Best of 2020 No. 5: ‘Mourning in America': The Lincoln Project delivers harsh criticism of Trump's coronavirus response

The conservative PAC is pretty much the polar opposite of the Reagan campaign’s 1984 ‘Morning in America’

Published On
May 04, 2020

Editor's Pick

Through New Year's Day, we'll be counting down they best brand campaigns and ideas of 2020.

No. 5: In an era of hyperpartisanship, criticism of the Trump administration from anyone on the left often falls on deaf ears. So this election cycle, the most cutting critiques of the president and his policies came from a group of establishment conservatives who formed the political action committee we now know as The Lincoln Project. Using the same strategies and go-for-the-eyes messaging that had served their party well lambasting Democrats in years past, the group proved to be one of the year's most nimble and impactful marketing machine targeting President Trump in a series of funny, incisive and biting spots throughout the campaign. The highlight, arguably, was this riff on Ronald Reagan’s classic “Morning in America,” a macabre dirge for the hundreds of thousands of Americans killed by the pandemic under Trump’s watch.

Original Story:

A conservative political advocacy group is taking on President Donald Trump’s leadership surrounding the coronavirus pandemic in a harsh new ad titled “Mourning in America.” The title of the spot is, of course, a play on one of the most famous political ads of the modern era, 1984’s “Morning in America” from President Ronald Reagan’s re-election campaign (see “The Ad That Helped Reagan Sell Good Times to an Uncertain Nation,” via The New York Times).

In contrast to “Morning in America,” The Lincoln Project’s “Mourning in America” is relentlessly bleak. Against a backdrop of scenes of empty streets and shots of people wearing masks, and underscored by plaintive classical music, an announcer says (in a script that directly echoes that of "Morning in America"),

There’s mourning in America. Today, more than 60,000 Americans have died from a deadly virus Donald Trump ignored. With the economy in shambles, more than 26 million Americans are out of work—the  worst economy in decades. Trump bailed out Wall Street, but not Main Street. This afternoon, millions of Americans will apply for unemployment, and with their saving run out, many are giving up hope. Millions worry that a loved one won’t survive COVID-19. There’s mourning in America, and under the leadership of Donald Trump, our country is weaker and sicker and poorer. And now, Americans are asking, if we have another four years like this, will there even be an America?

The Lincoln Project launched in December with an op-ed in The New York Times headlined: “We Are Republicans, and We Want Trump Defeated” (subhead: “The president and his enablers have replaced conservatism with an empty faith led by a bogus prophet”). The NYT bio line for the op-ed’s authors—George T. Conway III, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver and Rick Wilson—noted that they “have worked for and supported Republican campaigns.”