Patrick Skarr, Vice President
The last Republican debate had fewer voices, but was nonetheless filled with jabs, interpolations, and rebuttals. There has been plenty of commentary about whether or not voters should base their decisions on who performs best in these reality TV contests. However, this critique appears to be an attempt to change the narrative about how poorly some candidates are performing in this medium by their loyal spinsters.
In both the Democrat and Republican nominating contests there is a battle between establishment and populist candidates. According to the experts, we were supposed to be witnessing the epic battle of the dynasties of the Bushes and Clintons. In reality, populists Sanders, Trump, Cruz, et al have taken the top spot away from the clutches of Washington’s most powerful houses.
Is there that large a chasm between the policies the establishment espouses, or were these “disruptive” candidates better able to communicate and resonate with an electorate uneasy about their future, security and communities?
Too often on the debate stage and throughout this election cycle, otherwise savvy, articulate and proven leaders, stumble through answers with the most obscure and convoluted messages. They use pretentious phrases such as, “the free enterprise system,” when they really want to say they will stand up for small business owners. While the free enterprise system is alive and well, its use as a compelling talking point ended in the Coolidge administration.
My colleague Andrew recently wrote about how Trump’s use of plain and forceful rhetoric is inexplicably propelling the candidate in an industry where correctness and moderation are supposed to prevail. To say your plan is to first “secure the border,” sounds pretentious when compared to a declaration that someone is going to “to build a wall, a beautiful wall.”
The inherent imagery of the two arguments could not be starker.
Candidates that use the tired parlance of Capitol Hill committee hearings are struggling and will continue to falter. The Washington media complex has squeezed these overused talking points of any utility. It’s hard to distinguish yourself or invoke passion when all you’ve done is rearrange a familiar chorus.
Having the best policy idea doesn’t matter if you cannot communicate it to the public. While staying on message is laudable, using stale messages is pure laziness. However, there is plenty of time for candidates to escape the rhetorical crutches that are holding them back.
This entire cycle should reinforce to corporate communicators and executives that compelling messages matter. Releases and announcements full of jargon and industry idioms aren’t going to appeal or catch anyone’s attention or motivate them to your cause.
Make sure your communications are relevant. Don’t rely on past arguments, when more vivid ones exist.