I’m doing a shitty job at avoiding politics. As always, I beg forgiveness as I crash into the festering swamp. You don’t have to follow if you don’t want. I’ll be back in reality again sooner or later.
Today I want to point out a statement by none other than Scott Adams, the man behind Dilbert. Mr. Adams and I share an appreciation for good performances. Perhaps we both fish in the experience for what it says about mankind? Here’s a clip of Adam’s analysis of Trump’s salesmanship (click here for the full article):
“But how does a persuader know when to redirect attention to something specific versus being vague so the audience can fill in the blanks? Let me see if I can answer that for you.
A golden rule in sales is “Don’t sell past the close.” That means that once your customer says yes, you stop talking about the product because you might accidentally say something that stops the sale. You never add detail when the customer is already sold. The less you say, the more likely the customer (who is already sold) will continue talking himself into loving the decision because people like to think they are smart. (Google “cognitive dissonance” for more on that topic.)
Now review Trump’s empty sentence: We need to take America back.
From whom? Notice the intentional lack of detail? In this case, the lack of detail is the powerful part of the sentence.”
Well said sir! Who among us is opposed to taking America back?
I’d like to take America back too. Wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t? What are you, a stinking monster? Of course you want America back! It’s where you grew up. You have friends who live there. It’s where you keep your stuff. Your pal Trump and his hair are going to get gritty and claw America back from those (unspecified) bastards who took it! Go team!
From whom shall we seize our apparently stolen nation? Pick anything. It doesn’t matter.
Suppose I’d like to take America back from socialists, debt, whiners, and radioactive wombats? Maybe you’d like to take America back from politically correct eggheads, dumbasses, the Oakland Raiders, and Canada? Maybe my neighbor wants to take it back from war hawks, big oil, Dick Cheney’s evil influence, and con trails?
Normally we wouldn’t have a lot in common, yet Trump stepped over the media’s stunned twitching pulverized body to toss a sales pitch to all of us. Trump picked a masterful statement and is wielding it like a Samurai with a Ginsu.
It’s impressive to watch partly because it’s so foreign to my thinking. If I were running for office I’d put everyone who didn’t hate me into a coma. I’d start discussing fiat currency and even my strongest supporters would shrug, think “math is hard”, and start watching YouTube videos of cats on their smartphones. Trump could sell a brick to a drowning man and make him think it’ll float. There’s a reason why I’m an obscure blogger and Trump has his own jet.
This isn’t a new concept. When America went apeshit in 2008, Barack Obama was playing the same game. He promised “change we can believe in“. Really? Can we just vote for an amorphous thing called “change”? You’d better believe it brother! Can we simply express a preference for an unspecified verb? “Yes We Can!“
The electorate went for it and the faithful expected awesomeness to happen. The rest of us buckled in for the ride.
Don’t forget the heady feel of 2007. During the full phases of the moon you could watch great steaming gobs of unspecified hope materializing out of thin air. In a room of faithful followers you’d hear a thousand things their new saviour was going to do. Some of them were attainable. Some were not. Some were beyond the purview of a President. Some were beyond the abilities of a human being. Some were mutually exclusive. Some might delight one member of the faithful but anger another member of the faithful.
Yet most people in his supporting cast spoke like their newest hope had created a package of ideas that was exactly what they wanted. Like a Buddhist chant, a single man became everything by saying (almost) nothing.
Nobody but God can be all things to everyone and even God hasn’t given me the solid gold house I was hoping for. So of course there was disappointment. Reality is boring and governance is hard. Obama blamed Bush a while, then whined that he didn’t have enough power, then (after a “shellacking”) claimed he’d work miracles with a pen and a phone, and finally he gave up and settled for running out the clock. America got some of the change that at least some of the electorate believed in but reality doesn’t comport with hope or change or belief. Now the other party is drinking the same elixir.
I felt the tide wash over me in 2008. I complained; “Obama has become a mirror in which you see yourself.” Adams sees it today but says it more clearly than I. Perhaps because people were really seeing the king’s clothes, few seemed to get my point. Few are getting Adam’s point. It was an interesting time. It remains an interesting time.
Trump is amusing but I don’t want to see him elected. My hope was that he’d encourage his competition to grow balls; a hope that may fade. (What is it with the major parties and gutless dweebs? I have an urge to get up there and start administering wedgies!) Initially I thought Trump would be eaten by a carnivorously biased press. I figured he had 8 weeks or less. I underestimated the power of promising everything to everyone.
Sanity might not get traction. Trump might pull it off. America has done worse. It’ll survive this too. Clearly Trump and Obama are more than coincidence. We’re seeing a facet of human nature writ large. People like to vote for their mirror.