I love House of Cards, the Netflix series that sees sociopath Senator Frank Underwood, former Republican Whip, engage on a personal vendetta against President Walker for reneging on his election promise to select Frank as America’s top diplomat, Secretary of State. Underwood, over the course of two chilling, and downright tantalising, seasons impeaches Walker and becomes President. With the election of President-Elect Trump, it seems something is going awry in the rich world’s liberal democracies.
Wednesday 09 November 2016, the day when the contemporary order was hit in the sternum by a Trump brand sledgehammer. The world knows who it’s next undemocratically elected leader will be, President-Elect Trump. For a candidate branded a misogynist, a racist, an isolationist, and a whole host of other ‘ists’ he’s done rather quite well as a non-existent political outsider.
Here’s my take on how the Republicans with ‘The Donald’s’ help took back the White House, enjoy.
Act 1, Scene 1
The event of the evening was the 30 April 2011 White House Correspondents dinner. President Obama is at the lectern, and the crowd loves him, and his witty insults aimed squarely at Donald Trump. This is the moment when Donald Trump vowed to take revenge on this night of humiliation. As Robert Greene has written about in his book “The 48 Laws of Power”, the following acts as our frame for what happened earlier this week (09 November 2016).
Law 19 – Know who you’re dealing with – do not offend the wrong person
Naturally, how did we go from lecture hall banter to President-Elect Trump in five years? I see the White House Correspondents dinner as pivotal in this process. It was pivotal because President-Elect Trump is a glaring narcissist. He wants to win. He wants to be liked. He wants to be the centre of (positive) attention. By offending Mr Trump, President Obama, fuelled a weapon of mass destruction. Mr Trump would, and history now knows he wouldn’t stop at anything until he won the 2016 Presidential election. However, Trump was aided by a more than willing Republican party.
Act 1, Scene 2
The 2012 Republican nomination fails at the last hurdle; the White House remains in Democrat control with President Obama at the helm. From this defeat, the Republicans started scheming early. However, as soon as Hillary Rodham Clinton officially announced her intent to run on 12 April 2015 this ‘shit got real’. As a Republican how the hell do you deal with Hillary Clinton? You send in ‘The Donald’.
From the moment the Democrats announced Clinton’s nomination, they gave away their power – in short, they put all of their eggs in one basket. The Republican party response was genius. None of their candidates could match Hillary’s appeal especially as a woman in American politics. And this leads to Greene’s next law.
Law 3 – Conceal your intentions
You’re asking, “how did they conceal their intentions?” They did so by flooding the Republican nominations with the likes of: “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz, Bush, Carson, Christie, Kasich, Marco Rubio, and a whole host of others. And then Donal Trump announced on June 16, 2015. The world reacted with a humorous shock. Why would a billionaire business mogul want the top job in Western politics? And on top of that, no one thought for one second that he would get through the screening rounds, the GOP debates and his licentious comments.
Act 2, scene 1
The litany of Trumpisms has surpassed even those of the great George W Bush. However, these Trumpisms laid the foundation for how Trump clinched power.
Law 6 – Court attention at all costs
Law 12 – Use selective honesty and generosity to disarm your victim(s)
Law 13 – When asking for help appeal to people’s self-interest
It is my belief that once the GOP and Trump had spoken about running, the rest was up to him. He knew he could win and more importantly, as a classic narcissist, he would. He had a vendetta against that Muslim. So how did Trump use, in Greene’s words “selective honesty and generosity”?
Trump courted attention at all times. He tapped into every sphere of American politics that matters to the 99%. By addressing the issue of Mexican immigration, to banning Muslims from entering the USA, to “bombing the shit out of ISIS“, to sending back Syrian refugees. Mr Trump connected with people from every arc of the political spectrum. By making such grand and bold gestures, he was able to get away with claiming to kill.
At the same time, by saying he’ll “bomb the shit out of em”, he’s coming across as a strong leader. Trump is tapping into the frontiersman mindset, and he’s acting like a leader, something none of the other candidates ever demonstrated. He’s serving as though he’s in the White House except for one crucial difference; he doesn’t ever say he’s won, unlike Mrs Clinton.
He disarmed Clinton and his Republican rivals by following through with his pledges, one significant example of this is when he pledged US$6 million to US Veterans. It doesn’t matter where the money came from; the fact is he delivered. He’s appealing to people’s self-interest, and it worked. Finalised in May 2016, from an initial pledge announced in January.
