The core problem in politics
Most fields have a specific core problem that needs to be repeatedly solved. In surfing it’s the bottom turn. In investing it’s valuation.
In politics it’s this: how do you speak to a nation of people who don’t care politics and certainly don’t care about you?
Every successful (democratic) politician has to solve this their own way, and a lot of strange behaviour can be explained by it.
Why did Tony Abbott, a roads scholar, define himself by the infantile phrase ‘Stop the Boats’? It’s perhaps clearer why Obama stood for ‘Hope’. We all know Trump is here to Make America Great.
These are far more than slogans, they penetrated the community psyche allowing tens or hundreds of millions of people to know who these people stand for. This then becomes authenticity and then support.
Gleeful articles grading and deriding the simplicity of the childlike language used by many politicians miss the point somewhat.
Wannabe politicains hoping to rise through party ranks should study this problem carefully. In almost every situation it’s best to build public profile, and should learn the elusive simple messaging that can pierce the zeitgeist.
A parallel problem is how to get your name out, which leads to the conclusion that all publicity counts. Unfortunately we are all too often witness to leadership challenges by absolute nobodies that haven’t managed to do anything of public note, yet aspire to public leadership. Profile must come first.
This was something Trump has understood for years.
Boris Johnson says it well.. Putin is also a master. Even my grandmother in Darwin has strong opinions on this Russian man on the other side of the world. In this case it’s his theatrics that penetrates, the tiger shooting, the hockey game winning and so on. (I just came across the tiger bear eating).
The wrong lessons
Over the past 12 months Trump has learned some terrible lessons. Hitler and fascist analogies are tedious (if not overdone) right now, but there is one part I find particularly compelling.
Hitler repeatedly moved aggressively against the views of all those around him, even his supporters. By the time the 1930s were finished he learned that the opinions of diplomats, politicians and generals stood for nothing against his own intellect.
These ‘experts’ got the core questions of the day wrong, or so they appeared. Hitler repeatedly outmanouvred the allies of the previous conflict in ways that seemed genius. Ofcourse, his strength was weakness, and the apparent weakness of the allies hid their true strength.
With the destruction of Germany’s old cities, mass rape of her women and lethal destruction of her armies, the experts were vindicated far too late. Remembering how proud Prussia was dismembered and absorbed into Russia, and only mentioned now in history lessons, the Brexiteers and Trumpsters should temper their gloating.
On election to the highest office, Trump has the ultimate proof of his own intelligence. Noone else has a handle on truth, save for those with him at the start, who he has now elevated above all others. Expect no respect from Trump for any advisor now.
More worryingly, his tactics were vindicated too. He lied repeatedly, got away with blatant racism (Obama’s birth certificate), sexism, and general piggishness in every way. There will be some rough times ahead.
His election is no proof of wisdom or intelligence, nor has any bearing on future orthogonal challenges. As investment advisors constantly declare: past performance does not suggest anything about the future.