Trolling is a political strategy in 2019 – and it works! The biggest and best trolling politician is President Donald Trump. A single tweet, joke, or even a smile can ignite a firestorm of collective seizures and meltdowns in the halls of Capitol Hill, the fake news studios, and the echo chambers of social media. And, using branding abilities that helped contribute to his billionaire status, the president has successfully monetized his trolling power. Other campaigns could learn a thing or two.
A Brief History of Trolling
Historians typically look back to a handful of presidential election years, such as 1860, 1932, 1960, or 2016, as the most significant in US history. But if you are a diehard political junkie then you should add 1840 to your list, too. The electoral contest was the first time that political merchandising became integral to a campaign strategy and produced victory. The events of that campaign created a whole new industry and tactics for future bids for public office.
A newspaper that endorsed Democratic candidate Martin Van Buren had lambasted the Whigs’ William H. Harrison for being lazy and elementary. The publication accused Harrison of preferring to consume hard cider and “sit the remainder of his days in his log cabin.” Refraining from getting perturbed, the Harrison campaign noticed an opportunity and pounced. His team erected log cabins across the US that served as stores to purchase Harrison memorabilia, from printed handkerchiefs to sulfide buttons to replica log cabins.
Harrison won, died a month after being inaugurated, and his successor, John Tyler, blocked everything Whig legislators attempted to pass. What a time to be alive in American politics.
An Exstrawdinary Idea
President Donald Trump might have taken a page from the Harrison playbook.
As part of his re-election campaign, the president is selling Trump-branded plastic straws. For $15, you can drink your soda with 10 red straws that contain laser-engraved “TRUMP.” The straws are being marketed with the message: “Liberal paper straws don’t work. Stand with President Trump and buy your recyclable straws today.”
Obviously taking a shot at leftists who want to prohibit plastic straws, approximately 140,000 of these were purchased and they were briefly sold out online. Witnessing immense demand, the straws became available to buy again. So far, the gimmick has raised more than $200,000 for President Trump’s re-election efforts.
But that is not all.
According to Brad Parscale, the president’s 2020 campaign manager, Trump is “making straws great again.”
Make America Grate Again
But this could be the start of something new for the right.
In 2016, it was clear that memes had become imperative to digital initiatives. But it was also evident that the right is superior in this field to the left, hence the phrase “the left can’t meme.” This election cycle may prove that political merchandising with the intent of “owning the libs” might be the next great strategical endeavor for all future conservative and Republican campaigns.
What may have been a benign object years ago could now be used to troll opponents. You can think about how a basic red baseball cap triggers irrational rage that makes for hilarious memes.
So, here are some ideas:
The Republican National Convention could sell A-O-C-themed hamburgers, a measure that would poke fun at her Green New Deal, which proposes to rein in flatulating cows.
GOP staffers could hand out copies of legendary economist Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics and jest that anyone on the left who touches it will vanish into dust.
Right-wing organizations could print faces of prominent black conservatives – Clarence Thomas or Walter Williams – onto plastic water bottles and every drinker will consume leftist tears.
Grassroots groups could sell poker decks and each card could be graced with “My Trump Card.”
An America First cheese grater? Of course! How else could you make your cheese grate again? Trump-branded ice melt? This is good for wintry weather that can melt snowflakes. Table salt? Dash a pinch of salty rage on your Trump steaks.
Since the 2020 election is around Halloween, campaigns could sell non-playable character (NPC) masks, costumes, and jerseys (NPC 2362423).
Or, how about anything that has “covfefe” on it?
Indeed, campaigns have millions of dollars at their disposal, so they can certainly come up with ingenious ideas that can send the left into fits of anger.
Political Merchandise Makeover
Let’s be candid: Political merchandise has become too boring in today’s exciting times. Bush/Reagan ’84 t-shirts, “[Insert Name Here] for President” hats, and campaign keychains – they might have been good enough 30 years ago, but politics has become too fun, interactive, and exciting to rely on hebetudinous apparel. President Trump’s plastic straws might be the start of something new, just like Harrison’s log cabins or Adlai Stevenson’s toy-like “Win With Steven” hard hats were, no matter how foolish they seem now. Today, the left can’t meme. Tomorrow, the left can’t merchandise.