it. Yet he always boasts he’s a total savant genius about whatever the topic may be.

    Trump appeals solely to the ignorant, the low-information voters, but he will never appeal to those who actually have brains and knowledge, and the abilities to think critically and process complex problems. For example: “I’m gonna build a uuuuuuge beautiful wall along the whole Mexican border and make Mexico pay for it!” The low-information voter hears that and just mindlessly yawps, “Wooo! U-S-A!” Those who can think for themselves instead note how incredibly unworkable the whole proposed solution would be — and how it wouldn’t even solve the problem Trump claims it would.

    Trump has no understanding of the purpose of a solid stump speech or the need to adapt one repeatedly to suit different audiences. The concepts of gravitas and dignity elude him completely. He doesn’t seem to understand at all that non-stop bragging isn’t how you convince people to vote for you. Or how a real politician needs a thick skin and the ability to ignore insults and brush off criticisms from the opposition. The man alienates everyone who doesn’t worship him and seems to have no clue as to the essential need for allies. Obviously nobody has told him to shut the fuck up with the nearly nightly Twitter-meltdowns or explained the need for a consistent, strategic message. He has no inner circle of experienced political advisers, certainly not anyone who can seem to tell him when he’s fucking up.

    People have come to expect unrealistic promises and vagueness from political candidates, but Trump is absolutely cartoonish in his patterns: Identify some situation, label it an intolerable problem in insulting and alienating terms, promise he has a secret plan to do something utterly unrealistic and childish “so fast and so magnificent it’ll make your head spin,” and then have the media equivalent of a temper tantrum when questioned on anything.

    I do expect Trump will do reasonably well in some of the early primaries, assuming he doesn’t just get bored and leave the race because the incessant fluffing no longer gets him hard. But the man has no political allies and only an absolute dilettante’s level of understanding as to how government and politics work. Hell, I myself would be a failure at politics because I don’t know how to do it. The difference between someone like me and someone like Trump is he really is a raging narcissistic egomaniac to the point where he thinks he’s an absolute genius at whatever he has a passing whim to try to do. I also believe ultimately his disdain for building support within the political system will be his downfall.

  19. Hue-Man says:

    Low-information voter.

    When I was a fresh-faced new employee, I asked one of my bosses why dysfunctional office practices and procedures were allowed to continue. He said that my fellow workers weren’t aware there were problems. “If it ain’t (seen to be) broke, don’t fix it.” I went back to work and concluded that he was right but I was never able to turn off my “spidey-sense”.

    Thus, I’m unable to see through the eyes of the low-information voter, unless I were to agree to have most of my brain removed! What baffles me most is that they are voting against their own self-interest on almost every issue. Only the 1% will get the cuts. Only the defense industry will benefit from more military spending. The religious agenda does not affect their lives. Deporting ALL foreigners won’t affect their Social Security checks. etc. etc.

    Worse, when they are exposed to facts, their response is to dig in their heels. The most obvious current example of facts contradicting TeaParty/GOP policy is Kansas yet the same stale policies are trotted out.

  20. Don Chandler says:

    “And in that wall, we’re going to have a beautiful big fat door … They have to come back in legally.” — trump.

    He made the offensive comments so he could make that comment and people heard. You are right, you have to take him seriously. The logistics aren’t so simple but the rhetoric is facile.

    Was a funny interview and Trump did do well enough.

  21. nicho says:

    I think we dismiss him at our peril. I watched his interview with Colbert and I tried to watch it through the eyes of a low-information voter who wasn’t a political junkie. Seen through that prism, Trump came off pretty well — in fact better than any other pol I’ve seen interviewed with the exception of Bernie Sanders. I can see his appeal to a large swath of voters. I find his message obnoxious and dangerous, but not everyone will see it that way.

  22. MoonDragon says:

    I believe it’s pronounced UUUUUUGE The H is silent. Now if only he would remain so.

  23. 2karmanot says:

    Trumps stupidly is HUUUUUUUGE. End of story.

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