In the worlds of marketing and politics, the most powerful weapon is word association. It works both ways. Associating a campaign with a positive word or phrase can build a rabid following; “hope and change” worked wonders for President Obama. Associating an opponent with a negative word or phrase can be even more devastating. Nobody knows this better than “Low Energy Jeb” or “Lyin’ Ted.”
It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. If the narrative can be sold, it can kill a campaign.
Donald Trump has chosen to go with “Crocked Hillary” and on the surface this seems like it falls in line with his other nicknames, but it doesn’t. It’s missing something very important: new messaging. Republicans believed that Hillary was crooked before Trump assigned her the moniker. Many Independents and even a good chunk of Democrats have known it for a while. Trump’s nickname for Hillary isn’t hurting her the way nicknames hurt Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, or the others who’ve fallen prey to Trump’s negative word association.
In essence, we already knew on the surface that she’s crooked. He didn’t introduce a new message.
There’s a word that would work wonders to take down Hillary. It’s ideal because it’s a word that hasn’t manifested very often throughout the campaign but when people hear it, they can make the connection in a way that cannot be disconnected.
The word to associate with Hillary Clinton that would doom her campaign is “entitled.”
Through the primaries, she’s held the air of someone who felt entitled to the nomination. The recent revelations from the Wikileaks email release verify that the DNC felt the same way about her.
Her campaign portrays her as entitled to the White House for the sake of history. They don’t come out and say it, but the subtle messaging they’re using is that she should win because she’s a woman, she has political experience, and she’s been there before. More importantly, they are painting Trump as the type of person who should not be entitled. He can use this against her.
She acted like she was entitled to not be “flat broke” when they left the White House in 2001. The way she treats the media exudes a sense of entitlement; they only get to talk to her when she deems it. Even her famous speaking fees put on display a level of entitlement. After all, she’s Hillary Clinton. She’s entitled to every penny she earns when talking to room full of Wall Street bankers.
It wouldn’t be hard to get voters from any party to associate her with feeling a sense of entitlement. Trump doesn’t have to call her “Entitled Hillary” to make it happen. He simply needs to talk about it and make sure his surrogates are placing the proper level of emphasis on using “entitled” or “entitlement” when discussing her.
If there’s one thing that can draw the universal ire of the electorate, it’s when a candidate seems to think he or she is better than everyone else. By getting the world to see her as entitled, it’ll be much harder for voters to mark her name on election day.
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