Hillary Clinton's refined campaign message is focusing on what she has called "Four Fights For You." Unlike a single-issue campaign, these four fights encompass an enormous range of interests that all focus on building (or continuing to build) a positive America, while limiting the damage of those who want to go backwards.
From a psychological standpoint, the strategy is brilliant. It focuses on what traits are needed for America's future success, while not pointing fingers or engaging in the character assassination of her opponents, which by far gives her a more focused message than most of the field, inside and outside of her own party.
Why these traits have such common-sense appeal is based in a psychological theory that states that we all share these common traits, primarily the psychological models that have developed into the OCEAN (Five Factor) Model of Personality Traits.
The OCEAN of Personality
When Gordon Allport founded the discipline of trait theories, he suggested that humans shared over 19,000 different personality traits. While comprehensive, it had little usable explanatory power -- with future researchers condensing his work down to hundreds, then dozens, and then finally down to five primary personality traits that all people share.This five factor model, the "OCEAN of Personality," is made up of four generally positive traits and one generally negative trait inherent to all personality: Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.
Almost all Human Resource Management testing is based on this theory and the belief that certain positions are best filled by people having certain traits. While there is certainly a large amount of debate about this practice within the fields of psychology and business, it's the best tool available other than a crystal ball for predicting employment success.
But can a nation have a personality? And if so, can the nation really succeed at all four positive traits?
Four Fights For You is Clinton's promise for America, which can be summed up as:
- Building an economy for tomorrow;
- Strengthening America's families;
- Defending America and our core values; and
- Revitalizing our Democracy.
Accomplishing each of these promises requires a separate trait, thus attempting to create a balanced America.
Building an Economy for Tomorrow
No politician would ever run a campaign based on leaving the economy worse off in four years than before --this is a mainstay staple to the rhetorical diet of politics.
In fact, Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign success was completely built around the strategy of "It's the economy, stupid." Hillary is not abandoning this, but instead homing in on specific targets for our economy; namely the minimum wage and small business support.
Being willing to pursue the economy in a specific direction requires the personality trait of conscientiousness.
Conscientiousness is the tendency to show discipline, self-restraint, and to act dutifully. It is characterized by making difficult choices, even when uncomfortable, based on the correctness of the path -- not immediate satisfaction.
Clinton's campaign focuses on the data showing that productivity of Americans has increased at a pace faster than wages -- that workers are essentially being robbed of their portion of the economic production.
Clinton is challenging voters to be conscientious -- to continue to act dutifully in our own responsibilities, but to also be willing to stand up for what is right.
Strengthening America's Families
Family values have long been a political card, especially when challenging the opposition's support (or lack thereof) of specific social issues. Republican candidates were ambushed in an almost unending barrage of questions about whether or not they would attend a gay marriage in April -- highlighting the "gotcha" political nature of the topic.
Clinton's campaign is trying to stay immune from this kind of ambush by stating that it's our agreeableness that determines the strength of our families:
Let's remember that everyone in every community benefits when there is respect for the law and when everyone in every community is respected by the law. -- Hillary Clinton, April 29, 2015
Agreeableness is the ability to be compassionate and cooperative, while at the same time avoiding confrontation, antagonism, or suspicion.
A mutual respect for the law is the very essence of the social contract, and holding everyone -- including the government -- accountable is key for building up America's families.
Defending America and Our Core Values
No country is better positioned to lead and thrive in the decades ahead than the United States. But in a fast-changing world with an array of challenges, we must harness all of America's power, smarts, and values to build the future we want for our children and grandchildren. -- Clinton campaign website
Key to this statement is that we need "all" of America's power, smarts, and values -- not just a handpicked few that only represent a portion of our population. Our strength comes from our diversity, and our diversity thrives under openness to experience.
Openness to experience is the hardest of the factors to explain, mainly because it encompasses so many different things. But generally, it is an ability to engage and grow under a variety of experiences, and a willingness to accept people for who they are, not for who we expect them to be.The
Revitalizing Our Democracy
We need more elected leaders in Washington who will ... fight for the rights and opportunities of everyday Americans, not just those at the top. At the same time, we need to remember that progress is built on common ground, not scorched earth. -- Hillary Clinton, June 4, 2015
How well we are able to find this common ground is a measurement of our extraversion.
Extraversion is social engagement, energy, positive emotions, assertiveness, and communicability. It is the very interplay of human beings exchanging ideas, forming plans, and building a society.
Extraversion is hindered by those who constantly want to exploit an "us versus them" type mentality, like the conservative/liberal, "tin-man"/"straw-man" divide.
As poet John Donne stated, "no man is an island," it is also true that no nation can be made up of isolated islands intent on acting alone.
All of This, While Avoiding Neuroticism
Neuroticism encompasses what we typically think of as the negative emotions in the human experience, including anger, anxiety, fear, impulsiveness, unfaithfulness, and dishonesty. How well we control these baser instincts tells us how emotionally stable we are.Political campaigning is sometimes done at the absolute lowest level, and
always has been. Even the Founding Fathers resorted to some of the dirtiest campaigning to win elections. In general, however, well fought campaigns are usually defined by who can stay on message the best, not by who can land the nastiest cheap shot.
The Clinton campaign has picked a very well thought out strategy by employing the "Four Fights For You." It's unlikely that dumb luck or gimmick psychology "mind control" had anything to do with its design, but rather a dutiful introspection of how all humans act and relate, coupled with the things that a majority of Americans can agree upon.
This strategy will hold up well to a smear campaign or "Anyone but Clinton" mantra, which means that the Republicans are going to have to spend the political primary season developing a message that resonates equally well among the voters if they have any hope of winning in 2016.
The independent, swing, and center voters are going to want a plan of action for the next four years. Hillary Clinton has declared hers. We now have to wait and see how developed (or single issue) the rest of the field's messages will be.