Why AOC Will Be President
By Nico Candido
Have you noticed that the media on both sides of the political spectrum cannot seem to stop talking about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC)? Have you noticed that the national conversation has been shifted towards climate change and discussions of the Green New Deal? Have you noticed that AOC seems to inspire irrational hatred in those that oppose her without clear justification? I believe this is all evidence of AOC’s persuasive talents. And I predict that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will win the United States presidency by using Donald Trump’s playbook of persuasion.
I recognize that many people reading this article do not like Trump; however, you can hate a politician’s character and policies while recognizing that they have a talent for persuasion. From the beginning of the 2016 campaign, I predicted that Donald Trump would win the presidency. I was so confident in this prediction that I bet all of the money I owned at the time on it. Why was I so confident that Donald Trump would win? Because I recognized his extraordinary talent for persuasion, and I see the same talent in AOC.
Donald Trump proposes extreme policies that are impractical; he does this because practical solutions are often not very persuasive. Do you remember when Donald Trump announced his campaign for presidency by proposing to build a wall on the entirety of the southern border? An actual wall on the entirety of the border. Now, do you remember when Jeb Bush boldly launched his campaign by announcing the groundbreaking policies of marginal tax reduction for the middle class? You probably don’t, because almost no one does. This is because bold and extreme policies garner much more attention than moderate, reasonable ones. You could say we remember Trump’s policies because he won and Bush did not. However, I am pretty sure that even if Donald Trump had lost the election, we would not have forgotten about his brazen proposals as they attracted so much attention from the media and general public.
Apart from the media attention that they garner, extreme policies establish a candidate as being the strongest advocate on an issue. Most people in America are not well informed about politics, so it did not matter that a wall is not the most efficient or effective solution to illegal immigration. What many voters remember is that Trump took the strongest stance against illegal immigration with the most extreme policies. And almost everyone wants a strong leader that represents their interests.
Why is this important? Because AOC is doing the exact same thing. AOC has branded herself as the face of the Green New Deal. I predict most people reading this favor the Green New Deal over a border wall. But, just as you can recognize a politician you don’t like is persuasive, you can recognize that a policy you do like is not 100% practical, especially in a Republican dominated senate. The Green New Deal aims to go “carbon-neutral” in 10 years and targets “a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.” This is impractical because it would require a radical shift in American capitalism over a very short period of time. It is also impractical because it would require Republicans in the senate to vote in favor of an extremely liberal policy. Even Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House majority leader, admitted that the bill had almost no chance of getting passed, dismissing it as “the green dream” due to its improbability.
So…if AOC cannot get her Green New Deal passed, what function does it serve? It gets the attention of the media and the general public. Can you think of another member of congress whose name is in the news more than AOC? I have seen AOC’s name more times on CNN, MSNBC, and even FOX than any other congressman or woman. Just like Trump, people cannot seem to stop talking about her. Is this a coincidence, or is this because she knows better than almost anyone how to get the attention of the media? Just like Trump.
Additionally, the Green New Deal firmly establishes AOC in the minds of voters as the strongest advocate against climate change because she advocates for the most extreme policies. Remember, if you are reading this, you are likely more informed than the average American. While you may be able to recognize that AOC’s policies are not practical, this does not mean they are not persuasive as she is attempting to appeal to a larger audience. To many voters, it does not matter that AOC’s policy proposals are impractical. If a voter is concerned about climate change, the key thing that sticks in their mind is that AOC is their strongest advocate, with the strongest policies to fight it.
Of course, AOC’s policy proposals are only a small part of why she has so much potential; it is the way she defends her policies that show how persuasive she truly is.
In his national bestseller Influence—recognized by marketers and social scientists around the world as one of the most important and influential books on persuasion—Robert Cialdini writes about the baffling power of the “social proof” and “authority” techniques of persuasion. Through numerous scientific studies, he asserts the claim that people find the endorsements of experts (authority figures) or the perception of popularity to be more persuasive than logic and facts. One common example is advertisements in which celebrities endorse products. It should make no difference to you if LeBron drinks Sprite. It does not change its flavor or its nutritional facts. You even know that LeBron is only endorsing Sprite in commercials because he is paid to do so. And yet…Sprite still pays LeBron obscene sums of money to do these advertisements because—even with the conscious knowledge that these ads to not change the product—people are still persuaded by such endorsements.
