Instead of waiting until his culminating nomination speech on Thursday to make a splash at the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump showed up Monday shortly after the convention's start to deliver a lie-laden rant lasting longer than his Democratic rival's 26-minute acceptance speech last week.
By conventional standards, Trump’s timing was a strategic error. The whole point is for the nominee to build anticipation throughout the week and then deliver a triumphant address on Thursday that draws in maximum viewership. "From a purely tactical perspective doesn’t every additional, unfocused Trump speech like this one in North Carolina, cheapen what his campaign would prefer to be the BIG SPEECH night on Thursday?" wrote NBC reporter Garrett Haake Monday as Trump was chipping away at objective reality from the podium.
But that assumes Trump is running to win. In traditional U.S. presidential campaigns, major-party nominees generally start with base support of at least 40% and then they work toward winning over swing voters, independents, and perhaps a swath of disaffected members of the other party to reach 50 plus one on Election Day.
Not Donald Trump. As we have seen over and over again, Trump's campaign is much too incompetent and too disinterested to win over new voters. In reality, Trump is chiefly interested in cementing his base voters because his strategy is to lose by just a narrow enough margin to steal the election by claiming it was ridden with fraud.
Trump's strategic goals, therefore, don't rely on any buildup to Thursday. Rather, his strategy depends on saturating his cultists with propaganda that ensures they show up to vote and then automatically distrust any result that doesn't result in Trump's reelection. In other words, he's both brainwashing and preprogramming them.
On Monday, for instance, Trump fed his cultists patently false absolutism that if he lost reelection to Joe Biden, then the election was necessarily "rigged."
"The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election," Trump said. Never mind that Trump is losing in basically every reputable national poll along with most battleground state polls.
Trump also delivered a gusher of disinformation during his inaugural convention speech. "Most of the country is doing very very well," he claimed as reported U.S. deaths surpass at least 175,000 and total unemployment claims top 57 million. He told the crowd that Democratic governors were shutting down their states solely to hurt his reelection bid. He also mythologized that before the coronavirus "we were really coming together"—except for that whole impeachment proceeding over one of Trump's other attempts to steal the election.
This is a classic propaganda campaign designed to thoroughly brainwash his followers—the more they buy into his demented reality, the quicker they'll dismiss any fact-based reports that don't comport to Trump's fantasy world. In fact, that's why polling already shows that by a 3-to-1 margin Republican voters believe the battle against COVID-19 is "going well," while among all voters six in 10 say it is going "badly."
It's not the wow factor of a big speech that infects the minds of these GOP voters—it's the repetition, the bombardment, and the saturation that they succumb to, mostly because they need to believe in something. In deeply uncertain times, Trump offers them the “snake oil of certainty,” as Brené Brown calls it.
And apparently, the media is going to fully help the campaign mainline Trump's disinformation straight to the public. After restricting Democrats to two hours of coverage a day during their convention, cable news outlets mostly took Trump's speech in full.
"I’m a little confused why Trump is being granted a full-day convention to just give a steam of consciousness rant of outright lies," wondered Jesse Lee, vice president of communications for the left-leaning Center for American Progress.
Meanwhile, before Trump even set foot on stage, he started dialing up his alternative reality wherein he's always being victimized and other people are always getting better treatment.
"Incredible that @CNN & MSDNC aren’t covering the Roll Call of States," Trump tweeted as both networks took part of the congressional hearing on U.S. Postal Service delays during the truly lackluster roll call. "Fake News! This is what the Republican Party is up against. Also, I’d like to hear the remarks of the Delegates from individual States, rather than @FoxNews anchors. Ridiculous!"
CNN and MSNBC ultimately both took major portions of Trump's speech, as did Fox News of course. So even as Trump complained about slighted, he actually got more than his fair share—all part of the brainwashing.