Mastering the art of storytelling to drive change.

Biden must use Trump’s tactics to make clear he’s the obvious choice to lead America’s economic recovery — again

07 / 23 / 2020

The first congressional candidate I ever worked for would start off each fundraiser by saying to prospective donors:

“Y’know, my parents always taught me to never do two things: Brag about yourself or ask for money. Now I’m a candidate for office and I have to do both.”

It always got a laugh, because everyone knew it was true.  

Political candidates need to do more than just understand the needs and wants of the voters they’re courting; they also have to inspire confidence. They have to give us a sense that they’re going to be able to get stuff done. This requires some boasting. 

Donald Trump has run for office just once, but he understands this imperative better than any politician I’ve ever seen. 

Another thing candidates need to do is keep their message short and simple — and then repeat it over and over. 

Donald Trump has an even better grasp of this concept. He will repeat the exact same phrase two to three times within 20 seconds.

Trump may know on some level that he sounds like a sixth-grader with an acute case of OCD. But he doesn’t care, because he also knows that he’s tattooing his message onto your brain. He will not let you forget it. Whether it’s true or not, the more he says it, the more folks will believe it.  

Corporations don’t spend millions of dollars to run 30-second ads thousands of times for nothing. We remember their product because it’s been drilled into our heads.  

It’s time for Joe Biden to adopt these tactics and apply them to his one real area of vulnerability: The wretched state of our economy — and the question of who will do a better job of leading America’s recovery.  

When it comes to handling race relations and managing the COVID-10 crisis, Joe Biden is crushing Donald Trump. 

But when it comes to the economy, Trump holds a slight edge, mostly due to the story he keeps telling. Peter Hamby explained it best in Vanity Fair: 

“When Trump brags about the booming stock market as a proxy for the economy, the media talks about it too, even as they’re fact-checking him. The many nuanced and complicated storylines of the current downturn—reduced work hours, delayed rent payments, stay-at-home childcare, health care costs—will always play second fiddle to a mind-bending Trump sound bite, however dubious or misleading.”

The Vice President cannot let those poll numbers stand. And the only way to fight bullshit is to call it out and correct it. Concisely and repeatedly.  

Fortunately, the Veep has an actual track record on the economy — and it feeds right into the counterargument he should be making about Trump’s apocryphal claim of unilaterally “building the greatest economy in human history.” It’s time for Biden to expose this revisionist account and remind Americans of exactly what he did when the entire economy was falling off a cliff. 

Biden has already laid out detailed policy plans in his public speeches. Establishing that kind of gravitas is a requisite. But the details of his proposals won’t win him the voters he’s targeting. 

It’s time to boil it down. Make it baby, stupid simple. You can even include your “Build Back Better” tag. Then repeat it all again and again.  

Three main points the Vice President needs to make: 

  1. “Donald Trump’s claim of unilaterally building the greatest economy in history is silly mythology. It’s akin to his inheriting $400 million from Daddy then claiming he built a personal fortune as he plunged companies into bankruptcy. His claims are built on a house of cards. Don’t fall for ‘em — again.
  2. The verifiable truth is that the American economy was in free fall in  2008 and THE ACTIONS THAT WE TOOK launched an eight-year trend of economic recovery and massive job growth. The numbers are out there for all to see (provide stats). We gifted Trump this recovery and we just hoped he wouldn’t screw it up or create enormous deficits through giant tax breaks for the wrong folks.
  3. The second verifiable truth is that I was tasked by President Obama in 2009 to work with Congress and pass an $800 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. I then managed every penny of its implementation. I worked day and night to ensure we did it right in order to re-ignite our economy. We did it. And now we need to do it again — to BUILD BACK BETTER.


That’s the gist. Biden’s staff might want to cut it down by half. Then make him practice it until he’s reflexively regurgitating the exact words when he wakes up in the middle of the night. 

The 2020 presidential election won’t be decided by well-reasoned policy arguments. The winning margin will be a reflection of who voters want to be in charge during this terribly uncertain time. Who gives them confidence. 

Tell them what you did. Tell them you’ll do it again. Rinse. Repeat. Over and over.

The more tired Joe Biden becomes of saying it, the more voters will remember it when it’s time to decide.