How Hillary Wins Especially If Trump Picks Charlie Sheen as His Running Mate

The above video poses a reasonably serious analysis of Trump’s stability and personality disorders. It is a fair campaign issue. Discrediting Trump needs to a key chapter in Hillary’s playbook.

There are two strategic directions that lead Hillary Clinton down a path to victory. The first is the basic campaign function of not only defining yourself but defining your opponent. The second is demographics and the Electoral College strategy. This post will be concerned with how Hillary Clinton should define Donald Trump; what is a winning strategy here and how does Hillary incorporate Trump’s longtime personal and corporate brand into an unacceptable election brand. Next week I will take up the Electoral College and demographic issues that Hillary must exploit.

Hillary, of course, needs to work on her presentation of self as well as her image as someone who is untrustworthy and entitled. But progress on this front will be difficult and I would not spend that much time on it. Secretary Clinton has been around a long time and deep seeded images of her trustworthiness will be difficult to dislodge. The Republicans have been persistent and successful for decades at attacking her and simply letting the attacks do the damage and later walking away from the truth.

Secretary Clinton should spend most of her time not defining herself but defining Donald Trump. And the campaign must be channeling me because last week she initiated attacks on Trump that were perfectly timed, consistent with his negative narrative, believable, and resonant with the electorate. It might have been a pivotal week in the campaign where Hillary Clinton finally captured command of the news cycle as well as the discursive infrastructure necessary to make progress on combating Trump.

I have made the point a few times in previous blog posts, as well as in my everyday discussions with friends and colleagues, that Trump can legitimately be defined as “unstable” in the clinical sense of the term. His instability, and ensuing danger, should be the commanding narrative or “brand” that defines Trump. This strategy is defensible in numerous ways:

First, most of what Trump is arguing is nonsense (wall between the US and Mexico, banning Muslims, sending back immigrants, trade war with China) and completely implausible. Clinton should speak to these things directly by challenging them and pointing out that Trump is incompetent and lacking the legislative skills to enact any policies. This will continue to define Trump as incompetent and by pointing out the logical consequences (even if it is reductio ad absurdum) of his proposals. This strategy will not destabilize his base, but it should be more effective for the rational others and those who do not fit squarely into Trump’s demographics.

Second, Hillary has to walk the line between not falling into Trump’s discursive traps and allowing him to define the rules of discourse but also being tough and finding the right street language to characterize Trump and his policies. This is another way of saying “Hillary can’t bring a knife to a gunfight.” She has to control the negative messages as much as possible.

Third, the “instability” strategy must be the driving theme of her campaign. And this must go beyond name-calling into actually branding Trump as lacking the manners and presidential standing necessary for the job. Successfully characterizing Trump as unstable requires a certain amount of subtlety because if the message is too aggressive there will be a boomerang effect and the message will be rejected as too extreme or implausible.



About Donald Ellis

Professor Emeritus at the University of Hartford.

Posted on June 6, 2016, in Communication and Conflict Resolution. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on How Hillary Wins Especially If Trump Picks Charlie Sheen as His Running Mate.

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