If we think of the U.S. presidential election season not only as a grand exercise in democracy, but as a vast proving ground for how to sell a message to millions of Americans, then Trump’s campaign is surely being studied by every marketing agency in the country. The secret to his success, and the main rhetorical innovation he has brought to presidential politics, is to dispel subtlety altogether and make subtext text. Undocumented immigrants aren’t just shadowy threats to the American citizenry; they’re rapists and drug dealers. Ted Cruz isn’t merely an unctuous politician who will say whatever it takes to win; he’s Lyin’ Ted. Discussions of the size of Trump’s hands aren’t really about the size of his hands; they’re about the size of his penis. Time was that voters had to suss this intended meaning out for themselves, but no longer.
If you are a giant beer company that has long specialized in evoking patriotic feeling to sell beers, then what is the lesson to be drawn from all this? That the whole concept of evocation is for suckers. That American consumers don’t want to catch your drift; they want to be told exactly what you’re getting at. So instead of launching a promotional campaign that requires consumers to process even a single layer of interpretation to arrive at a connection between your product and their beloved country, you simply rename your beer “America.” They are now literally one and the same.