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Saturday, August 15, 2015


Why the Republican Consensus on Trump is Wrong

There seems to be a consensus among Conservative commentators that Donald Trump is bad for the Republican Party because:

I’m not sure any of these points is correct. I also have a feeling, although I can’t prove it, that most of these commentators have a favorite and are frustrated that their champion isn’t winning.

Point one was true, I’m not sure it still is. Trump’s been both a Democrat and a Republican. Ann Coulter tells me he’s been a Republican since 1988 and she’s a pretty smart cookie. I’ll take her word for it. He’s as much a Republican as John Kasich or Jeb Bush and he’s to the right on many issues - like guns - of Chris Christie. Is he conservative? On many issues he is: immigration, abortion, national debt, capital punishment, taxes, American greatness, climate change, energy, ObamaCare.

 Where he’s not conservative is style, an issue that seems to overwhelm many people who make their living by writing. They prefer scholarly issue papers and detailed plans for fixing everything. But detailed issue papers don’t get you elected and, like battle plans, never survive contact with the enemy. That difference, and the tendency to call people names, seems to drive his critics up the wall.

One of the public thought leaders of the Conservative movement – Rush Limbaugh – has not risen up to denounce him. In fact he seems to admire Trump for his willingness to stand up to the feckless Washington Republican Establishment and the media with no apologies. This quality is so rare in Republican circle that it explains his lead in the polls in large part.

To the second point: Trump’s hogging the limelight. He’s is succeeding because of his hot-button issues and his style. Professional politicians have often been burnished, smoothed and sanded to the point that they are bland, interesting only to their partisans who take it for granted that everyone around them will be persuaded by their wisdom and their niceness. That’s how you lose elections. That’s how smooth talking political rock stars like Obama, adored by the media, with fainting groupies, who promise nothing more substantial than HopeN’Change capture the Presidency. Finally, if you want to tell Trump he’s not playing fair because he should give up some face-time so that his opponents can get theirs you apparently have never run for office … or anything else.

The issue of electability is one on which I think the conventional wisdom is wrong. I think that Trump projects blunt-spoken pragmatism with all the rough edges exposed. I don’t think that Right, Left or Middle is happy with the direction of the country. As evidence we have Bernie Sanders drawing huge crowds appealing to economic issues. Why? Because one of his main points is that the country is sprouting billionaires like mushrooms after a rain while at the same time the poor and middle class are suffering. Real unemployment/underemployment is over 10%. He’s blowing up the Obama/media lie that jobs are plentiful and unemployment is low. He’s telling Democrat voters something they know in their bones but don’t hear from their political leadership.

Meanwhile the 65% – 80% of the Right is flocking to Walker, Cruz, Fiorina and Carson while the ultimate Republican insider - Jeb Bush - can’t get out of single digits in the polls. In fact, the only reason that Bush is considered a “leader” is the size of his war chest, and indication that he’s got lots of wealthy people who owe a big debt to the Bush dynasty. Not that he’s got a lot of grass roots support.

I happen to think that Trump is a great communicator. Another great communicator, Rush Limbaugh agrees: 
“But when he's interviewed by somebody, is Trump not the essence of brevity? I mean, how long does it take Trump to make his point? One sentence? He doesn't have to rant and rave. He comes across as a madman simply to these people because he says things that, why, they're not spoken in public! You don't call people losers, and you don't describe... Even if it's true, you do not describe illegal immigrants the way he does.”

He’s even nuanced. His position on Planned Parenthood is appealing: funding if they provide women’s health services. Defund them if they perform abortions. That’s a position I could get behind even though Planned Parenthood was founded by a eugenicist whose goal was aborting black (and other “undesirable”) babies.


Trump is a great salesman. Right now he’s trying to appeal to the Republican base; the base that the Republican Establishment needs but is ashamed of. But in a general election, because he’s such a maverick, not closely identified with the Republican party, he has the ability to appeal to the Black population, to the legal Hispanic population and to women who believe in America and want her great again. He’s a good debater who is not afraid to counterpunch when he’s attacked. And going head-to-head with Hillary, who do you think will energize the audience? Not the old, corrupt money grubbing has-been with no accomplishments to her credit; someone who can put an audience to sleep just by getting up to speak.

