Posted by: George | July 28, 2016

Hey Hillary, stop doing dumb sh*t, Part One

Let me begin with full disclosure. I am—and continue to be—a Bernie Sanders supporter, but I will vote for Hillary.

While I am a Sanders supporter, I have also been sort of a Hillary supporter since around 1992, when Bill was first running for president. At that time, I read a long article in the New York Review of Books about her work with legislation and legal reform to improve the lives of children. I was impressed. Why am I “sort of” a supporter if I was so impressed and continue to be impressed with Hillary’s accomplishments. Because, about the time I read the article, she also made a dumb statement about not wanting to stay home and make cookies. What do people remember? All her accomplishments? Or, the cookie statement? The cookie statement, of course.

And here, in this brief memory, we might have the entire election in a single anecdote. I agree that Hillary may be the most qualified person to be president—ever—as Obama said in his speech before the DNC. But people will not remember this if she keeps doing dumb sh*t.

What I hope to cover in this post—the first in a series, which is why I said “Part One” in the title, because I think the dumb sh*t will keep coming—is to provide feedback on how the Clinton campaign is doing. I want her to win. Even more, I want Trump to lose. I already released a post of my advice for how she could win (June 13, 2016), and I hope that this series will offer additional advice.

So, with Part One, I want to comment on the television ad that the Clinton campaign is currently running. The ad, in short, shows a series of Trump quotes out of context. The go “f*ck yourself” comment is one of them. Trump’s comments are played on television with cutaways to the faces of children, eyes glued to the tube. The screen goes dark, and then two captions appear in sequence. First: “Our children are watching.” Then: “What example will we set for them?” After the captions, Hillary comes on and says, “Our children and grandchildren will look back at this time, at the choices we are about to make, the goals that we will strive for, and the principles we will live by, and we need to make sure that they can be proud of us.”

The ad is effective in the way that it strips the context from Trump statements and inserts them into a new context. As I advised in that earlier post, Trump’s more outrageous comments often fail to register as inappropriate because they occur within the context of his stump speeches, which are basically structured like a standup comedy routine. The humor (say what you will, but Trump is entertaining) makes the comments seem more acceptable, less worthy of reflection. The Clinton ad strips that context and places the comments in a new context, as being viewed by young children. Viewers are forced to reinterpret the comments. Now, we think about how these comments are affecting our children. This is good. This is smart.

The second half of the ad is also effective in the sense that Hillary is speaking about core American values. In that same earlier post, I said this is what Hillary needs to do. In the clip featured in this ad, she is pitch perfect. She is speaking in just the right voice—the right stylistic register, the right tone, the right volume. She seems genuine and authentic. She is not trying to be forceful and project her voice, which makes her sound phony, which she does way too often.

So, what’s the dumb sh*t?

She put both of these things in the same ad. They should be separated. Hate to keep saying, “I told you so,” but this was also covered in that earlier post. I am sure that Hillary, or her people, wanted to create a stark contrast. However, that is not how the brain processes visual images. The ad wants to say, with a contrast in the words, separated by the blank screen with captions, that Hillary is not like Trump. Hillary is presidential. Trump is not. A is not B.

The mind, however, processes visual images that appear in close proximity with a different kind of logic. A is B. Trump is like Hillary. Neither one of them should be trusted.

I have two other concerns with the ad.

One is the timing, or what rhetoricians like to call Kairos, giving the right message at the right time. These Trump quotes are still fresh in most people’s mind. I think the first part of the ad would be more effective later in the campaign, close to the election, when people have forgotten the quotes, when their short-lived effect will last long enough to carry into the voting booth.

My other concern is that the ad is being run too frequently. Hillary will, by all accounts, have an enormous advantage in campaign funds. The downside to this is that she can afford to keep running ads until people tire of them, start to become annoyed with them, and then resent them. I am already tired of this ad.

More to come, I am sure.



  1. Great post, Dr. Jensen. On your last point, you would think people could learn these things simply by talking to…anyone or watch any hour long program on Hulu. The ads are repetitive and after awhile it’s more than obvious why Netflix is the streaming king.

    I’ve often wondered why these advertisers with their huge budgets don’t simply hire a number of poor YouTube stars or film school grads to make a lot of lower budget ads. Maybe even the same ad with different interpretations. It would at least make things more interesting and may even save them the blowback from repeat viewing of the same 30 second spot.


    • Good point James. I think streaming is another change in technology that might change how campaigns are run. Ultimately, in a world dominated by social networking, are ads on traditional media (television, radio, newspapers) going to have much effect?


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