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Scott Adams on the US Presidential campaign

25/05/2016

Creator of the Dilbert cartoon Scott Adams, now a prolific blogger, was one of a very few  people to actually predict Donald Trump’s political success way back last year in the American presidential campaign. In fact Adams has predicted that Trump could win the presidency (he hastens to add that it is a prediction not a preference). Adams has called Trump a “master wizard” in the art of persuasion. Part of Trump’s skill is in deploying what Adams calls “the linguistic kill shot”, a statement so decisive that it kills the prospect of any retort from its recipient. An example cited by Adams in an interview with Reason magazine is calling then Republican party nomination contender Jeb Bush a “low energy guy”. The insult was at once demeaning and disarming of Bush and exaggerate a preexisting bias  people held against him. Another example was calling Ben Carson “nice”.

Another of Trump’s persuasive skills, Adams argues, is a sort of “linguistic judo” ability to turn weaknesses into potential strengths by re-framing insults. An example is the way Trump turned a slur about him being a “whiner” into him being an agent for the change of a perceived broken political system in Washington by declaring “I whine until I win”.

The Reason interview with Adams is from back in October last year. I watched the video at about that time but never shared it probably because I didn’t want to believe Trump could really garner so much success (and I was following the supposedly informed punditry of data journalist Nate Silver).

Much of Adams analysis comes from his knowledge of hypnosis where people can be susceptible to certain suggestions under the right conditions.

I think Trump’s success perversely builds upon itself when he and his supporters are attacked. Vox pundit Ezra Klein noted, a couple on months back, establishment  #Nevertrump conservatives attacking Trump in an issue of National Review entitled “Against Trump” merely served as a “proof of concept” in securing his anti-establishment bonafides. I don’t think Trumpists’ anti establishment zeal is limited to Republican party affiliates and apparatchiks but to the mainstream everywhere which is why I find it odd that Vox, in spite of Klein’s smart observation, have persisted in providing more proofs for the argument of the Trumpists that everyone is against them which Trump himself is more than capable of exploiting.

Adams continues to blog on the US presidential election applying his interesting analytical perspective to candidates’ efforts at persuasion. He was quick to point out after Hillary Clinton released a video, a few weeks ago, cutting snippets of Trump’s now defeated Republican party contenders condemning the bronzed billionaire it would merely associate the former Secretary of State with those establishment types who are against Trump and his supporters. More recently Adams has compared the slogans of Trump and Clinton for persuasiveness. Adams’ last remark in that post, after noting Clinton’s greater knowledge of the issues, is rather unsettling for those who believe, or perhaps hope, that issues and reason play a determining role in deciding democratic elections:

“But I doubt the issues will matter this year. They never have before.”

PS: My earlier opinion piece on the nativism of the modern US Republican party juxtaposed with the more conciliatory rhetoric on immigration by 1980 candidates Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

My last opinion piece on Trump and Sanders.

A follow up blog post to that opinion piece on Trump and Sanders.

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