Can the Trump leopard change its spots

Written by Jim Walsh

Just when it seemed that the dust had settled on the US Presidential election the move for recounts in three swing states is underway.

And this at a time when the analysis of how Donald Trump won had moved from the emotional and disbelieving to a more measured look .

How and why Donald trump became president-elect will be debated for a long time to come but two of the most insightful articles I have seen recently  are those written by Christian Parenti from New York University on and Irish  journalist and broadcaster Matt Cooper ‘The Art of a Coup’  in the Sunday Business Post on 13th November.

Although written from different perspective, together they identify the audience, messaging and tactics which contributed to Trump’s success.

Parenti points to the clear identification of Trump’s target audience and the simple message presented to them as a major factor in his success. Matt Cooper writes of Trump’s tactics, learned from years of doing deals and fighting competitors, without any concern for truth or integrity.

The Trump campaigns consistent messaging to its key target audience echoed the objectives which every marketing campaign focusses on. But his tactics are not what any organisation that believes in either corporate responsibility, or PR in its real sense, would seek to emulate.

Parenti identifies what every marketeer and professional communicator would see as gospel. Identifying your core audience.  Most business campaigns begin from this point but often stray because the attraction of  strong visability among a larger body of people or the attraction of mainstream media opportunities become distracting.

You can love him or loath him, I would be in the latter camp and agree with Parenti’s view of Trump as a fraud, racist, misogynist and confessed sexual predator who has legitimised dangerous street level hate.

But his campaign did clearly define its audience, not  by gender, race or age group. He spoke directly to the concerns of  those who were suffering from the decisions of corporates moving busineses to lower wage economies.   And  as Parenti says to those in much of the heartland – where the people who actually fight America’s wars come from and go back with their PTSD, missing limbs, addictions and related financial burdens.

Trump message was, as Parenti points out, simply saying ‘enough is enough, your difficulties are not all your fault. Its not all your fault that you couldn’t get an  education, have advanced degrees or even a job or make decisions that are worthy of respect.’  And he gave hope for change

As a result he received significent support, not just from disaffected white people, but from African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos, both male and female.

Peter Theil, entrepreneur, hedge fund manager, venture capitalist and Trump supporter said;  “The media is always taking Trump literally. It never takes him seriously. Voters on the other hand take Trump seriously, but not lieterally.”

Interestingly Trump has described his own statements (messages) made during the campaign  as merely an ‘opening bid’ in a negotiation.

Matt Cooper focuses on Trumps ‘negotiation’ methods for beating opponents into submission as a deal maker.

Cooper suggests that Trump’s way of beating off his political opponents was an extension of how he has approached doing deals all his life and  which is similar to the way some organisations agressively pursue corporate takeovers or contested acquisitions.

“His campaign drew much from the harsh world of big business where threats and aggresive underming of trust in ones’opponents are basic tactics.” writes Cooper.

Other tactics and dirty tricks common in such situations are to use lies, spread false rumours or, if you have the greater financial muscle, threaten legal action knowing that your opponent cannot afford a protracted legal case.

Such tactics would be abhorant to most business leaders but not for those who, like Trump, have a ‘win at all costs’ mentality.

And when the battles are won they can afford to be magnamonious towards their defeated opponent.  That is exactly what we saw in Trump’s speech on election night when Hilary Clinton conceeded defeat. “He had sealed the deal” says Cooper.

The question is will the weight of high public office force the leopard to change its spots during the next four years?

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