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Understanding Trump the businessman President

  • 10 November 2016


Donald Trump's presidential victory has been greeted by most of the mainstream media with shock and apprehension, which is to be expected given that they were barracking for his opponent. It is worth examining just why the antipathy to Trump has been so great among those used to pulling the levers of power.

The usual reason given is that he is, so it is claimed, a 'sociopathic con artist' and narcissist. 'As opposed to what?' one might ask. As the Clintons have demonstrated with their appalling charitable foundation, there is some pretty steep competition in that area.

Another, less noticed, reason why Trump creates such anxieties, especially in the political elites, is that he is, first and foremost, a businessman.

In modern times, has there ever been a major political leader of a democracy, let alone president of the United States, who spent their whole adult life in business before moving to the top of the political tree? When we look at him from this perspective his behaviour becomes entirely predictable.

The first step for a business person is to make the sale, usually by over-promising and tapping into the emotional triggers of the customer. That is exactly what Trump did. Over and over, he assured everyone that electing him would be 'fantastic'; he would deliver; customer-value is in the bag. It was a pitch he had made countless times in his business career, albeit mainly with hotels rather than to electorates.

He even continued the rhetoric in his acceptance speech, which looked more like an annual meeting for a business that has had a year of stellar profits than a political event. Top performing staff were singled out and the supporters were praised as if they were staff members who had put in a good year. Even his comment about the 'potential' of Americans sounded like a speech to boost employee morale.

The next step for a business person, once the sale is made, is for a hard financial logic to be applied. Trump's hype will be, at the very least, toned down, if not unwound. Watch for him to shift. Once the customer has coughed up, business people typically become extremely pragmatic. That will be how Trump behaves.

It is often said that the 'business of America is business', implying that having a businessman at the helm is culturally appropriate. But the anxiety indicates that many in the power elite think otherwise.


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