Last week was a week of reactions. It was also the most strategically decisive week of the election so far. The results however, have been inconclusive. We all await for the next few weeks to pass to see how week 7 will go down.
The “Muslim Ban”
Donald Trump was quick to react, putting his scheduled speech on the Clintons on hold to instead talk about the Orlando attack, terrorism, and national security. Notably, the speech was delivered by teleprompter, and Donald Trump’s verbal and nonverbal communications need some work when he’s using one (he’s far better at being unscripted).
Here we arrive at our first strategic precipice of the week. The content of Donald Trump’s speech was a reiteration of his idea to temporarily prohibit Muslim immigration. He also made it more specific – attaching his plan to countries with a history of terrorism against the West. Doing his best to throw a nuclear bomb through the “social justice” narrative, Donald Trump exposed to many for the first time how women and gays are treated in Islamic culture, how they’re enslaved and murdered. How can Hillary Clinton claim to be a champion of women and gays, he said, when she would import people from cultures where they’re treated as dirt?
This was a smart play. It used in and out-groups to perfection, a key concept in Stumped. Importantly, Donald Trump expanded his own in-group to “all Americans,” who he would make the country safe, rich, and great for.
Yet, one mistake I may have made thus far in my analysis was being too quick to call the end of the influence of the mainstream media apparatus. It’s declining for sure, but it still holds sway, especially in a general election where Donald Trump won’t simply be able to deny the existence of his opponent (more on that below).
To wit, the leftist media apparatus and allied government insiders were quick to swing into action. The ivory tower has thus far done a very efficient job in suppressing the role that Islamism played in the Orlando massacre. As the Roosh V Forum’s Lizard of Oz said, the media has already sorted the massacre to fit its own preferred narrative. In other words, it’s been filtered. The shooter’s pledge of allegiance to ISIS, which later claimed responsibility for the attack, has been whitewashed as much as possible, even by the government who will censor that part of the audio (last I heard). Instead, the attack became about a more nebulous and less specific “homophobia” and the shooter’s own mental illness, possibly by the fact that he was gay. The shooter’s links to terrorism and his trip to Saudi Arabia was essentially purged from the mainstream media’s narrative. The same “social justice” arguments against Christians and the crusades reemerged. The role of Islam was marginalized as much as possible. And while this was often mocked on social media in particular, the leftist narrative did have an effect.
The data, if we can find it yet, seems mixed. I had heard that two-thirds of the public is against the Trump Muslim immigration plan, but Scott Adams posted a link saying 50% now agree with it.
How this plays out is still up in the air. It’s also a great test of the power of the traditional media’s narrative versus the emerging decentralized media’s influence (of which this election is itself a larger test). If an increasing number of people favor the ban, that would indicate that Trump has won and the typical leftist media filters are beginning to malfunction, which is great news for him. If the opposite occurs, it could indicate that chapter 7 of Stumped hasn’t quite arrived yet and the traditional media is still strong enough to dominate the space of the narrative, which in turn is bad for Donald Trump, as he is certainly up against the mass media. We’ll see in the coming weeks.
Barack Obama had his second meltdown in less than a month in response to Donald Trump’s speech last Monday. He went on a long rant, lecturing the country all the while buying into Trump’s frame by finally acknowledging the words “Islamic terrorism” and then dismissing them. As readers of Stumped’s third chapter will know, a denial is generally perceived by the public as an admission of guilt, because it puts the denier in the bind of acknowledging the frame, the validity, the existence, of the thing he’s denying.
To pour salt into the president’s self-inflicted wound and take complete control of the frame, Donald Trump later mocked that Obama was angrier at him than he was at the shooter. Obama’s behavior since the shooting was visible enough to give Trump’s claim a valid perception. It was devastating.
The Shivering Establishment
Yet, there is another weakness to Donald Trump – he inspires those people who are supposed to be on his side to revolt against him. This was seen most visibly when Paul Ryan balked at Trump’s response to the Orlando shootings, as did many others in the Republican establishment. The result was more chaos in the Party. Although Donald Trump claims he doesn’t need the GOP apparatus to win, this is not feasible in a general election. The turmoil in Republican ranks represents an operational failure, the first of two to emerge this week, and while it may have been unavoidable given Trump’s stance on the Muslim immigration issue, it nevertheless is a negative.
Going forward, the Trump campaign will need to take into account the propensity of the weak conservative establishment to run away from him. Unlike him, they haven’t learned to go full shitlord. They still live in fear that people who hate them, and will always hate them, will call them mean names that they would have called them with or without Trump. Nevertheless, their fear has a negative impact on the campaign, and there’s not much Donald Trump can do about it except to take it into account.
