By Ken Feltman
Donald Trump may have a pro-weakness.
Candidates in the Republican Party need to get their pros in line. But in Trump’s case, the issue is not pro-life versus pro-choice. It’s not pro-second amendment versus gun control. It’s profanity.
As he campaigns, Trump spews out insults and spices many of his attacks with words that parents would prefer not be uttered with their children present. One television executive told me that the top brass at his network discussed “a looser standard” for profane Trumpisms than the standard applied to other programming. The reason: They do not want to seem to be taking sides if they bleep out Trump’s x-rated and r-rated words. Reluctantly, the executive admitted that offending Trump might result in Trump taking his campaign political advertising elsewhere. He admitted it: The network’s decision was influenced by advertising revenue.
The executive went on to explain that senior network officials believe that, with Trump blazing a trail, other candidates will begin to pepper their comments with profanily. That would create an opportunity for the networks, all together, to decide what the acceptable level of profane language would be. Perhaps, he suggested, the decision would be to bleep out all salty language. Then, Trump could not claim he was being singled out.
When I said that I thought the networks already had such a standard and that Trump violated it, the exec said this was different.
I asked whether the network would bleep out Trumpish profanity in a prime-time program. “Of course,” was his answer. So why wasn’t it bleeped out when Trump said it? “It comes live, in live broadcasts,” he answered. Do you bleep it in rebroadcasts? “It depends, I guess,” was his response.
Trump is braving new trails of courseness and crudeness. Will we all follow? Maybe not. Recent polling suggests that it is not just evangelical voters who object to Trump’s profane comments. Moderate to conservate voters are increasingly bothered by Trump’s profane remarks. More and more middle-income and upper-income voters, regardless of party, agree that Trump’s comments are often un-presidential and inappropriate for an American president. Some people who describe themselves as “Christian” or “religious” voters, regardless of income level, see Trump as un-presidential. Those voters also wonder why the other candidates have not capitalized on that “weakness.”
Trump is left with voters – many in the lower income catagories – who concentrate on his job-creation statements, anti-illegal immigration stance and his pro-American rhetoric. They are not enough to carry Trump to victory.
Focus groups show that voters still prefer “hope” to “blame.” Voters still want someone they can look up to, not someone who looks down on others.