New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was doing his best. In front of a crowd of tens of people in Sioux City, Iowa, the recent entrant to the Democratic Presidential primary attempted to do what so many have already tried and failed at: successfully labeling President Trump with a damaging nickname.
Unsurprisingly, the “Con Don” nickname Mayor de Blasio decided to go with – similar to de Blasio himself – doesn’t seem to have much appeal or staying power.
It was August 2015 when President Trump hurled his most successful – and damaging – nickname. Historians will debate where the “Jeb!” campaign started to go south, but a strong argument can be made that the “Low Energy Jeb” nickname was as damaging as anything.
The nickname was one that Bush could not shake no matter how hard he tried. Prior to Trump labeling Bush as low energy, nobody would have thought of Jeb as someone with low energy. After Trump coined the term,”low energy” became associated with Jeb Bush; everywhere he went, the thought of him having low energy followed.
From that point, the nickname game was its own unstoppable force, and nobody was safe. During the Republican primary, opponents like “Little Marco” Rubio and “Lyin” Ted Cruz became victims of the nickname label.
Eventually, then-candidate Trump spread the wealth to his Democratic opponents. “Crooked” Hillary Clinton; “Cryin” Chuck Schumer; “Crazy” Bernie Sanders; the new star of the Democratic Party “Low IQ” Maxine Waters; and everybody’s favorite Native American: Pocahontas. All of these Trump creations stuck.
Of course, political opponents were not the only targets. A favorite target of Trump’s has also been the news media. “Fake News” CNN and the “Failing” New York Times have been favorites for Trump/ Even foreign leaders have been subjected to getting a Trump nickname as we saw “Little Rocket Man” in reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
As the Democratic primary begins to heat up, candidates who have entered the race like “Sleepy” or “Creepy” Joe Biden, Alfred E. Neuman a.k.a. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and others are fully in the President’s nickname crosshairs.
Now, we’re seeing Democratic candidates attempting to capture the same magic Trump has found in his nicknames for them.
Mayor de Blasio’s nickname of choice appears to be “Con Don”. Joe Biden, choosing to refrain from the alliteration, has simply gone to calling President Trump “clown”. Neither one of these nicknames stands much of a chance to catch on and gain widespread notoriety or do the type of lasting damage many of President Trump’s nicknames for others have done.
President Trump applies the tried and true formula used by many of the great trash talkers before him such as Gary Payton and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The nicknames are just the right combination of catchy, funny, and accurate and the Trump faithful can’t get enough.
In the world of hashtags and 10-second video clips, Donald Trump’s nicknames spread like wildfire. Once someone is tagged with a nickname, it’s translated into a hashtag or video clip. The nickname spreads across the internet and television screen, and then it becomes a common part of the political lexicon.
Democrats, their compatriots in the media, and even Trump-averse Republicans criticize his use of nicknames as unnecessary personal attacks. However, the fact remains that much of his base responds positively to Trump’s labeling of others.
The nickname game is just another example of the President forcing Democrats to play the game on his home turf. He is comfortable getting down in the mud, and once his opponents try to get in the mud with him, they stand little chance of competing. Just like the Art of the Deal, the Art of the Nickname is often imitated, never duplicated.