By Robert J. Garrison
First let me say this, I don’t plan on voting for either Trump or Clinton in November. I believe that they are both horrible choices and I refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils. It is from this perspective that I will be offering my analysis of this past Wednesday’s Commander in chief forum.
All the pundits thought Trump gave the worse performance ever, yet numerous polls show that Donald Trump won the Commander-in-Chief handily. How did Trump win it? He gave no detailed plans or answers to the questions brought to him. Yet Secretary Clinton gave detailed answers, so much so that the moderator, Matt Lauer, had to reign her in to move on to other questions.
Their answers can be analyzed in how the candidates connected with voters. It’s the age-old debate of the battle over the heart and minds of people. However what if a candidate can only win over just one – the heart or mind? Which one would deliver the election? Which one would connect with more people? We have a sort of field study going on right now in the presidential race that could give us insights as to which candidate is the desired choice and which candidate may win this election.
Hillary – The Mind
Secretary Clinton connects with the voters by giving well detailed and thought-out plans and ideas. It is easy to see why she leads among voters with higher levels of education. They want to hear well thought-out and details plans to deal with domestic and foreign issues. It is also why Clinton is so well liked by pundits. Her experience allows her to give those kinds of answers that appeals to what psychologists call slow thinking.
In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman explores the process of how one makes judgements and decisions. Kahneman theorizes in his book that humans have two systems of thinking:
Fast thinking (System 1) is unconscious, emotional, instinctive. Slow thinking (System 2) is conscious, deliberative, and mostly rational.
System 2 requires a lot of energy and focus; thus, one must have the time and discipline to do this kind of thinking. This is why Clinton connects with higher education voters and pundits but can’t seem to connect with those during fast pace venues like debates or rallies. While being logical and well thought out works well among higher educated voters and pundits, an article in the Washington Post shows that it may not transfer to the ballot box.
The article shows that Secretary Clinton may have to try to connect with the voters emotionally like Trump. For example, she tried to pivot away from System 2 type thinking that involves logic, reason, and well thought-out details and use System 1 of connecting emotionally with the audience during the forum. However it didn’t go over well at all.
One veteran asked Clinton what she would do to improve the services at the Veteran Administration (VA) while criticizing Clinton’s previous statements on how the VA scandal was over blown. Clinton went on to defend herself by stating that later on she agreed that there were problems at the VA. In addition, she answered the question by saying she would have weekly meetings and make it a top priority in her administration. This attempt to connect with the voter by showing empathy and concern came off as a BS political answer.
Trust me! A meeting in Washington D.C. does nothing but give those attending a free meal and the appearance of doing something without doing anything!
Then it appeared that she totally short circuited when the topic of the Iran nuke deal came up. Her answers went against her typical approach of a logical, detailed, and well thought-out positions. Not only did it go against her typical approach of tapping into system 2 thinking, she tried to combine it with system 1 thinking by appealing to the audience and viewer’s emotions.
Later in the forum, her answer on how to deal with ISIS was very troubling. She stated that she would “never” send in ground troops to defeat ISIS. First, as a leader one should never telegraph to the enemy what she would do and not do, ever! Now ISIS knows that the US will not go to any lengths to defeat them, if Clinton is elected. This is an answer you would expect from an inexperienced person like Trump.
But, the most troubling answer was Clinton’s answer about the Iran nuke deal. She defended the deal between Iran and six other countries to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons for 10 years. Clinton argued how a distrust-but-verify approach to Iran worked,
That agreement put a lid on their nuclear weapons program and imposed intrusive inspections.
Furthermore, she is not worried about Iran following the nuclear aspect of the deal because of intrusive inspections. These inspections are so “intrusive” that they have to be announced days in advance and agreed to by the Iranian government. Wow! That is so intrusive. However, she has concerns on whether they would follow the ballistic missiles and not funding terrorism parts of the deal, which can be verified without intrusive inspections. Clinton should be worried since Iran is not abiding by the agreement on those two key areas and hasn’t since the deal was agreed to.
My question is this. If Iran is not abiding to the deal on these two areas, what makes her think that Iran would abide the nuclear aspect of the deal?!?!?!?
Donald – The Heart
Donald Trump can connect with voters during debates and rallies because these type of venues appeal to ones emotions (System 1 thinking). How does he do this in a fast pace venue such as a debate or rally? He does it by first speaking in simple sentences. He rarely bogs down any of his speeches with details or complexities about the issues. However, Trump did do a better job than Clinton at connecting with voters using both Systems of thinking. Two areas where Trump connected with those using System 1 thinking but also to those using System 2 thinking when speaking about the topics of ISIS and Russia.
Trump went on to defend his position of not detailing exactly what he would do when it came to ISIS. Trump’s refusal to telegraph his strategy against ISIS is an experienced answer, something that Hillary failed to do earlier in the forum. While this was a logical and rational answer he very quickly went on to cloak it with a very powerful emotional picture of the horrible things that ISIS does to its victims. Trump’s demeanor when it comes to ISIS clearly shows that he will do whatever is necessary to defeat them – once again something that Clinton fails to show.
The topic of Russia and Putin came up. Trump’s position on dealing with Russia was similar to Reagan’s approach – negotiate from a position of strength. Putin does not respect Obama nor does he see America as a threat to Russia. We see this being played out with Russian jets doing maneuvers around our planes and ships, Russia’s saber-rattling in the Ukraine, and Russia taking charge of the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Trump’s admiration for Russia’s president shouldn’t be any surprise to anyone. Trump has always desired to be seen as a strongman, just like Putin is. Trump throughout the GOP primaries has carefully crafted himself as being the strongman that America needs to become great again.
If I had to pick which candidate appeared to give the best performance I would have to say that Hillary provided more detailed plans appealing to voters using System 2 thinking. However, she did a horrible job at trying to connect with voters using System 1 thinking.
An example of this would be how Hillary always stood to address a questioner. This was an attempt to try to connect with the voters and it came off as aggressive and awkward when she had to turn around and sit back down or address Matt Lauer, which was an epic fail on Clinton’s part to try to connect with the voters.
By contrast, Trump did a good job connecting with those using System 1 thinking but did a horrible job providing details, thus not connecting with those using System 2 thinking.
Example of this would be the question about suicides among veterans. The questioner said 20 veterans commit suicide each day. Trump exclaimed that it was actually 22 (this is an old estimation, newer estimates say 20 veterans commit suicide each day). The questioner made a face that appeared to show a disagreement with Trump’s statement of 22. Trump picked up on that and moments later changed it to 20 to 22 suicides per day.
So as we can see candidates need both Heart (System 1 thinking) and Mind (System 2 thinking) if they want to win this election. The person that can better pivot between the two or utilize both will not only win the hearts and minds of the people but the President of the United States.
Robert J. Garrison is a political and religious writer for The Systems Scientist. You can connect with him directly in the comments section, follow him on Twitter or on Facebook, or catch up on his articles in the Archives.
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