And if you elect a pragmatist who is willing to adopt your objectives, does it matter in the end if he got there the traditional way? Reagan was an actor most of his life and a Democrat for a good part. Perhaps like Reagan, Trump has seen the light. I’m willing to listen.

UPDATE: Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert chimes in with some of the same thoughts on the Trump marketing strategy (read the whole thing):
Like many of you, I have been entertained by the unstoppable clown car that is Donald Trump. On the surface, and several layers deep as well, Trump appears to be a narcissistic blow-hard with inadequate credentials to lead a country.

The only problem with my analysis is that there is an eerie consistency to his success so far. Is there a method to it? Is there some sort of system at work under the hood?

Probably yes. Allow me to describe some of the hypnosis and persuasion methods Mr. Trump has employed on you. (Most of you know I am a trained hypnotist and this topic is a hobby of mine.)

For starters, Trump literally wrote the book on negotiating, called The Art of the Deal. So we know he is familiar with the finer points of persuasion. For our purposes today, persuasion, hypnosis, and negotiating all share a common set of tools, so I will conflate them.

Would Trump use his negotiation and persuasion skills in the campaign? Of course he would. And we expect him to do just that.

But where is the smoking gun of his persuasion? Where is his technique laid out for us to see.


As I said in my How to Fail book, if you are not familiar with the dozens of methods of persuasion that are science-tested, there’s a good chance someone is using those techniques against you.

For example, when Trump says he is worth $10 billion, which causes his critics to say he is worth far less (but still billions) he is making all of us “think past the sale.” The sale he wants to make is “Remember that Donald Trump is a successful business person managing a vast empire mostly of his own making.” The exact amount of his wealth is irrelevant.


The $10 billion estimate Trump uses for his own net worth is also an “anchor” in your mind. That’s another classic negotiation/persuasion method. I remember the $10 billion estimate because it is big and round and a bit outrageous. And he keeps repeating it because repetition is persuasion too.

I don’t remember the smaller estimates of Trump’s wealth that critics provided. But I certainly remember the $10 billion estimate from Trump himself. Thanks to this disparity in my memory, my mind automatically floats toward Trump’s anchor of $10 billion being my reality. That is classic persuasion. And I would be amazed if any of this is an accident. Remember, Trump literally wrote the book on this stuff....

And what did you think of Trump’s famous “Rosie O’Donnell” quip at the first debate when asked about his comments on women? The interviewer’s questions were intended to paint Trump forever as a sexist pig. But Trump quickly and cleverly set the “anchor” as Rosie O’Donnell, a name he could be sure was not popular with his core Republican crowd. And then he casually admitted, without hesitation, that he was sure he had said other bad things about other people as well.

Now do you see how the anchor works? If the idea of “Trump insults women” had been allowed to pair in your mind with the nice women you know and love, you would hate Trump. That jerk is insulting my sister, my mother, and my wife! But Trump never let that happen. At the first moment (and you have to admit he thinks fast) he inserted the Rosie O’Donnell anchor and owned the conversation from that point on. Now he’s not the sexist who sometimes insults women; he’s the straight-talker who won’t hesitate to insult someone who has it coming (in his view).....

You probably also cringed when you heard Trump say Mexico was sending us their rapists and bad people. But if you have read this far, you now recognize that intentional exaggeration as an anchor, and a standard method of persuasion.

Trump also said he thinks Mexico should pay for the fence, which made most people scoff. But if your neighbor’s pit bull keeps escaping and eating your rosebushes, you tell the neighbor to pay for his own fence or you will shoot his dog next time you see it. Telling a neighbor to build his own wall for your benefit is not crazy talk. And I actually think Trump could pull it off....

If you’re keeping score, in the past month Trump has bitch-slapped the entire Republican Party, redefined our expectations of politics, focused the national discussion on immigration, proposed the only new idea for handling ISIS, and taken functional control of FOX News. And I don’t think he put much effort into it. Imagine what he could do if he gave up golf.

As far as I can tell, Trump’s “crazy talk” is always in the correct direction for a skilled persuader. When Trump sets an “anchor” in your mind, it is never random. And it seems to work every time.

Now that Trump owns FOX, and I see how well his anchor trick works with the public, I’m going to predict he will be our next president. I think he will move to the center on social issues (already happening) and win against Clinton in a tight election.

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