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I Explain the Persuasion President Trump is using on The Wall and DACA - Dilbert Blog

I Explain the Persuasion President Trump is using on The Wall and DACA

This is my first post using the WordPress platform. Consider this practice.

You might enjoy my Periscope playback from this morning in which I describe the several persuasion techniques President Trump is using on the topic of The Wall and DACA.

Here’s the quick summary.

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 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 strategy 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.

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 offer 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.

Thing 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 let the country 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.

Pacing and Leading: Pacing refers to matching your subject in some way, either physically, verbally, or in terms of philosophy. Candidate Trump paced (matched) his base on immigration until he got elected. Now the base trusts that he is philosophically aligned with them. So if he finds he can’t do all the things they demand, they are likely to let him lead to whatever is practical and doable simply because they trust him on the topic. People don’t expect a politician to be magic, or to do the impossible. But they do want politicians to “get” them and to care about them and to fight for what they want. President Trump paced his supporters by understanding their needs and fighting for them. That group is likely to trust him when he says some form of “This is the best we can do for now.”

High Ground Maneuver: The high ground maneuver involves taking an argument out of the weeds and up to a level where everyone agrees. In this case, the weeds include a discussion of how best to handle DACA folks. President Trump tweeted that some are military veterans. The military is the high ground in the U.S., and any reference to them is likely to be a high ground play. In other words, President Trump is committing to keeping them in this country. He just doesn’t want to say it until he gets what he is negotiating for.

Likewise, at some point soon President Trump will pivot from “the wall everywhere” to “effective border control.” Effective border control is the high ground. The details of how to do it are the weeds.


My new book, Win Bigly, is available for preorder. This blog post is a taste of the sort of things I teach you in the book, with a backdrop of my weird-and-wonderful story about predicting Trump’s election win.