Friday, September 15, 2017

Please, Washington, keep thinking The Donald is stupid

Scott Adams, he of Dilbert fame, has understood The Donald from the beginning. Everyone in Washington thinks he's smarter than The Donald, and so they are unable to see what Adams sees.

I no longer pay attention to the scraps The Donald finds himself in, because I know he either created them or is handling them in a way that will work in his favor.

Here we go.
Visual Persuasion: President Trump describes border security (a concept) with the word “wall” because you can visualize it. Our visual sense is our most persuasive path for influence. It would be weak persuasion to talk about border security as a concept without a visual. 
Simplicity: Border security is a big topic, and the method you use to secure it will depend on the terrain and other factors. If President Trump mentioned all of that complexity each time he talked about border security it would be a big yawn. Simple messages such as “build a wall” always beat complicated (but accurate) conceptual arguments. 
Strategic Ambiguity: In hypnosis class we learned to omit any details the subject might find objectionable. Following good form, President Trump doesn’t get too specific about the type of wall he wants. He lets us see the wall that makes the most sense to us. 
We see the same strategic ambiguity after his famous dinner “agreement” with Pelosi and Schumer. The Democratic leaders got to announce “no wall” while the President says “yes wall.” The reality is that both sides agree on spending for border improvements, some of which will undoubtedly be wall-ish sometime in the next few years. We citizens get to pick which version of reality we like best: wall or no wall. The ambiguity supports both views. And it is intentional.
Note that Adams says "it is intentional."
Thinking Past the Sale: In this case, the “sale” is President Trump’s desire to tighten border security. Now both sides assume the border will be tightened and they are only debating the budget and the details. This is classic persuasion. The President never allowed the country to spend time debating whether or not we wanted better border control. Instead, he made us focus on how to do it. He made the sale before the country thought it had anything to buy. 
Trading Imaginary Assets for Real Ones: If we believe initial reports from Pelosi, Schumer, and Trump, there will be some sort of deal for greater border security in exchange for allowing DACA folks to stay in the country. But realistically, the DACA folks couldn’t have been rounded up and deported without a civil war. So President Trump traded an imaginary asset (the idea of deporting the DACA folks) for something potentially real in terms of greater border security funding.
Big First Demand: A good negotiator starts with an aggressive first demand so there is plenty of room to negotiate toward the middle. President Trump started his campaign promising to deport every undocumented immigrant. That first demand was so extreme that he has plenty of room to negotiate toward a reasonable center, such as allowing DACA folks to stay. 
Likewise, the “Wall” idea is seen by many Trump critics and supporters alike to mean a solid wall for the entire border with Mexico. This was never a practical idea, and candidate Trump said so directly at least once, but he wisely didn’t emphasize the full range of solutions for the border. Now it will seem totally reasonable to build a solid wall wherever border security is most problematic, so long as it is not extended to the entire border.
Wait, you thought The Donald became a billionaire in New York City real estate by being stupid? Really? Are you looking for a nice bridge. I have one that fell off a truck in Jersey.

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