RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT IN “DUMBED DOWN” AMERICA
There’s a fascinating article in The Boston Globe this week highlighting how the 2016 presidential candidates are communicating with American voters.
The takeaway? Simpler is better.
“The Globe reviewed the language used by 19 presidential candidates, Democrats and Republicans, in speeches announcing their campaigns for the 2016 presidential election,” reporter Matt Viser wrote. “The review, using a common algorithm called the Flesch-Kincaid readability test that crunches word choice and sentence structure and spits out grade-level rankings, produced some striking results.”
Among “Republican” candidates, the Globe review found that GOP frontrunner Donald Trump‘s announcement speech was simple enough to be understood by a fourth-grader. Meanwhile the announcement speech of former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore – who is barely registering as a blip on the national radar – required a tenth-grade education. Same with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee – another “Republican” whose 2016 bid is going nowhere.
Establishment GOP favorite Jeb Bush? His speech was on an eighth-grade level – roughly the same as Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
Ben Carson – the retired neurosurgeon currently running in second place in the GOP field – gave an announcement speech at a sixth-grade level.
(To read the Globe article in its entirety and see where your candidate of choice stacked up, click here).
Obviously no one is going to lose political points by simplifying their message so that it can be understood by a broader number of people. Thanks to an effective government monopoly on education, Americans are getting dumber by the day – and they’re also more distracted than ever.
In other words it’s smart to dumb down – and obviously no one is going to argue that Trump (a billionaire) and Carson (a brain surgeon) aren’t smart people.
Of course it’s important for simplicity to say something …
“Ten-word answers can kill you in political campaigns,” fictional president Jed Bartlet said to his GOP opponent during a presidential debate on The West Wing. “They’re the tip of the sword. Here’s my question: What are the next ten words of your answer? Your taxes are too high? So are mine. Give me the next ten words. How are we going to do it? Give me ten after that, I’ll drop out of the race right now.”
Bartlet, portrayed by actor Martin Sheen, later added America was “a country that’s way to big for ten words.”
We agree …
Of course we’re far more interested in a candidate’s numbers than we are in their words. As we’ve said repeatedly, no amount of rhetoric can substitute for a candidate having the right answers to the following three questions: 1) How much of the people’s money are you going to spend? 2) What are you going to spend it on? 3) Where are you going to collect it from?
Answers to those questions will tell a voter everything they need to know about a candidate for any office – at any level of government.
Bottom line? Voters should certainly listen to the words a candidate speaks … but it’s far more important to the future of their country that they be able to count.