The power of name recognition

We hear a lot about creepy clowns standing by the side of the road and gesturing youngsters into the woods this autumn – but among that group it’s only Hillary Clinton who presents any real danger to our children and grandchildren.  Because in a testament to the immense power of name recognition in a democracy, millions of people seem determined to vote for that particular clown to be president of these United States. 

That is, she may be, as William Safire wrote, a “congenital liar,” the greatest shakedown artist since the age of the Barbary Pirates, invariably mean and contemptuous of underlings including (and very stupidly) the Secret Service agents assigned to keep the peasants from burning her as a witch.  She may be guilty of viciously attacking a long string of women who had the effrontery to have (as Colin Powell so eloquently put it) her husband “dicking” them, and none of that matters to her fans.  Not one dicking bit. 

It doesn’t even matter that she also perjured herself before Congress, flew a million miles as secretary of state and set brother against brother in places the average American never heard of, criminally put America’s secrets at risk with her private e-mail server, likely broke a vase over Bill’s head when he was president, and seems to have something so wrong inside her own that she keeps falling over and passing out until, as in some Groucho Marx comedy skit, she gets injected with a mysterious substance and pops back to her feet.

Indeed, nothing seems to matter except the fact that so many people know her name.

Now, anybody who has watched Jesse Watters interview one college student after another clueless about when the War of 1812 occurred will have to admit that actually knowing a politician’s name and being able to associate it with a national election would on many campuses, certify one as a giant in the study of civics.

But come on!

Is Hollywood that right when it insists that there is no such thing as bad publicity?

Or is it even worse than that?  Because as the Reader’s Digest once suggested, given equal name recognition among contestants, the guy with easier name to remember is the one with the shortest moniker, who usually wins the presidential race  something Roosevelt’s, Eisenhower’s and Kennedy’s respective elections seem to have disguised because we tend to forget that as far as the average voter was concerned, their names were actually FDR, Ike, and JFK.

Am I serious about this?  Yes and no.  Issues count, personality counts, but all other things being equal, we should have run Trent Lott against Obama in 2008 or maybe Ron Paul, and it was certainly a mistake to run whom we did in 2012.

Because for people for whom McDonald's has had to number its hamburgers and who believe hat Hong Kong is a real giant monkey living behind a really big wall on some real tropical island, Romney just has too many letters hanging out there in his handle. Especially when compared with O-Ba-Ma.

But at least we got it right this time around, because the only substitute Clinton (seven letters) has ever promoted is Hillary (another seven), and so Trump should cruise to victory with his five.

Indeed, I’m even encouraged by the medieval theory of word recognition* – i.e., that vowels don’t matter because Clinton, while losing two, may become “Clntn,” she would still be disadvantaged by Trump’s “Trmp.”

So take heart. Republicans.

P.S. It strikes me that having the shorter name also favors write-in candidates.  Hmmm?

*After we hit upon it when she was studying the Middle Ages, this is the written language my youngest granddaughter and I use to e-mail each other.

H’ll’ Gr’ndp’ ‘’m w’lk’ng ‘p t’ y’’r h’’s’ t’ s’’ y’’ sh’rtly.  ‘h g’’d b’t h’w c’m sw’’tp’’?  B’c’us’ M’mmy s’ys ‘t’s t’m’ fr y’’r md’cn’.

Richard F. Miniter is the author of The Things I Want Most, Random House, BDD.  He lives and writes in the colonial-era hamlet of Stone Ridge, New York and can be reached at

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