Do you remember the detailed policy proposal that came out of the Clinton campaign last week?
Neither do I.
I’m not saying it didn’t happen. I’m just saying that if Clinton said something about her policies, I didn’t notice. The Clinton campaign has wisely ditched facts and reason for pure persuasion. And it is working.
As you know, Trump has branded Clinton as “crooked.” And that branding has stuck. If you doubt it, watch ABC’s Martha Raddatz literally imagine the word “crooked” in a Trump tweet she is reading about Clinton.
But while Trump has defined Clinton as crooked, the Clinton campaign has put together an impressive confirmation bias case that Trump is a racist. As I have described in prior posts, none of the “evidence” is real. Trump talks about other countries, illegal immigrants, and religion. He has no proposals about race. But the facts are not important to politics. Never have been, never will. What matters is that the Clinton side – including parts of the media – have branded Trump a racist, and it is sticking.
Let me be perfectly clear about this: In a contest for the office of the Presidency of the United States in 2016, crooked beats racist every time. So if things stay the same, Clinton wins in November.
Trump has made us afraid of immigration – and fear is a powerful persuader. But Clinton countered by making us afraid of Trump! Persuasion-wise, it was exactly the right play. It would be nearly impossible to make voters less afraid of terrorism while things are blowing up all over the world. But you can make voters more afraid of Trump, and that strategy is working for Clinton.
Speaking of confirmation bias, this week we saw Trump retweet an image that included a Star of David symbol, or at least a six-sided star that looks a lot like one. An article at Breitbart mimicked my writing about Trump – while crediting me – and suggested that Trump cleverly made this “mistake” on purpose to enjoy the free publicity it generated. And while I appreciate the credit, that’s not how I saw it this time.
My best guess is that Trump and his campaign didn’t notice that the image looks like the Star of David. I say that because I didn’t notice it the first time I saw it. To me, this situation looks more like an unfortunate oversight than either a sign of dog-whistle racism or a clever ploy to get free media. But that’s not now the public is seeing it.
Thanks to the confirmation bias trap set by the Clinton team, Democrats are primed to see it as one more piece of circumstantial evidence that Trump is a racist.
And thanks to the confirmation bias trap I set with my own writing about Trump’s persuasion tactics, Trump supporters are primed to see the tweet as a clever ploy to get free publicity.
But I’m reasonably certain Trump’s retweet of the offensive image was not intentional, either as a racist dog whistle or as a clever plan to get free advertising. The worst thing the Trump campaign could do is create more confirmation bias for the racist branding Clinton put on them. There isn’t the slightest chance someone on the Trump team thought tweeting a racist-looking image was a good tradeoff for all the free publicity.
The Democratic convention is July 25-28. Until then, Trump’s team is probably holding back their best attacks. The last thing Trump wants is a stronger opponent to replace a weakened Clinton at the last minute. As soon as Clinton is locked-in at the convention, expect to see Trump bring out the big weapons. I assume he is saving the best attacks for then. That would be the smart play here.
Trump needs to reframe this situation in August to win, because otherwise crooked will beat racist. So look for Trump to reframe things this way:
Clinton has a race-first view of the world that is corrosive to society.
Trump has an American-first view of the world that creates healthy competition with other countries.
If Trump sells the reframe, he wins in a landslide. And if Clinton’s email scandal escalates, Trump also wins in a landslide. You might see both.
Note: I endorsed Hillary Clinton – for my personal safety – because I live in California. It isn’t safe to be viewed as a Trump supporter where I live. My politics don’t align with either candidate, but backing Clinton reduces my odds of dying at the hands of my fellow citizens. (And yes, I am 100% serious. It just happens to be funny by coincidence.)
If you think this blog post uses some words more than others, you might like my book.