Dr. David Cowan
Donald Trump can win the presidency, for reasons that are just part of today’s America. This is no way an endorsement. I cannot bring myself to endorse any of the candidates. Indeed, I would rather leave the post vacant.
There are 3 steps to Mr. Trump’s presidency.
Step 1: Populism? No. Salesmanship
There are frequent outbreaks of commentary on populism in this election cycle, and we are hearing the term a lot, but what does it mean? In truth, the term is something of a misnomer. It refers to a situation in politics that highlights the supporting of the rights and power of the people in opposition to a privileged elite. However, a more nuanced understanding is that populism is an elite group that has identified itself with a set of popular notions and concerns and offered to something about it all if elected, which is how they seek to get elected.
Given the possibility of a Trump v Clinton race, there can be no finer definition of the privileged elite at work in such politics, supported by vast political machines that are themselves the political elite. Populism is a movement from below, as the people rally. The Tea Party was populist but Mr. Trump is not, quite the reverse.
What we have in Mr. Trump is a master salesman, and what does a salesman do? A salesman asks what the customer wants and then sells it to them. This has been Mr. Trump’s modus operandi all along, and it will continue to stay so, which brings us to step Two.
Step 2: Society restored
Mr. Trump has figured out what a particular customer base wants, which is a certain kind of society restored. This customer base is comprised of those Americans who are concerned about progressive change, the loss of American identity and are socially conservative. He has used hyperbole effectively to rouse them in the same way advertising whips up business to buy products. He has a very effective communication strategy in what is a communications age.
Step 3: It’s the Strategy Stupid!
Mr. Trump did not get to where he is by being stupid, but many commentators get lots of print and airtime to demonstrate their stupidity. Commentators have become part of the audience, getting involved in the popular mood rather than standing outside and trying to figure out what is going on. This problem is endemic in modern 24-hour journalism, where the reporters are as much the audience as anything else.
The Trump strategy is itself a 3-step process.
First, create a base by taking the low hanging fruit, and to do this he had to use soundbite messaging to get the response needed. With the help of 24-hour news media he achieved this, and with the help of Right and Left leaning media at that. The Left fell into his narrative and helped to promote his “sales,” which is a classic modern communication technique.
Second is what is going on now. He is adjusting his message to try and broaden his appeal within the party that he needs to nominate him. He already has the base from step 1, and they’ve bought the message, done deal as Mr. Trump might say. Now he needs to appeal to a different market segment, so different language and a different communications strategy is needed to succeed.
Assuming he is successful, and I believe he will be, he will take the third step. Mr. Trump will seek to amend his language and communication strategy to reach the most difficult market sector: the great American electorate that is not already sold on Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton. This will be the challenge, and here he draws on something else, his fame.
In a society obsessed with social media and reality TV, he will have some easy pickings, and they are the uncommitted he will go for. This is the chance for the kids brought up on reality TV to associate with fame. As candidate Mr. Obama sold dreams well to the youth, in fact so well as President Obama he has disillusioned them. Maybe it’s time to buy the salesman rather than the product he’s selling, step up President Trump.
Which leaves one question. What does Mr. Trump actually believe? Let’s put it this way, a successful Chevy salesman wants to drive a Ferrari, not a Chevy. To put it more crudely, the salesman doesn’t have to buy his own bull. So, the answer to what Trump believes? What does that matter? The elite want power, not right.