Guest Post by Ralph Benko- Friend of The Freedomist, Ralph Benko, wrote a provocative post-op analysis about the now de facto victory of Donald Trump in the GOP nomination race after the results of Indiana. In his post-op analysis, he reveals the central problem conservatives have in general in winning the public opinion debate They mistakenly believe that a good debate will win hearts and minds when, in reality, hearts and minds are won through emotions, which can only be reached through a good narrative. As Ralph says, “Arguments win arguments. Narratives win votes.”
Here is the article by Ralph Benko:
What happened in Indiana is not likely to stay in Indiana.
Presidential campaigns are a genre of nonfiction. Here is how Donald Trump beat Ted Cruz in Indiana and became the GOP nominee. To appropriate the words of editorial titan Sean Coyne, it was a Big Idea. Trump’s Big Idea: Make America Great Again! Doubling down, Trump declared in his recent first major foreign policy speech: Our goal is peace and prosperity, not war and destruction.
In contrast, Ted Cruz focused on what Coyne calls building blocks. He commandeered delegates, announced a VP appointment, criticized a Trump endorser, attempted to paint Trump as a member of the elite, and so forth.
I’ve often praised Cruz for offering the best equitable prosperity platform among the candidates. I’ve chided him for turning that winning hand into a footnote. Since prosperity (along with peace) is the key issue in presidential politics submerging it was a mistake.
As the New York Post’s John Crudele recently observed, Americans haven’t gotten a raise in 16 years. Transforming that stagnation into working family prosperity, coupled with a “tough dove” defense and foreign policy, is the pivot on which this election should rest.
Going to the homepage of the Cruz campaign website, we are invited to “join the movement of courageous conservatives.” To get to “Jobs and Opportunity,” one of seven issues featured by Cruz, one must click on “Issues” and scroll through to the second-to-last item of a drop down menu.
Trump’s campaign website delivers us directly to a home page proclaiming Make AMERICA Great Again! Trump’s positions are collected under “Positions,” a more assertive category than Cruz’s “Issues.” Three of Trump’s seven positions are economic. They include repeal of Obamacare, which is missing from Cruz’s.
Big Ideas trump building blocks.
One hopes that Donald Trump will adopt Cruz’s economic policy agenda wholesale. Cruz’s ideas – from a flat tax to the gold standard — are fully consistent with Trump’s own leanings. Even better, in fact, than Trump’s first draft platform.
And note to the Democrats. Not at all dissimilar policies, such as cutting the capital gains tax rate and the Fed’s “Great Moderation,” under President Bill Clinton, led to sizzling economic growth, job creation, upward mobility, and federal budget surpluses. One hopes Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, will adopt President Clinton’s economic policies, or at least philosophy, wholesale.
Both candidates so doing (Trump adopts Cruz and Clinton adopts Clinton) would offer America a presidential competition driven by who can grow the economy fastest and fairest of-them-all. That is a competition that American working families deserve.
How to win? The two most important technical elements of any presidential campaign are its governing narrative and its projection of that narrative to the voters.
Trump formulated, and relentlessly projected, Make America Great Again!
As my colleague Maggie Gallagher wrote some weeks ago in National Review:
But Cruz needs to do more to bring voters to his side than presenting himself as the race’s anti-Trump. He needs a message focused on what his election will do for America, not conservatives: trusted to create jobs, trusted to restrain government, trusted to tame the Federal Reserve that is ruining your family’s paycheck and opportunities.
Cruz did not see fit to listen to Maggie’s advice. Pity.
The greatest Master Wizard of narrative at work today might be cultural critic Shawn Coyne. I referenced Coyne before in a column in which I called the Trump campaign “politics noir.”
In a recent edition of Coyne’s indispensable blog, Story Grid, Coyne continues his explication of narrative. Coyne reverse engineers how Malcolm Gladwell constructed The Tipping Point into an improbably massive best seller. Coyne’s shrewd guidance equally is applicable to war … And to a presidential campaign:
Just before the Israeli military’s blitzkrieg offensive against the allied Arab nations massed at its borders in 1967, the word repeated over and over again on Air Force bases and on the sands of the Sinai was “Kavanah.”
Kavanah means grand intention. The Sabras were instructed to remember just one thing when the chaos of combat overwhelmed them. Remember the Kavanah.
For the pilots their global mission was to wipe out Arab airstrips while defending Israeli airspace. If they took care of the airstrips, defending the air space would be a hell of a lot easier….
Kavanahs are not Matarahs, which are building block objectives.
Kavanahs are the global intention.
So as we stand in Malcolm Gladwell’s shoes trying to deconstruct how he could have put his book together, we first need to remind ourselves…as often as necessary but at least at the beginning of each work session…[of] his Kavanah.
What’s that Big Idea again?
Napoleon Bonaparte once made a similar riveting point:
What a thing is imagination! Here are men who don’t know me, who have never seen me, but who only knew of me, and they are moved by my presence, they would do anything for me! And this same incident arises in all centuries and in all countries! Such is fanaticism! Yes, imagination rules the world. The defect of our modern institutions is that they do not speak to the imagination. By that alone can man be governed; without it he is but a brute.
How did Trump win Indiana, and with it, the GOP nomination? Trump shrewdly deployed the most powerful force in politics, narrative, an appeal to the popular imagination. As I wrote here:
Trump offers a great story. Cruz offers a great argument. Arguments win arguments. Narratives win votes. Trump throws the ultimate political curve ball: a compelling Narrative.
Conservatives love to win arguments. Lawyers live by winning arguments. Ted Cruz is a rock-ribbed conservative. And he’s a lawyer. Double whammy.
Originally published in Forbes. Used with permission.
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