In the book Influence, by Cialdini, we learn that any sentence that contains the word “because” will influence people no matter what follows that word.
Hypnotists already knew that.
That’s the sort of rule you don’t believe until you see it in action. Here’s an example:
“Don’t vote for Ted Cruz because he’s Canadian.”
You can also remove the word “because” and simply imply it.
“If you vote for Ted Cruz, he might end up tangled in lawsuits regarding his Canadian birth.”
Keep in mind that in the context of a close political race, you only have to influence 10% of the people to win. And 10% of the public will believe anything. You just need to give them a “because.” Trump cleverly did that with the Canadian gambit.
But that wasn’t the end of Trump’s technique. It goes a lot deeper.
Trump framed Cruz’ Canadian birth as a “risk” and not a fact. That’s a high-ground maneuver, and in my experience that move wins every time. You can argue in the weeds about presidential eligibility, or you can go to the high ground and acknowledge that the birther question will dog Cruz like it dogged Obama. The risk part sounds true to everyone. And humans are wired to see the avoidance of risk as more compelling than running toward something good.
As I taught you in prior posts, identity always beats analogy, analogy beats reason, and reason only beats dumb arguments about definitions. Trump hit all four dimensions with his Canadian gambit.
Identity – American
Analogy – Similar to Obama’s birther situation
Reason – “Risk” is a fair concern on any topic. (High ground)
Definition – What is the definition of an “American”?
Another dimension of Trump’s Canadian gambit is that it acts as a reveal to soften Trump’s biggest problem, namely the speculation about his sanity and motives. The reveal is that Trump did the Canadian gambit with a wink and a grin. Most of us recognized the Canadian gambit as campaign technique and not insanity. Let me put it in context this way:
You wondered if Trump was literally crazy when he said X…or was he kidding?
You wondered if Trump was literally crazy when he said Y…or was he just negotiating?
You wondered if Trump was literally crazy when he said Z…or was it clever because his poll numbers went up?
Then came the Canadian gambit. It worked like a charm on 10% of the public (or whatever) while at the same time Trump let the rest of the public in on the joke.
The most common question I get about Trump is what-the-heck was he thinking with all the Obama birther stuff over the years? Is Trump crazy, or oblivious to reason?
Trump likes to keep his opponents off-balance. And since Obama can’t prove a negative – meaning he can’t prove he DIDN’T falsify his birth information – Trump can never be caught in his own web. The approach worked well enough for Trump that he started off the campaign with a solid group of supporters and an early lead.
One of the reasons Trump can get away with this sort of thing is that he is completely self-aware and transparent about his methods. He literally wrote them all down (or his co-author did) in his best-selling book that he mentions all the time. He also reminds us – in effect – that he is running for Dealmaker in Chief, not role model.
Trump talks openly about his Linguistic Kill Shots (”low energy Bush”) and how well they work. He is hiding nothing in terms of technique.
The other day I had dinner with my most liberal and most Trump-hating friend. He listed all of Trump’s “crazy” talk as proof this man cannot be trusted to lead the country. I explained my hypothesis that Trump is in campaign mode now, and lying about literally everything, the same as his competition.
My friend agreed, but noted that Trump’s “lies” are the dangerous-sounding ones. The others are mostly lying about their track records and how their budget numbers add up, and that isn’t the same level of awful. Fair enough.
Then I mentioned the Canadian gambit. I asked my friend if he believed Trump was actually concerned about Cruz’ eligibility or did my friend understand that it was just a clever campaign trick?
My friend understood that the Canadian gambit was an example of Trump being clever and not crazy. The strategy worked, as science predicts it would. And Trump was obviously doing all of it with a wink and a grin.
Then I asked my friend, “If you know the Canadian gambit is just technique, and not crazy – and you know Trump outlines all of his techniques in his book – what makes you think all the other crazy Trump stuff is REAL crazy?”
My friend pivoted his argument from “Trump is crazy” to “You can’t say crazy hateful stuff like that without causing all kinds of trouble.”
I pointed out that Trump’s technique has so far allowed him to dominate the Republican party, control the media, and triple his favorability since May. And so far, no one has died because of any of it.
Here I remind readers that I don’t share Trump’s political views, or anyone else’s. (You would need to add Trump, Sanders, and Bloomberg together to get something I like.) And I’m not well-informed on any of the big issues. I am, however, an unabashed fan of Trump’s persuasion techniques. I have never seen better.
I’m scheduled to be on CNN today (Thursday Jan 28th) with Jake Tapper, at 4 PM EST. But people like me often gets rescheduled if any real news happens, so figure 50% chance of me being on during that hour. UPDATE: The host has changed but I am not yet cancelled. UPDATE 2: Uber failed me (twice) so I missed the interview. Had to cancel.
Speaking of technique, here’s the latest review of my book on how systems are better than goals. You should read it because I’m getting a lot of email like this review. (See what I did there?)