How I Could Have Made Hillary President
In his book Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter, Scott Adams analyzes the formidable persuasion skills of Donald Trump and the comparatively feeble persuasion techniques of the Hillary Clinton campaign of 2016. The book is very funny, full of insights, and well worth reading. For those who haven’t read it, what I’m going to talk about here is a tiny sliver of the richly entertaining material in the book, but it does illustrate Adams’s approach.
Adams compares what he calls Trump’s “linguistic kill shots” with the attempted kill shots of the Hillary campaign, and he compares Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again” with the numerous easily forgettable slogans considered or actually employed by the Hillary campaign.
Here are the more powerful of Trump’s linguistic kill shots:
● Low-energy Jeb
● Crooked Hillary
● Lyin’ Ted
● Lil’ Marco
Scott Adams analyzes these in detail to show exactly why they’re so effective. They all appeal to the visual and they all plan for “confirmation bias.” Probably the best of them is “Low-energy Jeb.” The very day this nickname came out of Trump’s mouth, Scott Adams blogged that Jeb was finished, as indeed he was, though no other commentator saw what had just happened. Recall that Jeb Bush had a war chest of many millions and spent far more than Trump. He was a natural for traditional Republican voters and for the fabled “Republican establishment,” as yet another dynastic Bush but a more likeable personality than the preceding two Bushes.
Even after Trump had released his kill shot into what we can call the rhetorosphere, most seasoned pundits were still naming “Jeb!” as the most likely nominee. Yet, Trump had given Jeb Bush what Adams calls his “forever name,” and it was henceforth to be altogether impossible for anyone to see Jeb or think about him without instantly thinking Low-energy. His presidential ambition had been killed stone dead, not just for that electoral cycle but for all time, in a fraction of a second, by the Master Persuader, Donald Trump.
Adams offers similar analyses for the other nicknames. “Pocahontas” was the name given to Elizabeth Warren, one of the leading Democratic Party politicians and a likely future Democratic presidential candidate. Warren, a blue-eyed blonde, had claimed to be of Native American, specifically Cherokee, ancestry and had gotten an academic job by impersonating a “minority.” The Cherokee Nation, which has a database of everyone they have been able to find with Cherokee ancestry, has repeatedly protested against Warren’s claim. Warren also once contributed a “Native American” recipe to a book of supposedly Native American recipes called . . . wait for it . . . Pow Wow Chow. It turns out that Warren is not Native American, the recipe was not Native American but French, and the recipe itself was plagiarized from another source.
A look at this book on Amazon shows that Warren is in even deeper trouble. The subtitle of Pow Wow Chow is A Collection of Recipes from Families of the Five Civilized Tribes, and the book is published by Five Civilized Tribes Museum. This blatantly insinuates that the Apache didn’t routinely solve quadratics or use trig to calculate the circumference of the Earth, and this is indisputably the filthiest kind of racism.
I would be irresponsible if I didn’t point out that this kill shot illustrates Donald Trump’s disgraceful carelessness with facts. The Cherokee belong to the Iroquoian group, whereas the historical Pocahontas belonged to an Algonquian-speaking tribe. How low have we sunk when our president tells such appalling lies?
Everyone could see that Trump’s nicknames were effective, and so the Hillary campaign burned the midnight oil to come up with an effective nickname for Trump himself. They tried three in succession:
● Donald Duck
● Dangerous Donald
“Donald Duck” is obviously the sort of thing a committee would come up with. “Duck” tries to make the point that Trump was “ducking” various issues and various criticisms, including releasing his tax returns. But of course, associating Trump with a beloved if distinctly ridiculous cartoon character doesn’t mesh well with the idea that Trump is a fearful Hitler-like menace.
“Dangerous Donald” doesn’t really work, especially because a large portion of the electorate positively wanted someone “dangerous,” someone who would go to Washington and break things.
“Drumpf” is the real surname of Trump’s Austrian immigrant ancestor, a perfectly respectable German name which isn’t so congenial to Americans, so it was changed to “Trump.” This idea that having a non-Anglo-Saxon name in your family tree is a dirty little secret is not a winner, for several obvious reasons.