Now, look at how AOC defends the Green New Deal when attacked. In response to criticism about the impracticality of the Green New Deal, AOC writes on twitter:
“‘The Green New Deal agenda is both feasible and affordable.’ -Jeffrey Sachs / As conservatives wag their fingers and call me dim on econ, a flood of economists have been verifying the #GreenNewDeal’s sound policy credentials.”
Do you notice something interesting about how AOC responds? She doesn’t lay out a logical argument with facts about how she will accomplish her goals to argue. She uses authority and social proof to persuade. AOC speaks of “a flood of economists” who support the Green New Deal. In writing this article, I did extensive research on the Green New Deal; I have yet to hear of a “flood of economists” that endorse it. Why? Most likely because they do not exist (if you find evidence to the contrary please contact me. I did extensive research on this topic but I am only human).
But here’s the thing: it does not matter. Because most of America is not taking it upon themselves to do in depth research into the intellectual works of economists, they are persuaded by the “social proof” put forth by AOC. It does not matter how intelligent you are; principles of persuasion are universally effective, as observed by Robert Cialdini, and social proof combined with the opinions of experts are lethally persuasive, even if they are not factually accurate. Just as LeBron’s endorsement of Sprite is persuasive even when you know it is only motivated by a financial incentive. People who are concerned with their children growing up breathing clean air in a safe climate are offered a vision of a safe future for their children endorsed by top economists as feasible. That is good persuasion.
If you’re still not convinced, take a look at how Trump responds to similar criticism. In the Republican primaries, Donald Trump put forth a tax plan that was simply impractical. He promised to cut taxes significantly without increasing the national deficit. But his numbers didn’t add up. Trump’s policy proposal sounded nice (everyone wants lower taxes with no consequences), but was not possible. When a moderator called him out on this during one of the Republican debates, did he respond with logic and facts to explain how he would accomplish such a seemingly impossible task? No. He responded with social proof: “Then you would have to get rid of Larry Kudlow who sits on [CNBC’s] panel, who’s a great guy, who came out the other day and said ‘I love Trump’s tax plan.'”
Trump reframed the issue to avoid talking about the knitty gritty facts of his policies that did not favor him and instead used persuasion. Now, I can sense a lot of you thinking to yourselves: that’s not persuasive! I’m guessing many of you thought AOC’s response was better, right? Well, Donald Trump’s persuasion was good enough to win him the presidency. So, if you think that, just imagine what AOC is capable of doing!
In addition to defending her own policies, AOC is excellent at attacking her detractors. She frames “moderate” policies in a negative light while framing her own policies as bold, ambitious, and visionary, saying at a rally:
“Moderate is not a stance. It’s just an attitude towards life of, like, ‘meh.’ We’ve become so cynical, that we view ‘meh,’ or ‘eh’—we view cynicism as an intellectually superior attitude, and we view ambition as youthful naivete when we think about the greatest things we have ever accomplished as a society have been ambitious acts of visions.”
This quote demonstrates effective persuasion because it primes the public to view moderate policies as a cynical resignation rather than a sturdy, logical approach, capitalizing on a psychological phenomenon known as “confirmation bias.”
Cartoonist and political pundit Scott Adams writes and speaks extensively on the power of “confirmation bias.” He asserts that when the public has been primed to look for something, they begin to see it frequently, even when it is not there. This phenomenon has been documented in numerous studies on group psychology, as noted by Psychology Today journal.
Both Donald Trump and AOC share the ability to put down enemies with just a word or phrase that exposes a political opponent to confirmation bias. For example, the phrase “low-energy Jeb.” When you think of “low-energy.” do you think of something positive? I believe most people would associate it with negative attributes. They might think “lazy,” “unproductive,” “uninspired,” “weak,” etc. In reality, is it bad to have a leader that is low-energy? Maybe not. In fact, a leader that can remain calm and collected in times of crisis and does not stir up anger and outrage in the general public may be optimal. However, when Trump describes Jeb Bush as “low-energy Jeb,” people become primed to view all his actions through the negative filter of “low-energy.” When Jeb Bush proposes moderate policies that he defends with facts and logic at rallies instead of chanting “lock her up,” people are primed to think “low-energy Jeb” (does this remind you of how AOC primes her base to associate moderate policies with “an attitude towards life of… ‘meh.’… [and] cynicism?”). While Jeb Bush may seem like an insignificant nobody now, going into the 2016 primaries, he was the Republican frontrunner by miles, favored by almost every political pundit to win the Republican nomination. That is… until Trump went after him.
