Trump supporters celebrate and Clinton supporters console each other.
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How Trump might have trumped Clinton with his very ‘real’ talk

With Trump now President-elect of the United States of America, we look back at how both campaigns might have failed the people of the USA

It’s been one of the most heated and divisive US presidential campaigns in history. Today the victory and elation of millions sits starkly side by side with the shock and devastation of millions of others. Some are reading sobbing emojis 😭 through bleary eyes in WhatsApp groups as they awake, while others see Facebook feeds fill with euphoria at the prospect of being able to #MakeAmericaGreatAgain.

A rollercoaster ride of scandals, accusations, grand statements and controversial ideas created an emotional divide on both sides reminiscent of the recent Brexit referendum in the UK. And to us at Economy, there's once again been a serious lack of what we call 'understandable economics'.

Our campaign for understandable economics says that any talk of economics should be:

  • Clear: Don’t use loads of jargon, plz
  • Real: Talk to me about my life, not some central-bank-easing-thing
  • Transparent: Be honest about where your economics is coming from
  • Diverse: Where are the black female economists? When economics represents society, we’ll be happier
  • Available: Make this stuff available to all of us, not hidden in financial journalism for Wall Street only

(Curious what we mean by these values? See them explained in more detail here.)

Never is it clearer than during an election campaign just how much the current conversation on economics in politics and the media is confusing, unclear, and laden with hidden values.

So how did both campaigns come across this time round? Here's our analysis of how the Clinton and Trump campaigns did, and in part how they were covered by the media, for its this resulting mix of messaging and media coverage that reaches the voter.  We hope might help reveal why this was one of the weirdest elections our generations have experienced.

Clinton Trump
Clear The way Clinton talked about the economy just didn’t hit home for people the way that Trump’s tone did. She might not have used much jargon, but we still think she could have communicated her economic ideas in a clearer, more direct, more tangible way. Good and bad. Yes, he used very little jargon, and made statements in simple language. But what was being said was often very contradictory if you dug a little deeper. So plus points on one front, but major minus points on the other.
Real This is a difficult one to call, and where Clinton’s performance was potentially the most unconvincing. She tried to talk in terms that related to people’s day to day, but so many people view her as part of a political ‘establishment’ that it seems they just didn’t trust or believe she really understood. Trump nailed it. Without a hint of abstract policy wonk talk, he spoke directly to people’s daily lives, in a way ‘the establishment’ simply hasn’t managed to do.
Transparent Clinton communicated many values during her campaign which we applaud. She is, however, part of an establishment that huge numbers of people have lost faith in. So no matter how hard she tried to be transparent about the values behind her economic policies, people quite simply seem to have a difficult time trusting her. This will surely be for Clinton's campaign to digest and learn from as time goes on. In one sense, he nailed this too. Trump ‘tells it like it is’, and has no shame about the values behind his economic ideas. He’s openly nationalist, openly derogatory about women, openly divisive about race – and people either liked it, or they didn’t. But what Trump wasn’t transparent about was the economic theory behind his ideas – largely because the majority of economists didn’t think there was any. And he jumped around so much on his opinion that it’s difficult to really know what he’s going to do now he’s in power.
Diverse Clinton’s campaign put huge amounts of emphasis on speaking to and improving the economic lives of minorities in a way we’d definitely support. We still think that she could have done more to engage with diverse economic ideas – calling Trump voters ‘deplorables’, for example, wasn’t the best idea Trump’s campaign seriously disrespected the fact that people’s identities – from race, to gender, to sexuality – lead them to experience the economy differently. He refused to engage in debate over economic ideas with those who disagree with him, and He consistently made divisive comments that do not lead to a discussion of economics that considers everyone., For this we criticize his campaign.
Available Clinton’s economic ideas were available to the minutest detail – but as we’ve mentioned, not in a language that related to people’s day to day. For whatever reason it didn’t end up reaching the voters. And press coverage of the election was so busy covering sensationalist scandals that there was next to no real discussion of policies. Trump’s ideas were all over the press pretty much every day in the runup to election day. But he didn’t actually release his economic policy ideas until pretty late into the race. So although we heard from him all the time, the important stuff wasn’t as available as it could have been.

With important swing states like Ohio preferring Trump over Clinton on the issue of the economy, could that mean his superior performance of living up to being ‘real’ has “trump-ed” his poor performance on the rest of them? A debate on why Trump won this election over Clinton is for another time, but its interesting to note that while Trump scored poorly in many ways according to the values above, scoring highly on just one seems to have gained him a lot of support.

Whatever the reason behind this outcome, we’re adamant that we need a new way of talking about the economy. An economic discussion that’s easy to understand, resonates with voters, really represents society and actually happens, would make us better informed and prepared to make the decisions that really matter to us.

This time the emotions ran as high as the stakes, at the expense of a discussion that could have left many more voters feeling informed and empowered. Next time, we’d like to see a more understandable economics.

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