The Delegate Revolt
Late in the week, it emerged that a group called “Courageous Conservatives” is planning a revolt at the the convention. This is laughable, and it needn’t merit any further consideration.
Other operational failures have become apparent in recent days. Last week, it came out that Donald Trump is not only being outspent by the Hillary Clinton campaign in the battleground states, but that he’s not running any ads at all in them.
This isn’t only an operational failure, it’s an operational disaster. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen Donald Trump let his opponent dominate so much space on him. He’s effectively ceded most of the operational level of political warfare to Hillary Clinton in the strategic states he’ll need.
This is a manifestation that Donald Trump has not yet pivoted to the general election, not only in his specific rhetoric (the tactical level), but on his operations and strategy. He did OK in May, when Hillary Clinton was still in her dogfight with Bernie Sanders, but as she wrapped it up, his failures are becoming apparent, and he didn’t do all he could to truly pivot and take advantage of that free month.
Case in point: Donald Trump probably believes that he doesn’t need to spend money on ads as much because he’ll get free media coverage as he did before. While I remark in Stumped that it’s a solid operational plan, it’s not highly evolved enough for the next stage of the conflict – the general election.
The problem with free media is that, even though it’s often more effective than advertising, is that it isn’t targeted enough. Everything is a trade-off. Free media can bring you social proof, but when it comes to targeting specific demographics you need, it’s often too broad of a brush. In a general election you need to target specific cores in specific states, and free media doesn’t give you as much of an option to specifically tailor your message for those groups.
Fortunately for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton’s persuasion abilities are awful and there’s still plenty of time for him to catch up (June is a less accurate month for predicting presidential winners than February), but he needs to get his act together now.
She Really is Still Terrible at Persuasion
On June 16th, we passed the anniversary for when Donald Trump announced his candidacy. Hillary Clinton apparently thought this would be a good way to remark on that fact.
Donald Trump launched his campaign one year ago this week. And what a year it’s been. https://t.co/ag02ZD9QOP
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) June 18, 2016
Why is this terrible?
“What a year it’s been” sounds like something exciting and engaging. It’s usually what people say when they look back fondly on a year.
And according to Mike Cernovich, yellow is a powerful color. It gives Donald Trump a heavenly halo and aura. She used the same color and made another persuasion error by continuing to ask her viewers to imagine Donald Trump as president. To make it worse, it was the first thing she said in her copy (thereby making it more memorable due to the primacy effect).
Imagine if this was our president. https://t.co/DCZLKQAfqx
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) June 19, 2016
If these pro-Trump general social media ads are indicative of the kind of ads she’s running in the battleground states, the effectiveness of her spatial dominance will indeed be loose, even counterproductive, giving Donald Trump ample time to counterattack.
On the political shows yesterday, Donald Trump said he was open to the idea of profiling Muslims in the wake of Orlando. While this seemed to be a setup question that he didn’t quite study beforehand, it was still a bad answer. It’s indicative of another weakness of Trump, whereby he seems to conclude he needs to have an answer for every question, which is typical of someone who uses improvisation in interviews and discussions. I know because I do it myself and have felt that urge.
The problem with this answer is that this isn’t about immigration, but can include American citizens and permanent residents. It could further alienate libertarians as well as help to affirm the comparisons to Hitler. My own mother unconsciously had that reaction (comparing it to a Jewish registry). However illogical, persuasion-wise, this is a disaster. This week, through discussion with some smart people on Scott Adams’ blog, I’ve come to the conclusion that while the “racist” label has been effectively killed due to overuse by SJW’s, the “Hitler” label, which would normally fall into the same category, works as a linguistic kill shot because Trump’s actions can appear dictatorial, especially with the media against him. It’s not so much because of the “racism” angle, but because of the authoritarian streak that some can easily attach to Donald Trump. This is one more affirmation of that.
Once again, we’ll have to see where the polls stand on this. I suspect if you asked this question in a more targeted fashion, such as the surveillance of certain Mosques, most Americans would agree, and would perceive a safety benefit more concretely. But in a broad brush, it just appears too toxic without an easily perceivable benefit, unless social media destroys the traditional media’s narrative that “Islam is a religion of peace.” Although this is indeed beginning to happen, the question becomes – is the timing correct? At this point, I’m going to say no, and list it as a defeat for now. The next few weeks (and the extent of the outrage) may give a more concrete answer.
I was going to go into a passage on Trump’s level of seriousness, but the firing of Corey Lewandowski just now has changed that. I’ll analyze what that means for the campaign in next week’s post.
I’m analyzing this election through the lens of Donald Trump’s persuasion system. If you liked this post, you can learn far more by reading Stumped, which will teach you how to avoid the unforced errors that Trump made this past week.