The schoolyard's importance in choosing a president

Let’s call it the Judgment of the Schoolyard.

Douglas Altabef

OpEds Trump speaks announces guidance on constitutional prayer in public schools
Trump speaks announces guidance on constitutional prayer in public schools

While billions of dollars will be spent, promoting images, messaging and branding the various candidates, I humbly suggest that the election might come down to the right moniker that each candidate is able to stick to his or her opponent.

Let’s call it the Judgment of the Schoolyard.

Think about how the Schoolyard became the great crucible for deciding who our schoolmates really were. I have a friend, a brilliant and successful and seemingly well adjusted man who still remembers in graphic detail the unrelenting treatment he received on the schoolyard in fifth grade after a substitute teacher inadvertently butchered his name.

The Schoolyard has probably been one of the biggest marketing tools for the therapy business, the literary world, and for all we know, the personal hell of the mass murderer.

Donald Trump must be credited with the discovery and the perfection of harnessing the cruelly direct impact of the Schoolyard, which he used to great effect seeking the Republican nomination in 2016. Remember Little Marco and Lyin’ Ted. Not to mention his brilliant encapsulation of Crooked Hillary.

Not very Presidential, but it sure helped him win the Presidency.

Trump’s innovation is both an offensive (in all senses of the word) and defensive coup. It has become something of his trademark as a candidate and even his persona as the id-channeling man who is the President.

In addition, he owns the brand. Anyone who would so label him – eg., Daffy Don or even Mafia Don – would find themselves being labelled as derivative or in the parlance of the Schoolyard – a copycat.

Now we are entering the home stretch of the Democratic nomination race. The field, originally the proverbial cast of thousands, has been narrowed down to about a half dozen. Trump is probably spending a surprising large amount of his waking hours trying to capture the Schoolyard’s infallible go for the jugular depiction of his likely opponent.

While Trump initially focused most of his attention on Biden, demeaning Old Joe, that seems to be an unnecessary effort at this point. Joe is doing himself in and might not make it past Super Tuesday, at which point he might be channeling the old Laura Nyro song, Goodbye Joe.

Elizabeth Warren poses a similar non-dilemma, as she has faded significantly in the polls. During the hour and a half when Warren was the frontrunner Trump was undoubtedly busy conjuring up her true name. Pocahontas was brilliant, but impugned Native Americans who probably hold Senator Warren in the same esteem as Trump does.

Fauxcahontas is not authentic Trump as it includes a – gasp – foreign word. Rumor has it that Elvira Gulch was being considered, but the reference to the Wizard of Oz might have been a bit too subtle. Same with Senator War-on, which looks good in print but could be lost in speech, where it threatens to be heard as Senator Moron.

However, it’s a moot point now, as the Senator who reminds many of us of one of our sadistic elementary school teachers, has managed  to self-destruct, thanks to her distinct lack of charm, her take new prisoners hostility to everything that made America successful, and above all, her hypocrisy.

As to Petey Buttigieg and Clobberin’ Klobuchar, they do not seem to be taking up too much of Trump’s mental energy at this point. They are close to leaving the race anyway.

This leaves Michael Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders, wildly different personalities, but each a challenge to be reckoned with. Name-wise that is.

Michael Bloomberg is less of a challenge because more exposure is endearing him less, not more, to the American public. There is a reason why the Mayoralty of New York has traditionally been a graveyard for national political ambitions, and Bloomberg is following in the great tradition.

Simply speaking, being Mayor means adopting the world view of New Yorkers, and that world view is very different from that of the rest of America. Think about the famous Saul Steinberg New Yorker cover showing a New Yorker’s map of America, where Manhattan took up 70% of the country.

When Bloomberg speaks about farmers as being ignorant rubes, he is not only showing his own aloofness and arrogance, but also is somewhat reflecting the mindset of his fellow New Yorkers.

Unlike some of the other Democrats, Bloomberg clearly lacks the common touch. While conducting a virtual campaign from 20,000 feet up, he could frame himself and his messaging as he saw fit. However, one debate appearance was enough to bring him down to earth in a most humbling fashion.

Trump is probably best advised to see how the other Democrats depict Bloomberg before bestowing a Schoolyard moniker on him.

That brings us to Bernie Sanders, whose strong showing in the Nevada Caucus has solidified his frontrunner status.

Sanders is in many respects the flip side of the same coin as Trump, without the values and love of country: iconoclastic, bombastic, out of the box and burn the house down.

Both of them define business as not usual. While temperamentally quite comparable, their policies, priorities and messaging could not be more different.

While Trump wants to make America great again, Sanders wants to make America pay. Pay for alleged past abuses and sins, ranging from racism to sexism and, of course, capitalism.

As a Socialist, Sanders believes that  America should be paying as a matter of policy, whether it's for health care, education or child care. Taxes must be higher, preferably confiscatory for the wealthy, who should be regarded as unindicted felons.

On first blush many would  be tempted to regard Sanders’s candidacy as bizarrely farcical. However, a great many said the same thing about Trump and his run. In fact, right until the votes started coming in, Trump's ignominious defeat was taken for granted.

Trump should be pointing out that he is a rich man who wants everyone else to be rich, while Comrade Bernie is a rich guy who wants everyone else to be poor.
So when Trump refers to Sanders as “Crazy Bernie,” it strikes me that this doesn’t get to the essence of the total unacceptability of the Sanders candidacy. It would also certainly not get high fives for clever originality on the School Yard.

Therefore, I want to suggest some alternative monikers that I think provide the required context.

If I am right that most Americans above the age of 25 regard the prospect of a for all intents and purposes Communist president as an insanely bad idea, then I believe that needs to be Trump's direction.

No master of subtlety and nuance, Trump should not allow Sanders to sanitize himself as a Social Democrat or a Democratic Socialist.

As we say in the Bronx, fuggedaboutit!

Sanders is a Communist. He is Comrade Bernie. He is Commissar Bernie.

Comrade Bernie evokes Boris Badenov of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame, and Herbert Philbrick of I Led Three Lives.

Trump should be pointing out that he is a rich man who wants everyone else to be rich, while Comrade Bernie is a rich guy who wants everyone else to be poor.

Comrade Bernie wants free stuff for everyone, but doesn't realize that when everything is free, you run out of it pretty quickly.

Trump needs this focus because it will neutralize voters who hate him but cannot in all conscience vote for the dismantling of America. So they won’t vote.

Trump owes it to America not only to defeat Sanders, but also to de-legitimize what Sanders stands for. Punishing the rich will be a slippery slope to punishing the middle class.

In the debate before the Nevada Caucus, Bloomberg effectively landed with the revelation that Sanders owns three houses.

Trump should continue this narrative with the hope that Bernie takes the bait and points out that in America if you work hard and save, you can accumulate three houses.

Trump needs to point out that this is true in America today but not in a Comrade Bernie run country.

Trump owes a lot to the culture of the Schoolyard. Channeling that sensibility could be the key to his success in November.


The writer is the Chairman of the Board of Im Tirtzu, Israel's largest grassroots Zionist movement, and a Director of the Israel Independence Fund