This is important because Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez does the same thing. And she does it masterfully. For example, AOC coined the term “climate delayers,” (referring to people who recognize climate change as real, but believe that the most effective solution does not involve immediate action) which journalist Erin Biba described as “the best new term of 2019.” AOC writes on Twitter: “Climate delayers aren’t much better than climate deniers./With either one if they get their way, we’re toast.” Why is this such clever persuasion?
When you think of the term “delayers,” what do you associate it with? I instantly associate it with something negative: procrastinating, short-sighted, putting off the inevitable, taking a weak approach, etc. Thus, when someone presents an argument for not taking immediate action on climate change, people who have heard this term are primed to view this argument through the lens of delaying: they are primed to it as a weak approach that puts something off instead of tackling it head on.
But this may not be an accurate characterization. Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish political scientist, economist, and writer, has been universally recognized by both the political right and left as a brilliant name in economics. He is a “climate delayer,” as described by AOC. He asserts that the most economically efficient way to address climate change is to wait until technology advances to the point that we can address it in a way that costs a lot less money. He asserts that even the UN estimates of climate change’s effect on the global GDP (which tend to overestimate the effects of climate change in order to inspire action) show that it is vastly more efficient to wait for the advance of technology to address climate change in the future, instead of restructuring our global economy in the present.
I hypothesize that many of you had never heard this argument on climate change before (if so, I implore you to do more research on the matter. There is a lot of interesting stuff to read!). If this describes you, what was your first thought when I introduced Bjorn as a “climate delayer”? I’m willing to bet it wasn’t positive.
Now, it’s likely that you still do not agree with the tactic of waiting for the advance of technology to address climate change in a more economically efficient manner. But even if you don’t agree with his views, I trust you are mature enough to acknowledge that Bjorn Lomborg, a universally renowned economist with a Ph.D. is not stupid.
However, AOC cleverley associates “climate delayers” with “climate deniers” to dismiss a very logical and complex right wing argument as stupid without ever saying so. I have asked readers to keep a very open mind to other political opinions when reading this article. But I think we can all agree, denying the existence of climate change altogether is just plain dumb. People may differ on how much of it is caused by humans or how we should go about solving it, but denying the existence of climate change is stupid. But when AOC’s argument that “climate delayers aren’t much better than climate deniers [because] with either one if they get their way, we’re toast” appears to be very rational because it asserts a claim that her base likely believes to be true. Notice that she does not say: “climate delayers aren’t much better than climate deniers because they’re both stupid” because this would be easy to rebuke. But by associating “climate delayers” with “climate deniers” in a way that is easy to agree with, AOC causes us to associate “climate delayers” with stupidity in our minds without us even realizing it. Just as Donald Trump primes voters to associate Jeb Bush’s laid back attitude with all of the negative connotations of “low-energy,” AOC primes voters to associate logical arguments against immediate action to solve climate change with stupidity, weakness, and procrastination. That is brutally persuasive. But it gets better.
In response to AOC’s political success, political commentator Ben Shapiro challenged her repeatedly to a debate in public, offering her $10K just to debate him. While Ben Shapiro certainly garners a lot of criticism, nobody can deny his skill for debating. In fact, Ben Shapiro is probably one of the most intelligent and skilled debaters of the century, which is why he literally does it for a living (This does not mean I like or agree with what he says, merely that I recognize his skillset). Therefore, if AOC agreed to his offer, she would almost certainly lose.
But the whole job of being a politician is defending your policies in public. For a politician, refusing to defend your beliefs before the general public is unthinkable. Right? Thus, AOC is seemingly backed into a corner: if she debates him, she loses; if she doesn’t debate him, she loses. There’s no way for her to win, is there?
This is how AOC responded to Ben Shapiro on twitter:
“Just like catcalling, I don’t owe a response to unsolicited requests from men with bad intentions/And also like catcalling, for some reason they feel entitled to one.”
Wow. Can you think of a better put down from a political figure in the history of American politics? I cannot think of one. AOC turned a situation in which she seemingly had no possible path to victory into a major win. I’m sure many of you already did not have a high opinion of Ben Shapiro; but if his reputation wasn’t bad enough before, it is now.
Why was this response so good? It effectively associated Ben Shapiro with “catcaller” in your mind. What do you think of when you think of catcalling? I think of “creepy,” “stalker,” “desperate,” “sexual harassment,” “sexual predator,” etc. After reading that, all of us cannot help but subconsciously associate “Ben Shapiro” with “needy sexual predator.” Can you imagine a worse image? I certainly cannot.