As everyone knows, Trump’s election slogan was “Make America Great Again.” This is a brilliant slogan which can hardly be faulted. Adams lists its strong points (Win Bigly, pp. 155–56).
As against this, the Hillary campaign considered eighty-five slogans (yes, 85!, according to Scott Adams, p. 157, citing the New York Times) and eventually ended up with “Stronger Together.” Here are the ones which were actually tried out.
● Love Trumps Hate
● I’m with Her
● I’m ready for Hillary
● Fighting for Us
● Breaking Down Barriers
● Stronger Together
These all have the flavor of mediocrity and ineffectiveness that comes out of committees, and especially committees of bigoted leftists. “Love Trumps Hate” literally begins with “Love Trump,” and as Scott Adams points out, people’s attentiveness declines steeply, so they often pay more attention to the beginning than to the end of a sentence.
“I’m with Her” and “I’m Ready for Hillary” both have a patronizing tone, as though you can prove yourself by being open to a female candidate, just because she’s female; that kind of thing is off-putting to some voters. And as Bill Maher pointed out, “Ready for Hillary” evokes the resignation of being “ready” for that uncomfortable tetanus shot from that possibly sadistic nurse.
“Fighting for Us” makes you wonder who the “Us” really is. During World War II, George Orwell pointed out how a British working man might interpret the government poster that said: “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution, will bring Us Victory” (the first three sets of italics in the original, the fourth definitely not!).
“Breaking Down Barriers” has good rhythm but an uncertain appeal because most people feel strongly that they really want some barriers between them and some kinds of other people.
“Stronger Together” was the final throw, and it came just as voters could hardly ignore the fact that violence was coming from the left. Some of Hillary supporters were bullies, and bullies are always stronger together. The news was already out that the “violence at Trump’s rallies” was deliberately engineered by paid agents of the DNC.
Scott Adams Doesn’t Give His Alternatives!
Although Scott Adams does an excellent job of identifying the strengths of Trump’s slogan and nicknames for opponents, and the weaknesses of Hillary’s, he doesn’t come up with his own, better proposals for Hillary.
This is a bit of a disappointment, and a surprise, as he emphasizes that it’s all a matter of conscious technique, not instinct.
And so, I decided to cook up my own suggestions. Here goes!
My proposal for the nickname Hillary should have given Trump is:
● The Don
Here’s how this works. Before Trump announced for president, he was often called “The Donald,” a phrase which usually went along with either patronizing amusement or mild and grudging admiration. Use of “The Donald” died out, presumably because the US population was mobilizing into two great camps, one of which viewed Trump as a satanic monster, the other of which saw him as the nation’s redeemer, and neither of these would perceive “The Donald” as entirely apt.
My plan would be for Hillary supporters to refer to him several times as “The Don,” and just occasionally, for those who might be a bit slow on the uptake, “The Godfather” (or variations like “The Godfather of Greed”). Hillary would then take up “The Don,” as an already established nickname for Trump.
Trump has many of the popular attributes of the Mafia boss: a commanding presence and a weakness for vulgar display (his golden toilets). All the points actually made against Trump’s character by Clinton could have been given a slightly different coloration. Thus, when making the allegation that Trump had stiffed some of his sub-contractors (which the Hillary campaign did), this would be described as “making them an offer they couldn’t refuse.” You could throw in a reference to one of Trump’s business dealings with someone who has since passed on, and add the jocular remark, “He now sleeps with the fishes.” When complaining about the fact that Trump wouldn’t release his tax returns, this could be framed as “the Trump Family [Family, get it?] has sworn the oath of Omertà never to reveal their sources of income.”
But aren’t mafiosi supposed to be Italian? Yes, but now they’re often Russian too. Hillary’s campaign promoted the story that Trump had “colluded with the Russians.” This appears to have been a pure fabrication, simply made up (no one has ever faulted Hillary for being over-scrupulous or excessively candid) but it would have been so much more believable if associated with the Russian mafia.
