What Elizabeth Warren has in common with Donald Trump

What Elizabeth Warren has in common with Donald Trump
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Four years ago, at this stage in the primary process, my research predicted Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE’s nomination and ultimate election, and yet most people thought his momentum was a phase. I see the same thing happening today for Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHuffPost reporter: Biden's VP shortlist doesn't suggest progressive economic policies Hillary Clinton labels Trump coronavirus executive actions a 'stunt' Michelle Obama, Sanders, Kasich to be featured on first night of Democratic convention: report MORE, and I predict she will get the nomination for four of the same reasons: She has the better message. She has the focus. She has the symbols. And she is telling the better story.

Both candidates have a simple message: They are running against a broken system — a system that is unfair and leaves too many behind. Trump was going to “drain the swamp” and fight for “the forgotten Americans.” He was going to “Make America Great Again” and restore the American Dream. Warren is in a battle for the middle class. She is fighting for an America that “works for all of us, not just the wealthy and well connected.” This fight gives her a platform to talk about what a system “that works for all of us” looks like. With this, she can inspire her supporters and give them hope.

And make no mistake: Her followers are inspired — just like Trump’s were before hers. That’s why they are waiting for 4-6 hours after a rally to get a selfie with her and hours to get in an arena for him.


Both candidates also have simple, repeatable policies that easily turn fans into missionaries. Even four years later, my guess is that you can rattle off what Trump’s policies were: immigration reform, tax reform, getting tough on China, creating jobs, and repealing Obamacare — Simple. Repeatable. Memorable.

Similarly, Warren doesn’t give us a convoluted laundry list of policies, she tells us what she is going to do for us. On her website she says, “Elizabeth has a lot of plans, but they’re really one simple plan: tackle the corruption in Washington that makes our government work for the wealthy and well-connected, but kicks dirt on everyone else.” She then focuses her talking points on what she will do: end corruption, rebuild the middle class, strengthen our democracy, restore equal justice, and build a foreign policy for all.

The key here is that she isn’t overwhelming us with details and wonkiness — though she has the ability. If she stays that course, her focus and discipline will pay off.

Third, both use the power of symbols and visual language. Trump wasn’t just going to get tough on immigration, he was going to build a wall. He didn’t just say his slogan was “Make America Great Again,” he made red hats and wore them everywhere. Did you ever imagine wearing a red hat was going to be a political statement?

Today, Warren is creating a symbol out of being a policy wonk. Yes, she has a million ideas, so she’s made a tag line out of that… “I’ve got a plan for that.”


And at her rallies, you will see tee shirts with just that phrase on it.

When Warren answers a question about how she will tackle a problem, she will start her response by saying, “I’ve got a plan for that.” It acknowledges a potential criticism with humor and authenticity while creating a positive emotion in potential voters. They want to feel that someone sees their problems and is going to make their lives better. Warren is telling them that person is her. Beyond that one example, it’s clear that she is acutely aware of the power of language. She isn’t running. She is, “starting a revolution.” She isn’t asking for your vote, she is asking you to, “join the fight.”

Visual language. And it works.

So, despite their differences, if Warren ends up facing off with Trump in 2020, it will be a very equal match. You don’t have to agree with either one of them to see that they both have a winning persuasion strategy. In fact, you can disagree with them entirely. But at least you know where they stand. And, if you disagree with both of them, follow the same formula and create a strategy that will make sure that your candidate wins in 2020.

Lee Hartley Carter is the President of maslansky + partners and the author of “Persuasion: Convincing Others When Facts Don’t Seem to Matter.” Follow her on Twitter @lh_carter