The Persuasive Candidate
The Persuasive Candidate
December 5, 2011
Today I will make my best case for why you should vote for me for President of the United States. I’ll be using some powerful tricks of persuasion, so don’t read further if that sort of thing would bother you.
By the way, the first paragraph was a trick of persuasion. I gave you the choice of opting in for the persuasion that follows. That put us on the same team and short circuited your automatic reflex for resistance. And I made you curious at the same time.
One of the fascinating things about persuasion is that I can describe my method while I do it, and it makes no difference to the outcome. That’s why advertising still works even though we all know the tricks involved. It’s why a trial lawyer can be overtly manipulative with a jury and yet each juror will still feel as though he or she reached a decision independently. Today I’ll lay bare my method of persuasion and it will feel to you as if most of what I say actually makes a lot of folksy common sense.
I’ll start by stating some simple truths that you probably agree with. When someone has the same opinion as you, it makes you think of them as smart. You can double that impact by putting your simple truths in a familiar form, such as a common saying or catch phrase. Our brains automatically assume that the familiar is more valid than the unfamiliar.
I’ll begin by stating a simple fact: At the national level, our elected officials from both major parties are failing us. If we voters continue doing the same thing – electing more Republicans or more Democrats – we’ll get the same result. Doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. We’re just shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. (Notice the familiar imagery.)
But what can we voters do that is different? Everyone knows that an independent candidate for President has almost no chance of winning, right? There’s a chicken and egg problem. No voter wants to throw away a vote by supporting a candidate that can’t win. And the candidate can’t win without support. There’s no way to prime the pump. It makes more sense to hold your nose and support whichever candidate is less awful than the alternative while also having a chance of winning.
Here’s how we can hack the system and get out of this trap. Starting today, if anyone asks who you support for President, insist that the answer is “none of the above,” and that the Dilbert cartoonist guy represents that choice. If enough people associate “none of the above” with my candidacy, pollsters will start putting my name into the lineup just to make the results more newsworthy. News is driven by novelty. Sooner or later, some pollster looking for attention will add my name to a survey just to see if I beat Huntsman.
It doesn’t cost you anything to support me in polls before the election. In the worst case scenario there will still be a top Republican and a top Democrat to vote for when you get into the voting booth. You’ll know by election day if a vote for me is likely to be wasted or not.
Don’t be too concerned about the fact that I have no moral center and no qualifications whatsoever for the job of president. I’ve promised in previous blog posts that if elected I will do whatever Bill Clinton advises me to do, which would lead to policies that are a sensible middle ground (triangulation). That’s a low risk strategy for fed-up voters, and it would be a wake-up call to the major parties that they need to change to remain relevant. As citizens, the worst thing we can do is reward either party for their atrocious performance. My one-term presidency would be similar to a parent giving a misbehaving child a time out. Republicans and Democrats would have four years to reflect on what they did wrong.
As president, I would be realistic about how much any one person, including the president, can do to fix the economy. But economies do respond to attitudes and optimism, and I would work directly on our national mood.
For starters, I would ask every citizen to contribute to our economic turnaround in whatever way each of us is best suited. I’d ask rich people to hire a few more people than they would otherwise prefer. For the unemployed, I’d ask them to actively work on their job skills by taking classes, volunteering as unpaid interns, or whatever it takes. And I’d ask everyone to exercise daily and eat right, to keep our national energy high and our health care costs low.
The key to this plan is that we all need to choose our own type of sacrifice, and we all need a way to broadcast our sacrifice to our neighbors. Sacrifice needs to be observed to be sustained. Some have said that recycling only works because each family’s effort is displayed once per week at the curb. Similarly, citizens need visible evidence of each person’s sacrifice toward fixing the economy. Perhaps each type of sacrifice could be signified by a color. People who wear green bracelets might be honing their job skills. People who wear purple have hired one more employee than needed. People who wear blue have volunteered to be mentors, or unpaid tutors, and so on. The bracelets would be optional, of course, just as they have been for the Livestrong fight against cancer, and that program has been hugely successful. As president, I would borrow any system that works.
With my concept of making our sacrifices visible and universal, everywhere you go you’d see people wearing their colors on their bracelets, or lapel pins, or bumper stickers. And you’d have something to discuss with every person you meet. Our most basic human urge, after survival, is to be a part of something larger than ourselves. Technically, we’re all part of a country, but it usually feels as if we’re nothing but a bunch of people acting selfishly. As President, that’s the only thing I’d try to change. I’d work on making the nation feel like a group effort. And to do that, sacrifice has to be both universal and visual.
Compare the shared sacrifice concept I just described to our current system that involves identifying particular groups and asking them to sacrifice for the benefit of others. So far, that hasn’t worked. And it pulls us farther apart.
This concludes my persuasive argument. I described a simple method by which my name could be safely associated with “none of the above” for president. I described a picture of shared sacrifice that sounded both sensible and appealing. And I described a practical way that every citizen can send a message to politicians that they need to shape up to remain relevant.