Trump and The Art of The High Pressure Sale

As I’ve been writing my Trump mini-book, one of the themes I’ve been writing about is the increasing apocalypticism of politics on the American right. I think this is tied to a deep degree to the narrowing of the GOP electoral base and the relative demographic decline of white Christian America. If you look at politics through the prism of the political dominance and cultural centrality of white Christians, this may really be the ‘last election.’ Perhaps the last was 2012. Maybe it will be 2024. But it is important to recognize that if you are looking at politics through that prism, this isn’t a fantasy. There is a demographic and political reality behind it.

But there’s another dimension to Trump’s rhetoric. Running TPM for just about sixteen years now, I’ve been involved in various aspects of sales for years, on both sides of the table. Much of Trump’s rhetoric is a classic example of the high pressure sales pitch when the seller is trying to close the sale. This is your last chance! This opportunity will not last. You need to act now!

That style of selling is all about creating intense desire and need but also an acute fear of loss, collapsing the time in which a decision can be made. When he’s trying to close, that kind of salesperson will throw everything into the mix, make the wildest, often nonsensical claims, to up the pressure and get the mark to ‘yes’. You hear this again and again with Trump, especially in recent weeks. This is the last election. This is your last chance. The country won’t exist anymore if we lose. A lot of it is really crazy even by Trump standards. But as I said, everything gets thrown into the mix at the end. The ‘last chance’ is almost always part of the close – it’s just a matter of how it’s framed.

Needless to say, Trump is that kind of salesperson. In many ways, he’s more of a salesperson than a builder. You see it in things like Trump University or the way he managed (with the purest cynicism but also a certain soulless genius) to find small investors on whom he could dump his failing Atlantic City casino properties. He uses the allure of his ostentatious life-style to pummel often gullible and sometimes desperate people to buy.

Next time you’re watching a Trump speech in the coming days, listen for this part of it. It’s the classic high pressure sales pitch technique. He’s been using it for decades.

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