Much has been written about the shock result of the US election and fear about the ideas of Donald Trump becoming reality. I was stunned that he could overturn conventional wisdom, but on reflection the biggest shock was that I, along with most commentators, experts, and pollsters, were so obviously out of touch with the zeitgeist.
The period of reflection and introspection that began with Brexit has become more intense, as many struggle to comprehend the reality. In the cold light of the following day, my first realisation is that if you can look beyond the bile, Donald Trump actually deserves a huge amount of respect for what he has achieved! He was roundly and savagely criticised in the media, but there is shock and incredulity that his outrageous and obscene actions didn’t damage his reputation and electability, in the way that they would for any other politician. This is the paradox, Donald Trump is not a politician.
Donald Trump will be recorded in history as perhaps one of the most successful businessmen and definitely the best salesman in history, as he identified a customer base (the US electorate) who were unimpressed with the choice on offer, and he constructed a finely tuned product offering to fill the gap in the market, himself.
Remember that he took on and defeated both the Republican and Democrat parties, because like any great entrepreneur he saw an opportunity and he ignored the collective wisdom, to do things his way.
Trump was criticised for not having held office, for being a political lightweight, and in the traditional frames of reference of the establishment, these would be insurmountable. But Trump worked in a different context, turning every negative into a positive, this made him the outsider. He identified that the electorate was fed up with both parties, and so he presented himself as the challenger to the status quo, thereby inexperience and lack of the political campaign infrastructure became positives. That Trump spent vast sums on hats to give away, rather than campaign adds, shows he applied the lessons of all those years of market research in selling his Trump brand, honed in the firmament of The Apprentice, to politics.
Depending on whether the next four years are a catastrophic disaster or not, the ability of Trump to bluster his way to the top via reality TV, could spell the end of the road for the professional political classes. The CV or resume of the individual outside of politics may well be more significant in tapping into the public’s psyche. Our future leaders could already be right in front of our eyes on the X-factor, daytime tv or a soap opera, but if they are to learn anything from Trump, they are definitely already building brand awareness through social media.
As an optimist I am trying to look for the positives, and there are some. We need to constantly remind ourselves that Trump is a businessman and not a politician, and so everything must be reevaluated at face value. Remember, he has already achieved his objective, to sell himself to the electorate and get voted as President. In much the same way that he has had businesses succeed and fail, those campaign pledges will be treated as soundbites whose only goal was to get him elected (mission accomplished) and they will now be discarded if there is no real value in pursuing them.
Every outrageous pre-election proclamation was made with that sole purpose, to lead to his election, and beyond that they are dispensable. Trump identified that for every idea presented during campaigning there are three possible reactions from the press and electorate: favourable; hostile or indifferent.
Trump identified which electoral strings to manipulate on each issue, and thus for every group he alienated, there was a commensurate group who would cheer him on, but most significantly he was gradually converting enough of the indifferent, who were persuaded by the vision of a strong leader.
Those who were not traditional voters, who were not interested in politics, could be won over by the snake-oil salesman, whose outrageous proclamations bought free airtime and brand recognition to Trump. This reinforced his most simple soundbite and campaign slogan, the inspired “Make America Great Again”, and not even Hilary Clinton (with her unforgettable slogan) could argue against that. This was where it was won, he had the simplest message, with the clearest goal to appeal to the vast pool of the disenfranchised and undecided voters, who felt they had little to loose in trying the first real political alternative in generations. From his years as a businessman he knew that everyone will try something new once, even if it leaves an unappealing taste in the mouth (Trump steaks anyone?)
Now that he is in office, I hope many of the wilder ideas will be expediently discarded, as he focuses on his core message, of shaking up Washington and trying to make America more competitive internationally.
This is why I think the ideas like locking up Hillary or the Mexican border wall, were always Trojan horses, devices to get inside the White House, irrelevant now that he’s won. There is evidence of this already with him backtracking on pledges to repeal Obamacare.
I think the majority of Americans don’t have so much to fear, but sadly that’s not the case for the rest of the world, where he will probably wreak the most carnage as he throws away the old world order, in his and America’s self interest.
So with regards to pulling off an amazing coup, it’s hats off to Trump, particularly those naff red baseball caps, (made in China).
However if anyone else wants cheering up with an optimistic new initiative, we could crowd-source the funding for an alternative wall, perhaps just a mile or so long, with construction starting on 20th January 2017?