A brief note on sloganeering and Trump's potential ZTE bailout

No matter which news source you read-- even my beloved Roll Call-- yesterday gave you stories like this one.  Trump ran for President on "America first."  So, what's the deal with ZTE?

Ignore all slogans.  "America first" was never a policy, nor a guiding principle for policy.  Remember "logical constraints?"  Phil Converse, 1964.  "The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics."  Ideology is constraint.  To be an ideologue is to be constrained to take the policy positions of that ideology across issues.  A logical constraint is a principle from which we can derive policy positions, as opposed to psychologically-motivated connections or cue-taking.  "America first" is not a logical constraint.  It could be, but it isn't.  No slogan ever is.

One of the basic fallacies of political analysis is to treat political rhetoric as Conversian logical constraint, and then exhibit shock when that constraint is violated.  Rhetoric is worth examining if you care about it for its own sake.  I don't, which is why I tell you to ignore slogans.

Why don't I care about rhetoric?  I don't think it moves votes.  Elections swing on basic fundamental factors like the state of the economy, Abramowitz's "time for a change" variable, etc.  Rhetoric is just bullshit.  The only valid reasons to pay attention to it, then, are to debunk it, or psychoanalyze whoever uses it.

If your goal is to predict what Trump is going to do, though?  Nope.  Ignore what he says.  That may sound trivial because Trump is the most shameless, craven liar in history, but this actually holds for any politician.  Slogans are empty, regardless of who uses them.  If you want to know what a politician will do, look at their parties' platforms, their parties' history, the coalitions backing them, etc.

Anything but their fucking slogans.

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