Why Hillary should be worried about Trump's Ross Perot appeal

Lesson 2: Nobody cares about the details

Perot repeated this mantra throughout the 1992 campaign: Only the media was interested in policy specifics. Action trumps experience. Voters had heard far too much about detailed plans that never got implemented. What they wanted was someone who would actually get things done—not a lot of talk about how that would happen. In ’92, Clinton and Bush tried to paint Perot as inexperienced, but that attack backfired. “I’ve got a lot of experience in not taking 10 years to solve a 10-minute problem,” Perot shot back during one debate. “If it’s time for action, I think I have the experience that counts.”

That’s Trump’s message in a nutshell—and it’s effective. For voters who see Washington as a bastion of wasteful laggards who refuse to get anything done, the logical answer is hard-charging business leadership forged in the kill-or-be-killed world of the marketplace.

The Trump/Perot appeal works differently for different groups. Politically active ideologues on the left and right believe that the solutions to the country’s most pressing problems are obvious—all that’s required is common sense and a spine; getting things done has nothing to do, then, with complexity and nuance, but in overcoming the resistance of powerful, malevolent forces: George Soros scheming to turn Mexican scofflaws into Democratic voters, or the Koch brothers, stealing elections through voter ID laws. And for the casual, less partisan, voter? Policy details are just noise, Washington is pure gridlock, and what’s needed is someone who can run government like a business.