Today I’ll take you to the third dimension of persuasion to see how Clinton and Trump are matching up lately. I can’t make this post appear balanced because Clinton is making big mistakes on the persuasion dimension while Trump is being his usual skillful self. So the best I can do is remind you that my political preferences do not align with Trump or any other candidate.
We’ll start with Clinton’s new campaign slogan:
LOVE TRUMPS HATE
Based on the slogan, I can tell you with confidence that the Clinton campaign doesn’t have anyone with a persuasion background helping with the big decisions. Here’s why:
1. Humans put greater cognitive weight on the first part of a sentence than the last part. This is a well-understood phenomenon. And the first part literally pairs LOVE and TRUMP.
2. The slogan increases exposure to the name Trump. That’s never a good idea.
3. Spoken aloud, the slogan sounds like asking people to agree with Trump’s hate, as in “Love Trump’s hate (because Trump hates war, terrorism, and bad trade deals, same as you?).
This is the sort of mistake you never see out of the Trump campaign. The slogan is pure amateur hour. It accomplishes the opposite of its intent, and you can’t fail harder than that.
Now let’s look at the “woman card” issue. Trump took the risky (but strategically solid) approach of taking the fight to Clinton’s strength – her appeal among women voters and among men who think it is time for a woman to be president. Trump branded her as a sexist who is hiding behind political correctness. It was a strong persuasion play and it put Clinton on the defensive.
Clinton responded by embracing and magnifying the accusation. She said that if fighting to make the world better for women is playing the “woman card” then you can “Deal me in!” The response was quick, clever, and catnip for her base.
You might remember Trump using a similar persuasion trick. Months ago, when Chris Cuomo asked Trump about the criticisms that he was a whiner, Trump embraced the whiner label, then amplified it by saying he was indeed the strongest voice for change. That’s exactly the right response. Clinton made the same play with “Deal me in!” So far, so good.
Then came the image of an actual “woman card” designed to capitalize on Clinton’s successful counterpunch. When something is working, you do more of it. But…maybe you should not do it…this way.
Let’s start with the fact that the design features a symbol from a restroom door. Just as the Clinton slogan unintentionally linked LOVE and TRUMP, the restroom symbol literally makes your brain associate Clinton with…a toilet.
You can’t make this up. When you saw that symbol, you thought of a restroom. it is automatic.
But the biggest mistake was putting a magnetic strip on the Woman Card. That makes you think of a credit card. And that makes you think of debt. Or perhaps it makes you think of a transit card that Clinton had trouble using at the subway in New York. All bad.
You might ask yourself why the campaign did not go with a playing card model instead of a credit card. After all, “deal me in” is not typically associated with a magnetic strip.
I’ll tell you why they didn’t use playing cards as their clever response. It’s because you would have to end up labelling Clinton the queen of – let’s say –hearts. And in cards, the queen is ranked below the king. That’s not so good if your opponent is a man…who lives in castles.
When asked about the Woman Card issue, Clinton made an enormous error by saying she knows how to deal with men who go “off the reservation.” For starters, it is a racist reference. But the bigger issue is that it opened the door for Trump to say – as he has – that it is offensive to men and a sign that Clinton believes men need to be controlled, and kept on the “reservation” by…women.
Trump flipped the frame on her, as he does so well. The original frame for Clinton’s “reservation” comment was that Trump was the problem and Clinton has a lot of experience dealing with that personality type. Trump reframed the situation as if Clinton were saying that men in general need to be kept in line…by…women.
Historians will someday see Clinton’s “off the reservation” comment as one of the biggest mistakes in American politics. It might not play that way on the 2D level of politics where it seems little more than a bad choice of words. But it is far more.
At some point, expect Trump to remind the country that we have sons, too.
Prediction: On November 8th you will see a record number of men walking “off the reservation” to vote for Trump.