Dr. David Cowan
Trump rages while Hillary laughs all the way to the White House
Just before the summer break, I blogged what I thought was the Trump communications strategy. I was right to a point, in that I said he would be nominated with the strategy he had. Having beat a particular drum to get on the slate and nominated, calling on a particular base of the party, I then fully expected him to change his approach and become more mainstream to appeal to a broader audience. This bit I got wrong, it has not happened, why?
Trump is running his campaign like the CEO of a business, rather than a political campaign; this is the reason why. I’ve worked in communications roles with CEOs and observed them at close quarters. They can easily find themselves in a bubble and curiously more concerned with trivia than the big picture. They run a command and control form of leadership, whatever they may write in opinion pieces, say to journalists or preach at the annual shareholder meeting.
One CEO I worked for, one far wealthier than Mr. Trump, couldn’t get past a publication I was discussing with him because it had a picture of him with employees which did not have him at the center of the group. It was actually a very good picture of him and showed him in a natural situation with employees, but he argued and told me the picture had to be replaced with one of him in the center. Publication project delayed, picture changed, childish CEO whim satisfied.
You see CEOs want what used to be called “yes men.” I was never one of those. I guess political candidates respond warmly to “yes” men and women as well, but I suggest also they listen to contrarian voices because it is alternative voices that get stop them getting elected. They need to understand the opposite point of view and the range of feelings outside of their own range, because if victorious they will have to govern supporters and opponents alike.
CEOs do not generally behave this way, they want to make decisions and get their way. It is not in the nature of CEOs really to listen to others and weigh up the evidence, that is done by the line managers and customer care centers as they try to deal with the difference between the image sold and the product or service bought.
Trump is the same, acting like a CEO rather than a politician, and he no doubt thinks that is a good thing. He wants people around him to reinforce his picture of reality. In my book on communications, I wrote that good and bad behaviors in an organization emanate from the top, and Trump is a classic case. What he permits ripples throughout his campaign.
As November approaches, don’t think the parlous state of Trump’s campaign is about Trump or his people going off message or bullying to the detriment of the campaign. It is the campaign. Trump is the campaign, and he himself is off message and a bully. He is, in short, unelectable.
His antics are also obscuring his opponent, to her benefit. As November approaches, Hillary Clinton is getting a largely free pass when it comes to true scrutiny of a candidate. That will have to wait until after November and 4 years of another Clinton White House. By backing Trump, the GOP has failed its supporters and it has failed the general electorate of America.