Pivoting to the General Election



Pivot noun  piv·ot \ˈpi-vət\

: a pin or shaft on which a mechanical part turns

: the action of turning around a point: the action of pivoting

: a person or thing that is central or important to someone or something else

Source: Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary


The primary process is winding down for the 2016 presidential election. Professional pundits (the people who get paid well to do what bloggers do for free) are scratching their heads about how Donald Trump just became the Republican candidate for president. Meanwhile the press corps is completely distancing themselves from responsibility of promoting the Trump campaign non-stop the past 10 months.  The media involvement is a discussion for another day. Now, is the time to discuss pivoting.

What is pivoting?

Pivoting is what candidates do to expand their message from one that is crafted specifically for the base of their political party in the language of speeches and messaging; which they then expanded to become palatable for the wider General Election audience. For example, in Donald Trump’s case his immigrant, Muslim, woman bashing sketch about building the Wall and making Mexico pay for it switches to being something more along the lines of, ah they aren’t so bad.

On the Republican side, Trump is pivoting to the General Election. The Democrats are still having a race to decide the candidate. Regardless of what you may see with the media who assume it is over. Hillary Clinton would like to believe that they are right. Hillary Clinton wants to pivot to the General Election, even though she has gone from a forgone conclusion to facing a real possibility that Bernie Sanders may be the final choice of the voters because of his authenticity. Authenticity means that there is no need to pivot because for better or worse, depending on your opinion, one thing we can agree on is that his message stays the same.

Don’t go changing.

The question I have today is why does a candidate have to pivot at all? The Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary says that to pivot in this context is when “A person or thing is central or important to someone or something else; and the action of turning around a point: the action of pivoting.” So it means to change a fundamental position to something else that is important to someone else.

Here is the problem I have with pivoting. It is true that this is a common strategy with candidates. The reason why it is common, is because candidates craft a message to please their audience, to persuade them to vote the way the candidate wants them to.  However, the candidate has a real agenda we all realize this. Many times the real agenda has nothing to do with what they tell voters during a campaign to secure votes. Most of us also realize that. These speeches that some call pandering, is considered a means to an end. When a candidate pivots, they change the message to become more likable to another more expansive audience. The problem is that voters of 2016 are no longer interested in appeasing talking points, they are looking for accountability and results. There for business as usual will be problematic for 2016 candidates up and down the ticket.

Who are they today?

The pivot is the core reason why many people do not trust politicians. I would invite political insiders to embrace the fact that the pivot is dead. Here is why. The Internet. The internet has collected all of the televised speeches. All of the speeches that attendees recorded with their cell phones. The public appearances and pretty much everything that a candidate has ever said. It is naïve at best and obtuse at worst to think that a candidate is going to be able to say one thing and then get away with saying something completely different later.

Take for example ex-candidate Ted Cruz’s “New York Values” moment.  It happened during one of the earlier Republican debates when Cruz proceeded to slam liberal New York values because we all know what that means in a crowd of uptight Evangelicals, right? His problem was when he arrived in New York and wanted to put all of that behind him like that never happened. The people of New York however, had a clearer recall of his statement, and Cruz learned that the lack of admiration was mutual, as he slunk away with 0% of the New York vote.

Be yourself.

Pivots do not work. What they do is make voters think that nothing a politician says is real. Most of the time voters are right, politicians are just saying what they think a voter wants to hear to vote for them. That is what makes it so unusual when one politician continues to say the same thing for over 40 years no matter how he thinks it will be received. He says the things he does, because he believes in it, and he believes it is the best path forward for America. It is difficult not to respect that rare brand of authenticity in today’s world; whether or not you agree with what he is saying. No pivots for Sanders, steady as she goes. I don’t respect a pivot. If a message is changing that much it is difficult to know what the truth may be.

Pivots build lack of trust, and why would anyone agree to give power to a person that they do not trust? I know this is totally out of left field but politicians need to just tell us what they want to do. Just tell us the truth. Put their policy platforms and their voting records out there to be judged and see what happens. I know insane right. But the rest is just distraction that is how it goes now that there is an internet we will find the truth out, so quit wasting time and just tell us the truth. We have busy lives here! We have a record of everything that has been said.

Granted, it is not easy for politicians today; I do not envy them at all. However, they must be forthright, they must be honest. That is the only kind of person that we can trust to hold the full force of the power and prestige that comes with being the next president of the United States of America.

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