It’s a self-evident truth that every Russian has “ties to Vladimir Putin,” and this can always be asserted of any Russian without fear of rebuttal. Similarly, it’s a self-evident truism that every Russian businessman has “ties to the Russian mob.” It would have been a simple matter to dig up every occasion when Trump did business with a Russian, call that Russian an “oligarch” (who could deny it?) and declare that this Russian oligarch had ties to organized crime (or deny that?). In this way, it would have become impossible for voters not to think of Trump’s business activities as steeped in criminality.
Now, what about a campaign slogan for Hillary? This is quite difficult, because of the fact that Hillary had spent the previous eight years as Secretary of State within the Obama administration. She could not therefore put any emphasis on “change,” and it would be hard to imply anything radically new. But anything that looked like a defense of the last eight years could only run the risk of implying that “the status quo is fine and we just want to keep things the way they are.” This is a disadvantageous position to be in.
A slogan that goes negative and tries to focus on the evil of Trump is liable to boomerang—remember that meeting of Democrats, where a speaker referred to Hillary using the word “honest,” and the entire room spontaneously erupted into laughter?
As Scott Adams hilariously points out (p. 159), a rather different kind of boomerang was a major feature of the campaign. One of Trump’s problems, as a former reality TV host, was to get voters to take him seriously as a real president. Hillary continually urged voters to “imagine” Trump as president, and thus provided Trump with exactly what he needed. He needed people to imagine him as president, and Hillary did an excellent job of helping voters to do just that.
The Hillary campaign slogan has to have the following qualities:
● It mustn’t directly mention the rival product.
● It mustn’t be easily interpreted as merely a response to Trump’s slogan or campaign.
● It can’t, unfortunately, make a bold plea for change.
● It can’t, unfortunately, make a bold claim for Hillary’s trustworthiness or other personal virtues.
● It must have rhythm.
● It mustn’t allow the interpretation that some special interest will be benefited.
● It must take the high ground.
So here’s my proposal:
● A Win-Win for America
This slogan would occasionally follow the words “Hillary Rodham Clinton.” (It’s bad luck that “HRC” doesn’t trip off the tongue like “LBJ” or even “JFK.” There is no other memorable version comparable with “Doubleya”. “HRC” might evoke “hardcore,” but we probably don’t want to go there.)
The slogan is positive and inclusively patriotic. It therefore crowds out the undesirable thought that Hillary appeals chiefly to welfare recipients, criminal aliens, and billionaire hedge-fund managers. “For America” takes the high ground and crowds out the thought that Hillary’s election would be a win for Hillary, an undesirable thought because Hillary might be considered a loser, and also because we don’t want voters thinking about any personal advantage Hillary might reap.
The term “Win-Win” has several functions. Literally it refers to a situation where we win, whichever of two alternate possibilities occurs. There would have to be a story about this, ready for those times when Hillary or her henchmen were directly asked about the meaning. But that’s unimportant. We could even come up with a dozen different stories and get people arguing about which one was true. Really the term is simply a repetition of the positive word “win,” and gives the slogan distinctiveness and rhythm.
It also has something which Scott Adams has talked about on a number of occasions: he has pointed out how President Trump utilizes the tried and tested marketing ploy of putting slightly “wrong” formulations into his tweets to enhance their effectiveness. A slightly doubtful formulation or a feeling that something is not quite conventionally correct helps a phrase to lodge in the memory. “Win-Win” therefore gains something from the fact that what it means is slightly obscure and off-key, while its emotional associations are entirely positive.
So there we are, Trump is The Don and Hillary’s slogan is A Win-Win for America. This would have been enough to give her the electoral college, though it wouldn’t have hurt to have also done a bit more campaigning in Michigan and Wisconsin.
Hillary threw tens of millions of dollars at various “consultants” who were out of their depth and out of touch with public feeling. As I’ve just proved, I could have gotten Hillary elected by a few commonsense marketing touches. Given my unpretentious proletarian origins and unimpressive net worth, I would have done it for, say, half a million dollars. That would have been a terrific deal for Hillary, and would have enabled me to pay off a good chunk of my debts.
But, I can already hear you saying, you’d be enabling this disgusting warmonger, purveyor of PC bigotry, and criminal sociopath to take power. Could you really live with yourself?
Yes, I have to admit, I would feel bad about that. So, make it a round million.