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Trump’s Third Act (Part of the Trump Persuasion Series) - Scott Adams' Blog

Trump’s Third Act (Part of the Trump Persuasion Series)

This week the media is starting to realize that maybe Donald Trump has a chance of winning the presidency. Howard Kurtz is calling the turn. You will see a lot more stories and opinions along those lines, assuming Trump’s numbers stay strong.

But here’s the fun part: How do you write a story about Trump beating expectations without mentioning that one observer loudly predicted it in August and provided lots of details for how Trump is doing it?

Do you think no one noticed this blog? 🙂

Realistically, I don’t expect any professional journalists to say my Master Wizard Hypothesis is credible. To do so would not be a good career move for them. And it would also require accepting the painful idea that Trump is smarter than the people who have been publicly calling him an idiot. So this is the perfect set-up for cognitive dissonance. I predict you will see some new explanations for Trump’s success that are truly bizarre. Look for some sort of weird conspiracy theory to emerge. We saw the same thing when Obama made his unexpected run to the White House. Some folks figured he must be a Muslim sleeper cell. You will see similar whacky stuff emerge about Trump.

But I doubt you will see the mainstream media write the history of this election as one that was predicted by a cartoonist with scary precision and lots of specific reasons. Don’t expect that to happen.

I am still predicting a Trump landslide in the general election, not a mere win. That should give me some distance from the rest of the pundit class while they try to adjust to the idea that Trump is competitive in this race. And it gives you a specific prediction to hold me to. I predict Trump gets at least 65% of the votes in the general election.

Here I remind new readers that I don’t know who would be the best president. I am not that smart. I write about Trump’s persuasion skills because I have never seen better. New readers should also know that I am a trained hypnotist and a lifetime student of influence in all its forms. So this is in my wheelhouse.

I am also a writer. And I have experience with movie scripts. And this is where I will blow your mind.

A movie script is almost always arranged in what the professionals call a three-act form. In this model, the protagonist always has some sort of life-changing event (such as suddenly becoming the frontrunner for president) in act one.

In act two, we see the protagonist living out the results of that change. In the Trump movie, we see a smiling candidate amassing popularity and defying the experts. Just like act two in any good movie. This is the calm before the storm.

At the end of the second act, nearly all movies follow the model where some unsolvable problem rears its head. The audience must feel that the protagonist can’t escape this problem. We know the movie is fiction, but we still feel the emotions of the actors. We love the feeling of the third act because it reminds us of our own unsolvable problems. The main difference is that the movie hero finds a way to solve the unsolvable. That solution is what makes it a movie. The audience needs to feel the third act tension followed by an unexpected solution in order to get the chemical rush of movie enjoyment.

Donald Trump, magnificent bastard, has created a three-act movie with an extraordinarily unsolvable problem : His immigration plan.

Experts and pundits will now tell you that Trump might win the nomination by being tough on illegal immigrants, but that same issue will sink him in the general election. That’s a third-act problem. Literally no one in the political pundit class can even suggest a possible way to deport 11 million illegal folks in a land of easy gun access. It seem impossible to do without major riots and bloodshed. Just like a good movie.

I am here to tell you that this movie set-up is intentional. That’s the part you don’t yet believe. Immigration was the perfect strategic lever for Trump. In the primaries it sucked all the attention out of the room and galvanized his base. In the general election, immigration will turn into an unsolvable third-act problem for Trump, as he planned.

Do you remember when Nelson Mandela went to jail? That’s a third act problem, and the perfect set-up for a movie ending.

Do you know the story of John McCain? He was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. That’s a third act problem, and the perfect set-up for running for president. That’s why we like war heroes such as Bush senior and Bob Dole. They have the third act built into their natural stories. Obama’s third act, obviously, was the country’s legacy of slavery. Timing doesn’t seem to matter as much as whether the story has a third act problem that the public recognizes by reflex. Once we recognize the movie form, we root for the hero, automatically. We have been trained by Hollywood to do that. You can’t turn it off in your mind. You can’t ignore it. If a candidate can wrap his or her personal story into a three-act form, that is the highest level of persuasion.

But Donald Trump did not have a natural three-act story. He was born advantaged and stayed that way. Sure, he emerged from bankruptcy, but that story is boring and sounds routine in 2015.

So Donald Trump created his own third act problem: Immigration. 

Trump created that problem for himself because it has the special quality of a problem that Trump can solve. The problems one can’t solve are the ones that involve too many decision-makers, such as in the Middle East. But immigration is a problem a president can tackle and totally own. Within the class of unsolvable problems, immigration is special in the sense that one strong leader can solve it. You would be hard-pressed to find another problem with that wonderful quality.

So here’s the movie Trump is writing for you. You expect him to stumble in the general election because the mass deportation part of Trump’s plan makes him unelectable. I predict that after Trump has both the nomination and a VP running mate with some Latino credibility, Trump will unveil the beginning of a process to solve the unsolvable.

And here is how he might do it.

Trump could ask his running mate to be in charge of the immigration issue, and to bring Trump at least three plans for dealing with it. These plans should include the economics and human costs of doing nothing, a second plan that involves doing something humane (such as amnesty), and a third option that is more severe, such as mass deportation. Once the numbers are laid out, and the media has had time to digest the arguments, Trump will do what only Trump can do: He will change his mind based on better data. And what will emerge is a plan that has these qualities, roughly:

1. Illegal immigrants will have a path to citizenship that is based on contribution. For example, if you are adding more in taxes than you are using in services, you’re in. If you are a student, you’re in, because we expect you to add more than you subtract. If you find a citizen to sponsor you, perhaps financially, you are in. If you join the armed forces, you are in. And so forth. The idea is that The United States has a cover charge, and we don’t care how you pay, but you have to pay. If enough options are presented, the public won’t know what part to hate.

2. But what about Trump’s statement that they “have to go.” Trump makes it sound like he is going to physically move illegals to Mexico. But here’s a way to finesse it. Using the embassy model, the U.S. could pass a law that makes temporary Mexican embassies out of individual rooms in government buildings near every community. That way an illegal can drive to the Post Office (for example), go into the “Mexico room” and be back in Mexico, legally speaking. Then we process that illegal immigrant’s paperwork and make him a citizen, assuming he met the first criteria of adding value.

3. Criminals and newly-entered immigrants probably do need to go home under this plan. That part will not get much push-back. And the good folks who are not yet adding value, but are otherwise decent, will probably have some sort options for working their way to citizenship.

I won’t predict that Trump uses the precise plan I just outlined. But I think you can see that immigration is the most solvable of the unsolvable problems in the world. 

Putting it another way, if you believe Trump is serious about deporting 11 million people from a country that has easy access to guns, you are ignoring decades of Trump’s track record as a negotiator. Trump’s first offer of deporting 11 million people by force was never a real plan. Consistent with everything Trump has ever written or said, this is his first offer.

Trump wrote this movie. You have no idea how smart this cat is.

Sometimes I write books.