The 27th law in Robert Greene's "The 48 Laws of Power" is "to create a cultlike following." Toward that end, Greene suggests that the modern day prince "use words of great resonance but cloudy meaning, words full of heat and enthusiasm." You wonder if Donald Trump read the book when you consider such pronouncements from the final presidential debate as this: "NAFTA, it's a disaster." Trump also promised amazing economic growth -- "I think you can go to 5 percent or 6 percent."
"Most people want to hear that a simple solution will cure their problems," Greene explains. "Instead of the complicated explanations of real life, return to the primitive solutions of our ancestors, to good old country remedies, to mysterious panaceas." Trump's motto: "Make America great again."
Greene also advises power-seekers to "create an us-versus-them dynamic." In refusing to stipulate that he'll accept the result of the election in November, Trump doubled down on the division. He blamed the "corrupt media" and a "rigged" election system, secure in the knowledge that his followers will rally for the cause. When he told a rally Thursday he would accept the results "if I win," his fans cheered.
Hillary Clinton is riding Law 33, "Discover each man's thumbscrew." Look to a person's childhood, Greene advises. Thus the former first lady and secretary of state commented on Trump starting his business with a $14 million loan from his father -- Trump says it was a $1 million loan. She jabbed Trump for his bigmouth gaffes -- he mocked a disabled reporter, called 1996's Miss Universe an eating machine and dismissed some of his female accusers as not being attractive enough for him to push himself on them. She did everything she could to prod Trump to overreact.
Trump didn't lose it totally when Clinton read out her list of his sins. He saved his anger for later when moderator Chris Wallace asked the candidates to discuss entitlement spending. That's when Trump interrupted Clinton to call her "such a nasty woman." Female voters should have little trouble recognizing Trump's issues with women. As Greene wrote, when you poke a childhood weakness, "the person will often act like a child."
As Greene observed, "People in the grip of these emotions often cannot control themselves, and you can do the controlling for them."
Clinton didn't even try to convince voters that she is forthcoming. She dodged questions about the Clinton Foundation's "pay-to-play" proclivities and her remarks in support of "open trade and open borders" in a paid speech to a Brazilian bank. Clinton gave undecided voters no reason to support her -- other than the fact that she is not Donald Trump.
After the debate, Twitter was flush with praise for Wallace as the best moderator in the presidential debates. But despite Chris Wallace's best efforts, the final presidential debate was not a contest of ideas. It wasn't a drag race where the fastest driver wins the cup. Rather, it was a demolition derby where voters tuned in to see how much damage one driver could inflict upon the other. But at this racetrack, the drivers have revved their engines and plowed into the stands.