Jenny Beth Martin: A Communication Strategy to Reopen the Country

An employee cleans the entrance of a restaurant in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia, as restaurants and businesses try to adapt to the ever-changing situation amid the coronavirus pandemic, on May 13, 2020. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

Are there any two words in the English language more depressing than “closed indefinitely”? If there are, I’m certainly not aware of them.

As our nation struggles to deal with the government’s response to the COVID-19 virus, many have lost jobs, many have lost patience, and – perhaps most importantly – many have lost hope. That means one of the most important things our national leaders can do – and, yes, I’m looking at you, President Trump – is to speak to us in positive terms about the hopeful future they see for us when we come out of the current crisis.

The good news is that over the last two weeks, President Trump and his White House staff have begun to shift the conversation in Washington and around the country from the negative to the positive. No longer are Drs. Fauci and Birx expounding at length from the White House podium on the latest depressing twists and turns in the coronavirus crisis; instead, the president himself is leading the conversation away from the coronavirus, and toward what it takes to reopen America, surely a more positive subject of conversation.

And he’s got a not-so-secret weapon to do it. In addition to the bully pulpit that traditionally inheres to the occupant of the Oval Office, President Trump has an advantage no previous president had at his disposal – a Twitter feed with almost 80 million followers. Added to the traditional accouterments of the position, that Twitter feed gives President Trump the means to speak directly to the American people, and transmit to them a positive, hopeful message about the future – a positive, hopeful message that bypasses the traditional, anti-Trump media.

The fact is, we don’t have to wait for a vaccine to live our lives. We can continue to work toward that end, but we do not have to cower in fear, sheltered inside our homes, while waiting for the scientists to do their thing. To that end, here are seven suggestions for strengthening and expanding upon President Trump’s positive communications efforts. He should:

  • Talk about the successes of some of the state-by-state reopenings. Across the country, states are beginning to reopen to various degrees. President Trump could easily use his Twitter feed to promote success stories from around the country. Read about a small business that reopened and put dozens of people back to work? He should promote it and link to it, so 80 million followers can learn about it and share it with their own social media followers and friends.
  • Thank the American people for everything they’ve done to flatten the curve already, and for their continued attention to commonsense social distancing. Just because we’re reopening does not mean we don’t care about being prudent.
  • Use the president’s social media presence to highlight the good stories that are happening – stories about Americans being their typically generous selves, helping other Americans. A Twitter feed in particular is perfectly made for this kind of feel-good story-spreading.
  • Conduct a briefing, with charts and graphs, about how difficult it is actually to contract the virus. We know from our research that the virus is not transmitted through casual contact. The doom and gloom “we are all going to die” format is old. He could share with us some facts that will give us hope.
  • Tell us what he plans to do to help bring manufacturing back to the continental United States.
  • Tell us how we can simultaneously create jobs here in the United States and reduce dependence on China.
  • Tell us what the plan to get us back to work looks like. We’ve got more than 35 million of our fellow citizens who have lost their jobs in the last eight weeks – and with their jobs, they’ve lost a measure of dignity as well as a great deal of hope. He should share with us concrete plans to create jobs, so we can look forward with hope.

The American people are a resilient people. We get knocked down, we get up and dust ourselves off, and we get back to it. During the two world wars, the civilian population, to help with the war effort, planted, tended, and grew “Victory Gardens” in just about every corner of available arable land. And this was no small effort – by 1944, those small-time private gardens were generating 40 percent of the fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in America.

We can do this. President Trump has already begun changing the conversation. With a determination to remind us that we are Americans, and we can do anything we set our minds to, he can revive not just our opportunities and our futures, but our hopes.

Jenny Beth Martin is honorary chairman of Tea Party Patriots Action.

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