brand storytelling, politics and culture — July 20, 2016 at 1:16 pm

Storytelling Smackdown: Trump vs. Bernie vs. Hillary


Whether you’ve been for Trump, Bernie or Hillary, there’s one thing we can agree upon: candidates succeed when they tell a story that is clear and simple.

Those who prevail present a coherent explanation of where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going. The story they tell makes sense to their supporters. It may or may not be empirically true, but it contains a logic that could very well be true. It’s a plausible hypothesis that resonates with how people feel.

And in so doing, it offers them direction, purpose, comfort and hope.

Trump Tells A Strong Simple Story

As noted by Ezra Klein in this brilliant video, Donald Trump has a clear ideology. He may appear to be an undisciplined and non-ideological entertainer, but within the noise is a coherent story.

It goes like this:

The reason you’re suffering is because America has become weak. We lack the backbone to take on adversaries, be they China, immigrants or protesters. The way forward is to become strong again—maybe even willing to use violence, in order to make America great again.

Bernie Tells A Strong Simple Story

Bernie Sanders also has a simple narrative.

Something like this:

The reason you’re suffering is because America is controlled by a rapacious class of billionaires who keep all the money to themselves. The way forward is to make those billionaires pay their fare share of taxes and limit their political influence so that the riches of the society can be more equitably distributed.

Hillary’s Story Is Harder To Grasp

In contrast to Trump and Bernie, Hillary Clinton doesn’t offer a clear narrative for her candidacy.

The best I can make of it is this:

America is doing fine, all things considered. The way forward is to effectively manage the improvements initiated by Obama, incrementally building upon the successes he’s achieved.

You might disagree with my synopsis, but that’s just the point. Hillary’s story, if she has one at all, appears to lack the sharp definition and consistency offered by her rivals.

Or perhaps it’s not a problem of logic, but rather one of accuracy. Her fundamental premise, that things are not that bad (“America never stopped being great”) isn’t in tune with how a great many in electorate feel today.

These may be the reasons why Hillary had such trouble fending off Bernie in the primaries and why she might have a hard time prevailing over Trump in the fall.

You Should Have A Good Story

To a certain extent, all of us are called upon to create a narrative not unlike those presented by political candidates.

Whether we’re presenting ourselves or our products or our company, we need to tell a story that is clear and simple and true.

Like it or not, in a market economy we’re all candidates of a sort, forever on the campaign stump, needing to efficiently articulate our worldview, values and ambitions.

We are, in short, the stories we tell.

Make sure it’s a good one.

We can help you tell a better story.  Learn about our storytelling seminars and workshops.

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