How an ex-Bernie digital guru and the creator of the Obama 'Hope' poster will be trolling President Trump as he motorcades through Cleveland for the debate
- Former Bernie Sanders digital strategist Scott Goodstein is one of three organizers behind the art project, with one billboard featuring a cartoon President Donald Trump floating over a cemetery.
- Nine billboards are strategically placed on major thoroughfares in Cleveland, site of Tuesday's first presidential debate between Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
- The messages are critical of Trump for his policies on immigration, the coronavirus, and policing.
- “I felt that the Biden campaign and the DNC were missing the unique narrow lane of adding some additional art, culture and a little bit of harder edge messaging that was coming in the streets,” Goodstein told Insider.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
When President Donald Trump makes his way to the first presidential debate in Cleveland on Tuesday, he'll be greeted by a billboard featuring an artist rendering of his face screaming above a sea of graves.
It's a haunting representation — and direct finger pointing at Trump — for the more than 203,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19 this year.
It's unlikely Trump in his fast-moving motorcade will even see the billboard — one of nine anti-Trump billboards plastered across the Ohio city ahead of the September 29 debate along the route between the airport and the debate site.
But that's not really the entire point either. This is part of a larger national campaign called RememberWhatTheyDid organized by a longtime Democratic digital veteran and other well-known artists who have banded together to create eye-popping anti-Trump art aimed at invigorating potential voters in vital swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
Scott Goodstein, a former digital strategist on the Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders presidential campaigns, is one of three organizers spearheading the project that is funded by his super PAC Artists United for Change.
In an interview, Goodstein told Insider the locations for the artwork are strategic. In Detroit, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee, they're targeting African-American, Latinx and young voters — areas he said were neglected by Democrats during Trump's upset victory in the 2016 campaign. Besides the billboards, there are thousands of posters that have been plastered in the key battleground cities.
"If you look at the map of where there's African-American, Latinx and youth vote, that could have completely turned the election around in 2016," Goodstein said. "And they just were never, in my opinion, marketed to."
Project also targets Republicans who are keeping silent
Goodstein likened this year's presidential race to a "European-style campaign" — one with a united opposition movement. He compared it to En March, a united anti-fascist movement. All forms of progressives marched together instead of in opposition and were able to avoid fragmenting the vote among different parties or not voting at all, he said.
There was evidence of that unity when Trump heard boos outside the Supreme Court in Washington DC as he paid his respects earlier this week to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. On Tuesday, the president will also be in the direct line of fire when he meets Democratic nominee Joe Biden in Cleveland for the first of three presidential debates.
Goodstein said the "vote him out" chants Trump heard during his visit to the Ginsburg memorial show the power of joining forces against Trump, without having to compete with all the other forces at play that are trying to oust the Republican president.
"Back when I was on the Obama campaign, there was just a different type of energy that we're all going to be in this, and we're going to have a little bit of unity involved," Goodstein said. "So this time, it's to me, more unity in opposition."
Goodstein noted his campaign emphasizes the vote "them" out aspect also targets other Republicans and not just ensuring Trump wins a second term.
"It's a goal of saying, hey, if you're supporting any of these right-wing extremists, people that are making hate speech acceptable, we're going to remind you of the words that these folks are saying," he said.
Filling a DNC, Biden 'void' the DNC says doesn't exist
Goodstein has been working on social justice projects and for non-governmental organizations since leaving Revolution Messaging, the leading progressive digital firm behind Sanders' 2016 presidential run. He's also run international political races for opposition movements, as well as large scale organizing for people in need during the pandemic.
The billboard and art project fills a void that both the Joe Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee weren't filling, Goodstein said.
"I take on projects that I feel that there is something missing. And that you can make an impact. So for this project I felt that the Biden campaign and the DNC were missing the unique narrow lane of adding some additional art, culture and a little bit of harder edge messaging that was coming in the streets," Goodstein said.
A DNC spokesman responded to Goodstein's comments by providing Insider with a lengthy list of its efforts to target voters with less traditional projects, specifically with anti-Trump messaging. It included anti-Trump billboards outside the Republican National Convention and a mobile billboard that stopped at the White House, the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium where much of the convention's speaking events took place, and the Republican National Committee's offices on Capitol Hill.
The DNC also organized light displays that read "Trump Lied. 200,000 Died" in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Wisconsin and Washington, DC.
The Biden campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Billboard placed near Cleveland Clinic, home to COVID-19 advisory boards
In a presidential election where campaigns make forays to get out their voters via Animal Crossing and build massive "Death Star" digital teams, the organizers with RememberWhatTheyDid.com are putting their faith in real-life imagery.
The nine billboards placed strategically on Cleveland's major thoroughfares hit Trump for his policies on immigration, the coronavirus, and policing. Five of the billboards are COVID-19-related.
One of the most damning of them, by illustration artist Justin Hampton, shows Trump's head shouting above rows and rows of tombstones, with drawings of the coronavirus hovering in the background like toxic clouds.
"This is so unfair to me," the illustration says, pulling from comments in a May Vanity Fair article attributed to the president through an adviser who told the magazine Trump felt the pandemic was "unfair" because it could affect his reelection.
In a description of his billboard, Hampton said his goal was to illustrate "the absolute narcissism and callousness of Donald Trump."
"We're now in autumn and with the election closing in I attempted to visually shine a light on this self-entitled and dangerous man that is our current president," Hampton said. "Now at the 200,000 death toll of Americans from this deadly virus, we have come to discover that he had ample time to make urgent preparations and let the country know about the deadly serious nature of what we were about to be facing."
That billboard will be featured outside of the Cleveland Clinic, which not only has been grappling with the pandemic but is also home to several nationally recognized coronavirus advisory boards. It's also the largest employer in northeast Ohio.
Another COVID-19 billboard features a skeletal artwork with the words, "…that's going to sort of just disappear, I hope," Trump's own words about COVID-19 on July 1. And one features a young girl crying and being held by a US Border Patrol agent, with her mother also being taken away. It cites USA Today statistics in saying, "The U.S. held a record number of migrant children in custody in 2019."
Goodstein manages the effort with Jeff Rus nak, an Ohio strategist and co-founder of the super-PAC and another artist who's known for getting the president's attention: Robin Bell, whose political messaging has been projected onto the facade of the Trump International Hotel in Washington.
The project involves several other well-known artists, including Shepard Fairey — creator of the ubiquitous Obama "HOPE" posters made famous during the 2008 presidential campaign — and Rob Sheridan, the longtime artistic director for the Nine Inch Nails. Their art is designed to shock people into voting against Trump with vivid critiques on the president's stance on policing, immigration, and the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to billboards, they're also using smaller posters.
This being the year 2020, there is a digital component to RememberWhatTheyDid.com. The website allows people to share the participating artists' work on social media, purchase merchandise, and pledge and register to vote.
"This election is a very binary choice," Goodstein said. "There is a right or a wrong and it is that simple. So I am giving dozens of reasons, not one reason, why you should be voting in a very yes/no answer, a very binary answer."
Do you have a personal experience with the coronavirus you’d like to share? Or a tip on how your town or community is handling the pandemic? Please email email@example.com and tell us your story.
Get the latest coronavirus business & economic impact analysis from Business Insider Intelligence on how COVID-19 is affecting industries.
Source: Read Full Article