Trump’s genius is on full-display. Having redefined the President’s job description, he’s on his way to the white-house, I reckon.
Let me ask you two questions.
- Do you think we should recognise Donald Trump as a saint? Do you think we should recognise him as one of the rare examples of human beauty and purity, and open churches all over the place in honour of St Don?
- If you were negotiating a major deal, like a large property development, potentially worth millions of dollars, would you want Donald Trump on your negotiation team?
If you’re like most people, you probably have very clear answers to both of these questions. I’m a big fan of the Donald, but even I don’t think he’s a saint. I’m sure he has a whole bunch of flaws and failings. Some of them we know about, some of them we don’t.
However, if I were negotiating a million-dollar deal – to purchase a large site for development – then I would definitely want the Donald on my team. If you don’t think you could use his skills and experience driving deals, then you either have an overly-inflated sense of your own negotiation skills, or you’re just plain crazy.
So there’s a big difference between these two questions, and it’s this difference I think that explains why no one in the American media can understand why Trump could be so popular.
Most people in the media are asking the first question. They look at Donald Trump and they see bullish man with a loud mouth and crass displays of wealth and power. In their minds they’re comparing him to some ideal president – some cross between George Clooney and Obi Wan Kenobi.
On that measure, Trump comes up short. He’s no saint. Most people aren’t even sure if he’s a nice guy.
But he’s not running for the job of ‘saint’. He’s running for the job of president. And what’s the key skill a President needs?
Not that most people would have really pointed to that before, but this is the genius of Trump. He has been steadily defining the Presidency as “Negotiator in Chief”.
The TPP – it’s just a bad deal. Obamacare – just a bad deal. The Iran Nuclear deal – another bad deal.
In the Trump narrative, American is falling from greatness because we have a bunch of incompetent people in charge of the negotiations.
“We’re bad negotiatiors.” He actually said that.
And I think most people recognise that the great political challenges in the US involve negotiations. Gun control, immigration, trade, war – if there was any common-ground solution to any of these problems they would have found it by now.
But instead there are irreconcilable camps set up along well-defined battle lines. To get progress on any of these issues will require a master negotiator.
Trump is a master negotiator.
And so Trump is bringing the fight on to his own turf. No matter what you think of Trump, even if you hate him, you probably have no doubt he drives a hard bargain, and is in the habit of getting what he wants.
You want that guy on your side when it comes time to sit down with the NRA, Iran, ISIS or whoever.
The other genius move involved in framing it that way, is that it doesn’t really matter what his policy platform is.
What’s he going to do with Mexico, or the Middle East? It doesn’t matter. All he’s asking is for you to give him a seat at the table, and he’ll sort out some deal that “Makes America Great Again.”
He’s not selling you solutions. He’s not selling a set of policies. He’s selling himself. “Give me a chance and I’ll get it sorted.”
And people believe him.
And this is why Trump’s popularity is so confusing. While the media are looking at question 1, the public are looking at question 2. And it’s a no-brainer.
Trump all the way.
And the more he brings the debate around to question 2, the more pathetic his rivals look.
Because if you’ve got someone negotiating on your behalf, you want to make sure they’ve got your interests at heart.
When Trump says he wants to “Make America Great” – people believe that is what he wants, and it’s something people connect with.
(It helps that it’s vague enough that everyone can overlay their own definition of ‘great’ on to it.)
But for professional politicians – people who have spent their whole lives in the political machine – their interests are complex web of money, power and vested interests.
I think people are recognising that in the US (and in Australia!) it’s a systemic problem. It’s not that the politicians are bad people. It’s just that the only way to survive for any length of time – and especially if you want to rise to the top – the only way to do that is to whore out your values and ideals and the people who vote for you.
The system’s corrupt.
But Trump is a self-made man. His interests are his own. That might involve some interpretation of narcissism, but as long as it involves being recognised for doing a great job as president, it doesn’t matter.
And so I think the Trump presidency will bring a big economic dividend for America. Regardless of whether people like him or not, having a master negotiation in the chair will be perceived as a massive benefit for the economy.
That may or may not be true (it probably is) but it doesn’t matter. A wide-spread confidence is self-fulfilling.
And it will come just as the last bugs of the GFC are being wiped from the windshield. Timing and confidence will combine to bring in a new golden age for the US (at least economically).
From here to 2020, it will be sunny days.
I’m bullish on the US outlook already. But add in President Trump and it’s boom time.
And the media will never understand it.
Has Trump got the skills to be President? Will it be good for America? Will it be good for us?