2016 was a year of revolutions. The establishment, under assault from all sides by a whirlwind of new forces and tactics they had no idea how to deal with, crumbled in shock. As we’ve seen with the rise of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party and the victory of the Liberal Party in Australia after years of polling predicting a defeat, these revolutionary sentiments are still in place.
But…the establishment has adapted since that first wave of revolutions in 2016. They are better prepared now.
When we look at the 2020 Democratic field, it’s a pretty pathetic lot. Joe Biden is currently the frontrunner, but he’s had an absentee campaign so far. That makes sense, because the more he campaigns, the less people like him. He’s riding entirely on name recognition – his personal brand, right now. That is of course, an important thing to have (see Stumped’s sixth chapter) But aside from that, he has few persuasive qualities. This is partially why I believe the pick of the establishment is Kamala Harris.
Either way, the odds, both historical and psychological, would favor Donald Trump. Waves were made yesterday when three accurate models predicted his re-election in 2020.
Yet, something important has changed from 2016. Scott Adams has been talking about it of late, claiming that the president has zero chance of re-election “unless it changes,” and while I think this is largely just to get attention and “something will change” soon, he has an important point.
Social media censorship has been in overdrive since 2016. If you’re here, I think you know that, so I don’t need to explain how. If you don’t think it matters in 2020, you’re unfortunately deluded.
Much of Stumped was devoted to the revolutionizing influence of social media. It allows people outside the establishment to set the agenda. It allows for the creation of a tribe whose members reinforce each other and increase devotion to the man that’s set to lead them. It allows for potent market research to find needs to fill with compelling offers.
Yet, this is now under severe threat. Many of President Trump’s most influential supporters who helped to spread his message have either been banned, censored, or diluted from social media in the last few years. Donald Trump himself is still the most influential figure, but his own ability to communicate is being distorted.
To understand the importance of this, we need to re-read a crucial passage of Robert Cialdini’s Pre-Suasion:
A communicator who gets an audience to focus on a key element of a message pre-loads it with importance. This form of pre-suasion accounts for what many see as the principle role (labeled agenda setting) that the news media play in influencing public opinion. The central tenet of agenda-setting theory is that the media rarely produce change directly, by presenting compelling evidence that sweeps an audience to new positions; they are much more likely to persuade indirectly, by giving selected issues and facts better coverage than other issues and facts. It’s this coverage that leads audience members – by virtue of the greater attention they devote to certain topics – to decide that these are the most important to be taken into consideration when adopting a position. As the political scientist Bernard Cohen wrote, “The press may not be successful most of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling them what to think about.” According to this view, in an election, whichever political party is seen by voters to have the superior stance on the issue highest on the media’s agenda at the moment will likely win. (pg. 34)
However, because of the rise of social media, the ability of the traditional media to dominate “what people think about” has been gutted. This helped Donald Trump to rise to such prominence and blow open traditional Republican politics. Instead of him responding to the media, the media was forced to respond to him, as he channeled attention to his issues that helped him win on his battlefields. The result was that the public and his opponents thought about the things he wanted them to think about. This was the entire premise behind Stumped’s second chapter.
Trump’s domination of space was partly due to his own personal qualities, but his social media reach and the influence of his supporters there had a lot to do with it. Facebook was crucial to his victory.
But now, as the 2020 election nears, that is under threat. With the realistic 2020 Democratic contenders either being charisma vacuums or lunatics, the election of 2020, just like in 2016, is going to be Donald Trump vs. the media. Yet, he now might not have one of his best weapons. As we’ve seen with this Russia nonsense for the past two years, the media, sponsored by the deep state, isn’t quite as powerless as they were in 2016. Meanwhile, the crazed leftist base is much more motivated than back then.
The odds still favor President Trump, due to the pathetic lot of Democrats and historical indicators, but the tech giants that own the social media platforms that played such a big role in 2016 are doing their damnedest to change the equation, and the persuasive landscape thus shifts with it.
Something needs to be done.