I’ve been telling and retelling an interesting Trump anecdote over the past few days.
When The Donald’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, reached out to John Kasich about the vice presidency, Kasich reportedly asked (as one does), “What’s the job description?”
To which Manafort replied, “You’ll be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.”
“Well,” asked Kasich, “What is Trump going to do?”
“He’s going to make America great again.”
It’s difficult to grok the fact of the Trump election without seeing it through a lens of sales and marketing strategy.
Of course, Trump didn’t use traditional methods. He used the internet, so it looked different than any of us are used to. But the same time-tested sales principles worked for him: shock and awe, emotional reasoning, divide and conquer, repetition, redirection, scarcity.
Trump recognized a series of opportunities and strung them together for his gain, because that’s what entrepreneurs do. They recognize underutilized resources that can be matched with underserved markets, and they capitalize.
Here’s what Trump saw:
- A fractured republican party, with several emerging ideas conflicting for dominance
- A newly Internet-centric media landscape still in its formative stages that was ripe for manipulation
- The American people still unaware of the impact of this new form of media on the culture and at a loss for how to navigate it
And in the end, Trump used old sales tactics on new platforms to reunite the broken right and sell them a fool’s hope.
Trump got rich, as we know, by “slapping his name on buildings”. His game has not changed. He’s still an opportunist making use of underutilized real estate.
Only this time it’s not a tower with his name on it—it’s a country.
I have a lot of sympathy for all the Trump-supporting special interest groups out there, and for all the single-issue voters, because if what I’m saying is true, then no champion to your cause has risen.
And he will not deliver on the promises he made during his ascent.
If you were on the right and you wanted him to say “I’m pro-life”, he talked about ripping fetuses out. If you wanted him to say “I’m tough on immigration”, he promised to build a wall. If you wanted him to talk about bringing jobs back, he talked about tariffs on international trade.
In short, he made what promises he needed to make to get you the right kind of “ready to buy”—and he’ll do the minimum amount needed to appease you now that you’re his customers.
My sense, and I know it’s hard to hear, is that Donald Trump doesn’t care about you, me, or even making America great again (whatever that means). He’s only strengthening his position in the marketplace of selling empty promises, emotions, and ideas to desperate people—and it’s a market with massive growth potential.
Only a true consumerist could commodify people, religions, whole segments of the population this way. And, of course, if that’s not what we see in Donald Trump, then who is he?
He is not a savior. He is not even a remarkable businessman. He’s a salesman, an opportunist, a money-grabber, and you’ve been sold.
I have beliefs are important to me and, yes, sacred. These are values and positions that I have made sacrifices for, struggled to defend, and even struggled to maintain at times.
I also know what it’s like to have those things devalued and played with—it hurts.
It’s going be a while, but once the healing begins, and we all feel ready to sit down at the same tables again, I’d like to extend an olive branch. As a freethinker, as someone who believes in democratic conversation, even if I don’t agree with you, I promise to hear you out.
Today, tomorrow, and always.
I—and I hope an increasing amount of my fellow liberals—will do everything in my power to see things from your perspective, to feel them the way that you do, to understand what it’s like to stand in your shoes, and even to allow my opinions to be shaped by the experience.
Over the last 10 years or so, a movement on the left has taken form that seems to take ghoulish pride in their complete antagonism towards certain (read: conservative) ideas, while hiding behind a thin veneer of “tolerance” and political correctness. Their “virtue signaling” gets media sympathy and has even begun, dangerously I think, to shape broader cultural norms and policies.
This has to stop—it is undemocratic and uncivilized.
But Trump is not the answer.
My final hope is that the disappointment that Trump is and will continue to prove to be can be a starting point for a true democratic conversation that opens up legitimate and sustainable inroads into our common goal—that of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I have faith in us as people, and I have faith in our mission.