Trump’s says he would temporarily ban Muslims from entering the US, and he would “quickly cut off the head of ISIS,” and he will build a wall along our southern border that Mexico will fund. All three claims are silly. But all three claims work.
The claims make little sense. What terrorist would be stupid enough to admit being Muslim if doing so denied him entry to the U.S.? If it were possible to quickly cut off the head of ISIS, why wouldn’t someone have done it? A big, beautiful wall along the entire 1954 mile border with Mexico is infeasible financially and impossible in practice and would be a waste of time. In the past five years, more people have moved to Mexico from the U.S. than have moved from Mexico to the U.S. According to TIME Magazine, the number of immigrants illegally entering the U.S. has declined over the last nine years. And, of course, Mexico would not pay for it.
But these same claims have propelled Trump to the front of the pack running for the Republican nomination. These claims work for Trump because of how he says them. With bluster and braggadocio, Trump shows people who feel afraid now how to feel the way they would like to feel—like winners. The Trump campaign does not deal in fact. It creates feelings. The campaign helps people who have felt like they have been losing feel like they can again come out on top.
The primary limitation of this advertising approach is that it is the same message to the same voters who are already on the Trump bandwagon. What about those voters who want to feel like they are making the smart choice? What about those voters who want to feel like they are backing a capable candidate that can to more than bluster and brag in fact-free rants?
Sooner or later, Trump will have to appeal to the majority of Republicans and, should he get the nomination, to the majority of Americans. That will take more than the same message to people already on the bandwagon.