November 9, 2016
In the last Source I asked what it was about Donald Trump that allowed him to be a successful candidate despite, in the view of many, being an inexperienced, unworthy and obnoxious candidate. Why did he win the US election when many thought he had little chance to do so?
Three themes are useful to understand:
First, he understood that significant portions of the electorate were alienated from the current president and congress, otherwise known as the Washington establishment, and were ready for a change. Justin Trudeau similarly tapped into a well of disenchantment and openness to change in Canada in 2015. The reasons for the US alienation and change varied, and included, trends in technology and world trade that changed work and job opportunities in North America, healthcare costs, immigration issues, and many voters concerns about loss of individual freedoms like the right to bear arms. He seemed able to sense the concerns of people in his many speeches and rallies, and to articulate a dialogue that reinforced his understanding of them; and their understanding that he alone could give voice to their concerns and possibly do something about them.
Second, he positioned his opponent, Secretary Clinton as carrying a significant amount of baggage including email security, personal stamina, criminality, past controversies and being associated with the ‘establishment’ that had, in his rhetoric, created the conditions that concerned and angered many.
Thirdly, he was able to talk to a 2016 American population in a style and language that they related to. Some called it reality TV communication – think of Donald Trump as the last person left in Survivor after everyone else got voted off the island. He played a role that, while not likeable to all, was effective in appealing to enough voters to elect him. His skill as a communicator in sensing what his audience wanted, and delivering it to them in his unique, and new for politics way, could be called brilliant. If Ronald Reagan was the Great Republican Communicator of the 1980’s Donald Trump may assume that mantle for the current decade.
We now wait to see if the skills of the campaigner can translate to the job of effectively governing the extremely complex entity that is the US federal government. We should all wish him well and hope that his skills will be used for the greater good – the future will be influenced by his actions.
Dr. Brian Owen