Monday, December 19, 2016

“He Doesn’t Know the Territory”

Not to dismiss Russian hacking, voter suppression in key states, and other outside factors, but Donald Trump won the election as well because he is a much better salesman than Hillary Clinton. Actually, Hillary Clinton probably had the least sales skills of any major party general election candidate in my lifetime. This is not a compliment to Trump. I speak as someone who worked as a telemarketer for ten years, and received additional sales training during a year I spent trying to be a stock broker. This is soul-destroying work that requires you to put your conscience on the shelf, hopefully to be used later. Sales is an acting job, and a key talent of a successful politician. That’s why Ronald Reagan was so good at it. You must persuade people with values that are alien to you that your way deserves their support. It is not either enough or even necessary to have the moral high ground. Sales is how Republicans get working class voters to vote against their best economic interests. You must believe your arguments while you are presenting them, even if you know they are nonsense, or if they don’t really reflect your reasoning.

To see how this works, consider the issue of universal healthcare. Hillary Clinton tried to get universal healthcare back in 1993, but she thought selling it meant listening to arguments from all sides, and then crafting a program that helps everyone. It’s impossible, because you can not avoid harming insurance companies when you take them out of the healthcare game. Bernie Sanders tried to sell universal healthcare as a moral imperative, but we have just had conclusive proof that, for enough voters in key states, elections are not about morality. Elections are about “What’s in it for me?”, and too many voters vote defensively to avoid helping someone who might be in competition with them for services and benefits.

Despite this, I am not saying that we should give up hope of ever seeing universal healthcare in the United States. I am saying that we need a better way of selling it to voters. We should be making the capitalist argument for it. There really is one. Universal healthcare is a major job creator, and it can help to prevent jobs from being outsourced to other countries. Under our present, broken system, we have given twenty million new people health insurance they can not afford to use. Getting sick means spending money you needed for other things on getting treatment instead. That means getting sick is a major drain on consumer spending, Universal healthcare would mean you never have to divert funds for getting better, so it all goes to consumer spending. That increases demand, and that is where jobs really come from. Universal healthcare also means keeping jobs here in America. Under our current system, American companies operate at a major competitive disadvantage. Having an American workforce means you are penalized with huge health benefit expenses. Yes, you can pay much lower wages to workers in China and Mexico, but the healthcare costs really seal the deal and make it worth the expense of moving jobs to other countries.

That’s the pitch, but we also need someone with the right personality to make it. Hillary Clinton proved that the right contacts and the best fundraising machine is not enough to get it done. We need someone who thrives on working large crowds, but can also score points in a televised debate. We need a bulldog who will not leave any criticisms unanswered, but will rapidly respond without seeming mean. Clinton’s basket of deplorables remark was terrible from the point of view of making the sale, as was Mitt Romney’s 47%, because you must never insult a potential customer. It doesn’t matter if you think you are at a private function, because everything you do when you run for president is public. I don’t know who the right person is for this, but we have four years to find them. In 2020, this person will have the facts on their side, but the facts will never be as important as the pitch.

In closing, I don’t usually include music with my posts, but this really needs to be here:

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