STICKS AND STONES Names in the Political Arena

With the first presidential debate in just a few days, we are on the edge of our seats fully expecting Donald Trump to continue to leverage the power of names and labels that has propelled him to this moment. 

While Hillary is the skilled debater, Trump is the master of language. He is unrivaled in his ability to translate complex problems into simple one-word solutions.  Walls prevent crime. Tariffs create jobs. Bans provide security.

By definition, winning involves beating opponents and Trump’s true genius in winning is name calling - a competitive tactic that works from the school yard to the political arena. Trump labels his opponents with names so withering, so derisive, so spot-on they are dumbstruck. His opponents cannot frame an argument or command respect because their every utterance is viewed through a Trump lens. “Lying Ted,” “Bleeding Megyn,” “Little Marco,” “Ugly Carly,” “Low-Energy Jeb,” “Crooked Hillary," have been branded with a scarlet “T.”

Donald Trump is winning with name calling and he can be beaten with name calling. To that end, we present our nominee for best Trump nick-name:

“Miss. Trump.”

Like any great name, “Miss. Trump” works on two levels, logical and emotional.

Rationally, it is a name with which one can build a compelling narrative.  A narrative that though rich in facts and rooted in truth can still be made comprehensible, palatable and memorable.

Donald Trump is not stupid but he is misinformed. An opponent can select any issue and summarily pick apart Trump’s position or policy because his reasoning is so demonstrably without merit in fact. Even when the arguments become subtle and complex he will be “Misinformed Miss. Trump” by the end of the story.

Donald Trump is not a bigot but he is misguided.  Anybody should be able decimate his candidacy based on his antiquated views.  “Misguided Miss. Trump.” 

His inexperience in world affairs will cause him to misstep.

He’s been divorced twice, won’t release his tax returns, is sued all the time, fails to pay his debts, hmmm, The Donald must be mischievous.

He doesn’t mean all that he says, he just misspeaks.

A vote for Trump is a mistake.

He doesn’t lie but he does mislead.  “Misleading Miss. Trump.”

You get the picture.

Emotionally, “Miss. Trump” challenges his self-aggrandized image of masculinity and virility. It undercuts the dominant attribute of his appeal; I am a powerful, successful, swaggering man-among-men able to do all, protect all, fix all. It is at once playful because it is delivered with tongue firmly in cheek and powerful because it questions the very essence that he so relentlessly promotes.

The label is the easy part, delivery less so.  Communicating this narrative will be an exercise in balance and nuance.  There is an underlying sexism in the name itself to start. But tone and backstory tempered with a little tolerance can address this. Over use risks the idea becoming a cute joke undermining its power.  But well-balanced and well-placed name calling can be the perfect lexical foil to a candidate who so powerfully harnesses the power of names.