Tucker Carlson recently interviewed cartoonist Scott Adams about the fallout from Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian officials, and Adams made the case that this whole debacle was actually good for Trump: It demonstrated his gifts as a “master persuader” that none of his political opponents can match.
Scott Adams is, of course, artist responsible for the long-running “Dilbert” comic strip. It’s been delightfully skewering the soul-crushing oppression of office cubicle life for decades.
“Dilbert” is the story of an engineer in a technology firm run by an incompetent boss and filled with sociopathic coworkers. It’s one of the most popular newspaper comic strips since its debut nearly thirty years ago.
While cartoonists don’t usually have reputations for incisive punditry – did Charles Schulz do Cold War commentary? – but Adams is a notable exception.
Since the early days of the 2016 campaign, before the primaries, Adams has been running Trump’s efforts through what he calls his “master persuasion filter.” The theory is that Trump speaks and acts in ways that are genuinely persuasive and change minds. The reality that he plays fast and loose with the facts is almost irrelevant.
According to Adams, we all like to think that we make all our decisions based on rationality and reason, but the empirical data suggests otherwise. We vote with our guts, not our brains, and Trump knows exactly how to bypass the brain and cut straight to the gut.
Adams said he observed this in Trump’s “linguistic kill shot” taking out Jeb Bush. When Trump started calling Bush “low energy,” he created a sticky association with an image that made Bush unappealing to voters. From that point forward, whenever Bush said or did anything that appeared to be low energy, it fed into a confirmation bias that Trump was right.
This was not necessarily a conscious or rational decision on the part of voters, but this one kill shot was enough to sink Bush’s chances, despite millions of dollars of advertising that didn’t do Jeb any good.
Further, all of the postmortems of the Hillary Clinton campaign were what Adams predicted without the benefit of hindsight. Hillary didn’t stand for anything. And it wasn’t just that Hillary didn’t stand for anything: She couldn’t make people feel like she stood for something.
What either candidate stood for was largely irrelevant. It was how they made you feel that mattered. And Trump had a visceral feel that appeal to many voters. The feeling from Hillary, by contrast, was viscerally repulsive, whether or not you liked her ideas.