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February 10, 2016

How to Win the White House and Save the World: Don't Talk of Reagan. Talk Like Reagan.

I've been reading some of Reagan's old speeches to confirm something to myself. At the Trump-less debate, Rand Paul finished his closing statement by saying something like, "And I'm the only Republican who'll balance the budget."

This provoked a reaction from me, because I thought -- would Reagan have just made the promise that he would balance the budget? In a closing statement, in which he could chose his own words as he liked?

Looking back at Reagan's speeches, I don't see him just promising some government action. I see him promising a government action and then immediately telling you how this will directly and tangibly benefit you.

He didn't leave you to wonder how cutting taxes might help you. He would say something elegant and magical like, "Just as free speech encourages good journalism, so do low tax rates and low regularity burdens on the farmer or businessman produce prosperity."

By the way, that's another thing Trump gets right, though he says it crudely. When did Republicans stop talking about prosperity, like it's the dirty thing the Democrats say it is? Trump gets a lot wrong -- a lot -- but he does keep telling people, "We're gonna get rich."

I hear a lot of people talking about "getting the economy back on track." What the hell does that mean? The economy is an abstraction. Money in your pocket, that's tangible. That's real. And "prosperity" is an elegant, wonderful word to describe having money and getting rich.

So I have to say, for those not understanding what other people hear in Trump's (admittedly) poorly thought out and boastful words, those are two key things people are hearing: I'm on your side, I understand your pain.

And: I'll make you rich.

Why aren't other people talking about this more?

No one should talk about reducing regulatory burdens ever again without then completing the thought and saying, "Allowing our businessmen to make things, and our farmer to grow things, without spending so much time keeping the federal government fat and happy with make-work, makes them richer, makes more products on the shelves at lower prices, and makes you richer, too."

Reagan was a teacher. He didn't just talk about policy preferences or ideology. In simple (and yet gorgeously elegant) language, he explained how each of his policies would do one of the following:

* This will make you freer.

* This will make you safer.

* This will make you richer.

* This will make you happier.

* This will make a better world for your children.

So often I hear candidates lapse into Conserva-Speak where they trouble themselves over points of policy, shorthanding years or decades of conservative ideological infighting on the issue.

But they do not end their statement with:


* This will make you freer.

* This will make you safer.

* This will make you richer.

* This will make you happier.

* This will make a better world for your children.

There is a principle called the 80/20 principle. You surely know it: 20% of the work produces 80% of the gains. But the next 80% of the work only produces the last 20% of the gains.

Trump is being taken seriously because he's not forgetting the most important thing: to tell people


* This will make you freer.

* This will make you safer.

* This will make you richer.

* This will make you happier.

* This will make a better world for your children.

That's 20% of politics. He doesn't do the 80%, the hard thinking about policy, the homework, because he's a little lazy.

Yet his 20% is producing that magical 80% of the benefits, whereas many other candidates are focusing on the 80% that only gets you the 20%.

Everyone can beat Trump.

They just have to re-read Reagan, look at those beautiful words, each so simple but so perfect, and how, after every single policy proposal, Reagan explained to you:


* This will make you freer.

* This will make you safer.

* This will make you richer.

* This will make you happier.

* This will make a better world for your children.

Trump is doing the 20% and getting the 80% because he can't really do more than that 20%. That's really all he has.

But other candidates, who know the whole 100%, are getting bogged down in the 80% that gets you the 20%.

Anyone can beat Trump.

All it takes is speaking like Reagan.

And, more importantly, thinking like Reagan. You read those speeches and you understand that Reagan had not just written pretty words; he had done his thinking with his pen, for decades, working out exactly what he believed by picking out words until he figured out the words that actually excited him.

Now he took decades to do that. But if you want a quick crib sheet: Just rip him off relentlessly.

He wouldn't mind.

PS: If a candidate doesn't know how a policy will bring about the tangible goods I'm talking about, then he should do as Reagan did -- sit down with a pen and paper until you can figure out how this policy works in people's favor.

If you can't figure that out, maybe don't mention it much as a policy, or drop it altogether.



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posted by Ace at 07:45 PM

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