This response shows AOC’s mindset. She does not think like a debater, she thinks like a persuader. A debater might give a logical reason for declining the speak with Ben Shapiro based in facts. Or, more likely, a debater might choose to enter into a debate where they can only lose. But AOC the persuader did not bother giving a logical justification, but used persuasion to brand her opponent in the worst possible way while making herself seem strong-willed and desirable.
Just like Trump.
Isn’t it funny how everytime Trump seemed to lose a debate on an issue, his poll numbers went up? Because both Donald Trump and AOC are more concerned with persuading than debating. This is something to think about as you watch AOC in the coming years. Whenever she says something that seems illogical or incorrect or just plain stupid, as yourself: is AOC debating or is AOC persuading?
You may be asking this question a lot, because she says a lot of incorrect things. A lot. You might say to me, “sure, all your arguments seem good so far. But how can you win the presidency if you are not informed enough to tell the truth?” To which I would reply, “it’s not a bug, it’s a feature.” Does our current president tell the truth? Hell no. Did he get elected president? Yes. What people interpret as ignorance from AOC is often a deliberate bending of the truth that earns her unparalleled media attention. Just this week there are dozens of articles in the mainstream news attacking AOC for not telling the truth. Here are just a few., , It may appear that this hurts AOC’s image, but as P.T. Barnum once said: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” This of course is not entirely true. When Richard Nixon was forced to resign due to the Watergate scandal, this was bad publicity. But I believe, in a political climate that has over a dozen Democratic candidates vying for attention in a bid for the 2020 election, AOC’s ability to beat out all of them and dominate the headlines has a positive impact on her. The same strategy that brought Trump unparalleled media attention has allowed AOC to dominate headlines week in and week out, making her a major political player in the eyes of the public.
“But wait,” you may say, “What about AOC’s poll numbers?” AOC is currently polling terribly with a -13 favorability/unfavorability rating with voters in her own state (New York). “Nico, how can you reconcile this?” Hmmm. It’s a tough one. Can you think of another recent political candidate that had record high unfavorability numbers? I’ll give you a hint… he’s now the President of the United States. Low polling numbers did not deter me from betting on Donald Trump to win the presidency. And they do not deter me from predicting AOC to become president.
In fact, one thing I have noticed about figures with immense charisma and talent for persuasion is that they are deeply hated by their opposition; for instance, Donald Trump. I can already hear many of you saying, “But Nico, can’t the same be argued about Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?” The simple answer is no. While Hillary or Obama may have their detractors, I don’t believe the hatred for any of these political candidates reaches anywhere near the levels of hatred that people have for Donald Trump. It doesn’t even compare.
Those of you who were at Packer when Trump was elected may remember the atmosphere the day after his election. It was reminiscent of a national tragedy. In fact, I observed more people at Packer crying on the day after Donald Trump’s election than after the Las Vegas shooting or any other national tragedy. This may sound as though I am being insulting, though I absolutely am not. I think people genuinely equated the election of Donald Trump to a national catastrophe in their minds. And this claim is backed by research, which shows that the psychological effects of President Trump’s election on some were similar to those of “traumatic or trying events.” In fact, the level of hatred and fear many people have for Donald Trump is so extreme, psychologists argue over whether it should be classified as a mental illness.
Now I’m sure I didn’t need to convince many of you that a lot of people really hate Trump; but what many of you may not know is that a lot of people really hate AOC. In fact, some conservatives hate AOC so much that they “called for a boycott of girl scout cookies because… Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez” was once a girl scout and “attributed much of her success to what she learned as part of this organization.” Does this sound like an idea that came from a healthy mind? It appears to me that AOC has caused some of her opponents to hate her so much that they have begun to behave as though they are literally insane. And who does that remind you of?
While it is never good for a political candidate to be disliked, such an irrational opposition to AOC signals something. It signals that she reaches people on an emotional level that other politicians cannot touch, eliciting universally strong emotions from viewers. And the similarities between the psychological effects of AOC and Trump are shocking.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is only 29 years-old. By law, she cannot run for president until she is 35 years-old. This means people will get to call my prediction ridiculous for quite some time until she is eligible to run for president. But while her age might seem like a detriment, it is also a strength. She is only 29-years-old and she is already better than almost everyone in the game. Can you imagine the persuasive force she will be when she runs for president after gaining at least six more years of experience?
When AOC runs for president, I expect her to moderate some of her policies to appeal to both Republicans and Democrats (just like Trump did after winning the Republican primary). I predict that AOC will still garner unparalleled hate from the right wing (just as Donald Trump does from the left). But I predict that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will win the United States presidency. And she will not only win; she will win in a landslide.