The Success Merchants

In 1982, Jerry Derloshon published a book on The Success Merchants, a compilation of successful pitchmen and salesmen in the financial, religious and motivational arenas. Interestingly, the potential president of the United States, the inimitable Donald Trump, was just making his way to the head of the success merchant class in the late 1970’s when Jerry put his book together. I imagine Jerry considered adding the real estate wonk to his list, at some point.

How does Donald Trump fare in the ranking of such austere pitch personalities as Norman Vincent Peale, Earl Nightingale, and Dale Carnegie? He’s probably the only one who has thought seriously about running for president over a 30 year period, and then only getting into the race when he was nearly 70 years old. 

Mary Kay, Werner Erhard, and Baba Ram Dass never ran for president. Nor did L. Ron Hubbard. Jesse Jackson, however, has run a couple of times. We could think about that for a bit, but the financial success portion, race equality mission, and Dr. Jackson’s Rev. Martin Luther King credentials would create a whole host of comparative problems. 

In 1987, Trump wrote The Art of the Deal. The book is primarily a self-promotion, semi-biographical branding product. True, it outlines practical nuggets on deal-making, but little in it is new. He subsequently has written more than a dozen more books about success, business, and financial championship. Almost all were written with journalists and novelist as co-authors.

Folks have their druthers, but if the options end up being Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump we will witness the battle of a politician with poor pitching skills against a pitchman with no political correctness. Frankly, a pitchman of Trump’s caliber has no match in Hillary. Can politics win out? Or, is the time of the perfect pitch, albeit covered in spit, tarred and feathered, and wobbling like a Phil Niekro, 21 mile per hour knuckler, And, Trump may have met his political match in the Clinton machine’s ethically confusing, pandering, demagoguing fog.

Given those options, Is now the time for Jesus to come back? Though the answer is probably yes, Jesus specifically warned us about the suddenness and potentially violent eventuality of his return. It’s probably best to leave that one truly to the divine calendar. It’s clearly not an option up for our vote, though a world-wide prayer for Jesus’ return does quality as evidence for the event. 

Jesus doesn’t have to run, by the way. He’s already the spiritual incumbent, the highest authority in place, and the eventual King of the new earth. The president of the United States is really just a localized governor. So, there’s that.

I believe we already know what having Hillary as president would mean. A latent mix of the ideologies of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. She has no personal, defining characteristics. We’re unsure of what her version of a female led White House would look like, considering her blinders regarding her husband’s dalliances. We’d basically end up with a repeat of 20 years of recent liberal democratic rule, with only smidgens of impact regarding a female leader. Probably because whether a man or woman is in charge, the gender is insignificant. 

My question is what would be the advantage of having a pitchman as president? 

First, what is a pitchman?

I found a couple of sites you can read to get some detailed listings of the characteristics of a pitchman. 

The most comprehensive, albeit outdated source, is a 2005 analysis of 12 pitchman characteristics derived from Charles Dickens book, Bleak House. You can find the analysis at To summarize, a pitchman uses “performance art,” a mix of repetition, figures of speech, and play on words. Not really a good definition of Trump (he’s ingeniously “raw”), but the case could be made I suppose.

A pitchman sells with whatever skills they have, persistently.

Another background piece on pitchman, more recent and as biting as they come, was printed in Politico, in their January 11 issue. Terry Golway calls Trump’s success, based upon his celebrity and populism, a carnival barking nightmare for the population of both the United States, and the world at large.

The pitchman of the 80’s and 90’s did a lot of yelling. There’s Ron Popeil’s, “Set it and forget it!” We might all remember the Richard Simmons workouts, and Susan Powter encouraging us loudly to, “Stop the insanity.” Trump can logically fit in this category, with “Make America great again!” 

Behind the loud pitch, though, needs to be more than a sustained, repetitive mantra. Audiences (the fuel for the pitchman), may be enraptured by loud popping noises and shiny sparkling presentations, but the meat behind the message matters most. (Alliteration, by the way, is a common characteristic of the pitchman’s repertoire.)

So, what is Trump’s pitch all about? That is, behind the egomaniacal drive to win, and the breathtaking power grab that fans the flame of every self-absorbed personality, sitting court upon the stage held high by a lathered up media machine. After the ego and the hype, in summary, what’s being sold?

In effect, whoever is running for president, they have a pitch. All presidential candidates are pitchmen. Trump is obviously keen on marketing (he’s spending very little), allusive on personal attacks (he’s unapologetic), and patently celebritoriousistic. That’s a new word - a celebrity of epic proportions, with a brand that circumnavigates the globe. He has the patent on himself, as it were.

So, what’s the pitch that he has? What’s so different from Trump and the latent mix of Hillary? Interestingly, I think we have it. A piece published in Brietbart on February 8th calls Trump’s pitch a “Core Nationalism.”

1. Better trade deals. “We use political hacks” instead of successful dealmakers in our geopolitical deal making.

2. Fix incompetence in government. “Our country and infrastructure of our country is going to hell.”

3. Replace leaders with successful, proven officers in the world of industry. “Politicians are all talk no action, and only focus on getting re-elected.” 

4. Politicians are funded by lobbyists. “I am self-funded.”

5. No controls on illegal immigration. “We have 179,000 people here (illegals) that have committed crimes and shouldn’t be in the country.” Even if a small percentage of illegal immigrants, Trump says that’s not acceptable.

6. Constraints on the military. “We can’t beat ISIS with our military. Can you imagine Gen. George Patton, ‘We can’t beat ISIS?’”

What would be the advantage of having the pitchman for these six general nationalist messages be in charge? I don’t think we know. We’ve had wealthy presidents before. We’ve even had a few experienced business people as presidents.  Most recently, we’ve had the Bush boys, who profited from their oil family funding. George W. was more involved in business, actually, than his more politically experienced father.

None of the Roosevelts were truly entrepreneurs. Their wealth was inherited. Harry Truman was actually a failed clothing store owner. I think Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter and Abraham Lincoln were the only successful entrepreneurs who’ve held the office. 

A president with entrepreneurial experience, then, is not unprecedented. In fact, though, all presidents have been pitchmen. It not only comes with the territory, it probably properly defines a needed characteristic for political leadership. If you can’t pitch your message, then you’re not going to get elected.

The question is how many folks will find Trump’s list of pitch messages important? Are his pitches the winning list? Regardless of the qualifying political credentials for our next leader, is he on track with a majority of our voting population? 

The pitch persons (we don’t yet have a word for pitch women, so pitchman will probably survive) for other candidates will compete with their own vitriol, nastiness, and obfuscations to get attention. Trump has certainly mastered that part. But are the list of six messages from a competitor going to win out with the populace?

Who will we elect?

And then, pitches and personalities in place, what will God do with him, or her? How affiliated with the Holy Spirit are these candidate options? Do they know who God is?

Maybe more of us will get on our knees about this vote. 

I suppose, though, that the pitches of the politicians will keep more of us standing up than kneeling down. We’ve been pitched on lots of things. What will actually happen that gets us to our knees?

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