If I asked you to describe Donald Trump’s supporters in one word, you might say angry. As I have taught you in the Master Persuader series, if most people have the same explanation for a thing, they’re probably right.
Now suppose I asked you for one word to describe what the opponents of Donald Trump dislike about him the most. This time your answers are all over the map. Some say he’s a fascist. Some say he’s xenophobic. Or racist. Some say he’s only in it for the money, or the ego. Some say he’s a narcissist. Others believe he is secretly working with the Clinton campaign to guarantee Hillary’s victory. Some say he is just bitter, or stupid. Some expect him to announce it was all a joke and quit.
That’s a lot of reasons. But I submit to you that all of those reasons – as varied as they seem – have one thing in common. And that one thing can be embodied in one word.
No one doubts Trump’s effectiveness to get things done. That conversation ended sometime between his overthrow of the Republican leadership and his complete dominance of every media outlet. I think it happened at about the same time you watched him dismantle the Bush dynasty and the Clinton dynasty, in that order.
So you know he can do things.
But smart people – and lots of them – have doubted Trump’s motives. And for good reason. Trump’s campaign slogan about making America great sounds like standard political blah-blah-blah. And why would Trump want to leave his ideal billionaire life for a government job? Something doesn’t add up.
With Trump, it feels as if there is something we don’t know. And when someone with that much power has unknown motives, it is wise to steer clear. It would be insane to elect someone with Trump’s level of effectiveness without understanding his motives.
I don’t know what is in Trump’s mind, but I have some context to offer because my background overlaps with Trump’s in some coincidental ways. Like Trump, I’m an older, white, male, raised in New York State, in a protestant family, in a Trump-like Republican town, with Trump-like Republican parents. By that I mean the people in my town talked more about taxes than religion.
So here’s what I know: Generally speaking, men raised in protestant, Republican, New York families are not spending a lot of time hugging and sharing feelings. It just isn’t done.
If you need someone to pull you out of a burning vehicle, the men who grew up in New York are great to have around. We were raised to be useful. But if you want to watch a sad movie and share your feelings, we’re busy that night.
And that’s a problem for Trump.
Trump’s inability to express empathy created a void in our minds about his motivation. So people filled in the void and came up with their own stories to explain Trump’s motives.
This is the so-called third-act problem that I described in an earlier post. In movie fashion, we have a protagonist who has been trained from childhood to suppress his feelings. But in order to win the presidency he must display real empathy or else the public will distrust his motives, especially on immigration.
But Trump doesn’t do empathy. Part of the reason, I assume, is that showing empathy would make him look weaker in future negotiations. But I believe his upbringing is part of it as well.
Trump’s empathy problem was unsolvable, just like any good movie.
And then the GOP debate happened. By now you know that Ted Cruz made the mistake of questioning the values of New Yorkers. And as you know by now, Donald Trump took the ultimate high ground – a move of sublime political deftness – and got the best of the exchange. If you didn’t see it, read it here. It is one for the ages.
But Trump did not shed a tear. His lip was not quivering. And he did not show his heart in the way we would want to see it. But in two words, found within his defense of New York, he solved the unsolvable. You just don’t know it yet.
Let me summarize it for you. The realization will start small, and build in the coming days.
If you are wondering why Donald Trump is more of a bad-ass on immigration than you feel is either right or necessary, here’s the difference:
You heard about 9/11. Trump smelled it.
I’m calling this the immigration surprise that I predicted. I thought it would involve a VP selection, but he took the opportunity when it arose.
Now that Trump has an acceptable motive – a story you will see emerge in the media – the election is essentially over.
Trump will win Iowa and run the table.