Trump gave his nomination acceptance speech last night. I grade it an A-. It wasn’t a speech for the ages, but it was presidential enough. As convention speeches go, it was solid.
As I have already blogged, all Trump needs to do is NOT act like a crazy racist for the next few months and he will win bigly. This speech introduced no new outrages, and voters are starting to get used to the old ones. So on a strategic level, it was a strong performance. If Trump does more of this, and adds no new outrages, he’ll glide to a comfortable victory.
Persuasion-wise, Trump’s family was the big story of the convention. People seem to love them in the same way the public loved the Kennedys. And notice how Donald Jr. and Eric both have the speaking cadence of Jack and Bobby Kennedy. Notice also how Melania reminds you of Jackie Kennedy – quiet, smart, and classy. These are coincidences, but your irrational brain doesn’t care. It sees a new batch of Kennedys and wants to see more of them. That’s powerful election magic for a nation that only pretends to care about policies.
A week ago you compared ugly Donald Trump with ugly Hillary Clinton and declared them a visual tie. That matters because our visual “brain” generally wins against whatever part of the brain is pretending to be logical that day. But once we got a look at the entire Trump family, acting as a group, our visual brains started seeing them as a package deal. And when you compare the entire Trump family’s visual appeal to the entire Clinton family’s visual imagery it’s a massacre.
Would you prefer seeing Bill and Hillary Clinton decompose in front of your eyes for eight years, or watch the Trump family develop their dynasty? Entertainment-wise, that’s no contest. And people usually vote for entertainment over policy. They just don’t realize it. That’s the biggest news from the convention, and you won’t see it in any headline.
I watched Trump’s entire 90-minute speech and don’t remember any of the boring policy statements. No one cares about that stuff. But on the persuasion dimension, I recall the following impressions.
1. Trump made a credible case that he is the better protector of the LGBTQ community because he takes a harder line against Muslim immigration. Even the fact-checkers will ignore that claim. It’s too true to check. And it makes whatever-the-hell Clinton says about protecting LGBTQ citizens look disingenuous.
2. Trump’s best unscripted moment came when he humbly acknowledged that he probably didn’t deserve the support of evangelicals. That was persuasion genius. Nothing will make religious people love you harder than admitting you are not worthy of their affection. Boom. That’s a ten-out-of-ten on the persuasion scale, and you probably thought it was just an unscripted aside. They’re locked in now.
3. Trump made multiple references to inclusiveness. But the best, in terms of persuasion, was his twist on Clinton’s “I’m with her” slogan. Trump says “I’m with you.” That’s good idea-judo. He acknowledges the truth of the other side’s slogan then makes it look ridiculous.
4. I expected more from Trump in terms of dispelling Clinton’s accusations of racism. Instead of producing some quotable speech moments on the topic he wove lots of visual evidence into the entire convention. For example…
My favorite moment of the convention was the other night when a prominent Muslim leader in a business suit gave the benediction. He asked the assembled Republicans to pray to God, and you could almost hear the crowd wondering if they would be praying to the right God in this situation. But they played along.
As things stand now, Trump is on a glide path to the presidency. Something new would have to happen to stop him.
If you pray to the right God, you probably already know about my book.