Why the 1/6 Hearings Have Damaged Trump
By using trusted voices to tell the story, the committee is demonstrating a sophisticated understanding of the new media environment
By most measures, the January 6th Committee hearings have been an unalloyed success. The Committee’s first hearing drew six million more viewers than any of this year’s NBA Finals games. It’s a big deal for a Congressional hearing to overshadow Steph Curry. Polls also show that many people are paying close attention and the percentage of Americans who believe Donald Trump should be charged with a crime is rising. A Navigator Poll found a six-point increase in the number of Republicans and Independents who believe Trump should be charged with a crime after being informed of the revelations from the Committee.
There is also early evidence that the hearings are hurting Trump with Republican voters. A new poll from the University of New Hampshire shows Ron DeSantis leading Trump for the 2024 nomination among likely Republican voters. That’s just one poll, but Sarah Longwell, the Never Trump Republican, reported a similar dynamic last month from her focus groups:
I've done two 2020 Trump-voter focus groups since the Jan 6 hearings began. And something happened that's never happened before: ZERO of the participants in either group wanted Trump to run again in 2024.
Look, it’s earlier than early. No one should be claiming victory or patting themselves on the back yet. Not to mention Republican voters moving from Trump to a less dumb but equally authoritarian asshole is not exactly progress.
But there is a lesson to take away from the Committee’s success that can be applied to communications more broadly. From the prominent role Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger played, to the array of video clips from card-carrying members of MAGA nation, to the choice of conservative witnesses like Judge Luttig and Brad Raffensperger, the Committee is employing a very specific and smart strategy.
They are using “trusted voices” to communicate with the target audience — victims of the Right Wing disinformation system. The Committee’s strategy is a model for Democrats as they seek to persuade voters who moved away from us since 2020.
Trust and Identity
In the (very) old world, journalistic institutions and prominent media members were broadly trusted. Most people would take anything the New York Times wrote or CNN broadcast to the bank. The media had an imprimatur of trust and knowledge. Network anchors like Walter Cronkite and Tom Brokaw were titanic figures with massive influence on public opinion.
Some refer to this period as the Broadcast Era of Communications. Politicians informed the press, and the press informed the public.
That is no longer the case. That world is over, and that model is deader than a doornail (whatever that means). Trust in the media is at an all-time low.
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