Again, come May, Trump is courting attention again. This time he’s doing it with comments about China, “China is raping our country“. The point about all of these bold statements is they appeal on many levels to people’s insecurities and the need for America to reinvent itself. New York Times columnist Tom Friedman has written about this in “Hot, Flat, and Crowded”. In short, America has stymied and needs to reinvent itself or languish in second place to China. President-Elect Trump taps into this psyche rather well. And he calls out the nepotism and corruption that all voters know only too well of their elected representatives. The elections will be rigged. Claimed that Republicans are doing shady deals to stop him winning the vote, and the electorate has sided with him. As I’ve said, he’s courted attention at all times, used selective honesty, and appealed to the voters’ self-interest to do it. Anyone who knows anything about manipulation knows full well that President-Elect Trump seduced his marks and probably will renege on almost all of his pledges.
Act 2, scene 2
Law 15 – Crush your enemy(ies) totally
Once his Republican rivals were despatched, he could focus his energy entirely on Hillary Rodham Clinton. However, looking back, Trump paints each target and annihilates each one in turn. He focuses more on the main rivals and wins. These are smart tactics. And in all honesty, it doesn’t matter at this point if he had or hadn’t signed an MOU with the GOP, he was winning, and they knew it.
Act 3, scene 1
Throughout Trump’s election campaign, in both 2015 and 2016, he has consistently met Greene’s next two laws:
Law 23 – Play to people’s fantasies
Law 37 – Create compelling spectacles
Fantasies, what fantasies? Immigration, building a wall, the Muslim problem, America’s declining manufacturing presence, embroiled in expensive and deadly foreign wars, middle America’s decline, wage stagnation, refugees, the American Dream. I could continue, but the point is he has said what no other politician has dared. Pollsters and the media colluded, trumpeting that President-Elect Trump would not win on the contrary not only did he win, but he also turned any attack he faced back onto the attacker and triumphed. He said what American’s care about. He became a paragon of the people. The problem, however, is more muddied than ever. By making such grand gestures, will he keep them? I doubt it. He and the Republicans needed to win, and they wanted to win at all costs. Trump turned the Presidential election into the latest version of the ‘Apprentice’. This was why it worked.
Trump created compelling spectacles at almost all of his appearances, he incubated and gave birth to a cult-like following, something which I’ve never seen before. It wasn’t only his rally’s that had an air of spectacle. By holding events in Trump brand hotels, he kept his enemies guessing constantly. Most people, myself included, always assumed he was doing this for publicity. Oh how wrong we all were. By hosting events on his property and new developments, opponents dropped their guard, and he won, consistently. It is ingenious what he has achieved. At the same time, he’s also tapping into the electorate’s mindset that politicians are lazy and always open to back-handers. By jetting off around the USA and the world, opening new Trump developments, he creates the image that he gets things done and works. Hillary Clinton, by comparison, has only ever known the Hill.
Act 4, scene 1
President-Elect Trump won the battle for the White House because of the laws I’ve outlined above but, also because he was self-financing. Again, even here, he is obeying the laws outlined. He made a lot of this, and it is important. It makes him look angelic in comparison to HRC. By being self-financed and having the GOP publicly distance themselves from the front-runner on some occasions, and this is despite Trump and the GOP agreeing he won’t run as an Independent, Trump was able to manipulate all those who voted for him very effectively.
The beauty of Trump’s campaign is that he fooled everyone. In part, he had a great team of staffers but ultimately, the clincher was his personality and vision. The TV star, business mogul, and narcissist. All of these ingredients were blended with the right amount of controversy.
Law 47 – Do not go past the mark you asked for, in victory, learn when to stop
Personally, President-Elect Trump is a red-herring. He wanted to prove to President Obama that he could win and he had a salivating and obediently loyal party willing to do whatever it took to allow President-Elect Trump to win. He did a good job, the Republican party team did a great job, and I’m sure all of his fallen comrades will be given cushy posts throughout his administration.
With President-Elect Trump, the apprentice until January, we’re now starting to get a taste of what the man will accomplish. I think it’s only right to observe that he’s assuaging a lot of his detractors’ concerns. When President-Elect Trump finally does move into his swanky new pad, I’m sure the first order of the day will be to call in the contractors. And on that note, one of his key election pledges to get a great deal will be vindicated, renovating an old classic.