“Keep people off-balance and in the dark by never revealing the purpose behind your actions. If they have no clue what you are up to, thy cannot prepare a defense. Guide them far enough down the wrong path, envelope them in enough smoke, and by the time they realize your intentions, it will be too late.” - Robert Greene
The implosion of President-elect Mr. Donald J. Trump on the political scene is a bro-classic tale of hubris, recklessness, political naivete, and a kill-or-be-killed culture. His election turned heads and jaws dropping. Politically, he was considered and treated with detached respect and recognition given to a comic book superhero.
A lot has been written why Donald Trump won and why Hillary Clinton lost. I'm not going to regurgitate the belabored reasons of pundits why the election turned out the way it did. I believe Mr. Trump's decisive victory was partly due to the psychology of game of power he employed. Mr. Trump was most times boisterous and bullish. Sometimes subtle, at times congenial and many times cunning, democratic yet devious.
In the game of power, Trump picked fights with people he was sure he could defeat. Look at the 17 Republicans who contested the primaries with Trump. He sets them up as convenient targets, and even turned some of them he considered as friends into enemies with his signature abusive sarcasm and caustic lampoon to describe or destroy them. By now we know the Trump vulgar vocabulary so well that they have become permanently ingrained in our collective memory. No need to rehash them.
He used his political opponents to define his cause more clearly to the public, even framing it as a struggle of good against evil, “us versus them”, “taking our country back”, “making America great again,” and other inflammatory Hitleric lunatic rhetoric. “A sharply defined enemy is a far greater argument for your side,” Robert Green reminds us, “than the words you could possibly put together.” This is very true the way Trump defined and defeated his opponents. Trump welcomes conflict, using his political opponents to enhance his reputation among his supporters – the angry white men, the non-college educated, the high school drop outs, and the KKK – as a surefooted fighter who can be relied upon in times of their manufactured fear and uncertainty to take American back for them.
Trump won the election through deception, by saying less than necessary, by courting attention at all cost, by crushing his opponents totally, and by keeping Americans in suspended terror – cultivating an air of unpredictability. Throughout the primaries, campaigns, and during the debates, Trump didn't give his opponents any chance to sense what he was up to. He threw them off the scent by dragging red herrings across their path. He used false sincerity. He sent ambiguous signals. He sets up misleading objects of desire. He made sure his opponents were unable to distinguish the genuine from the false, and couldn't pick out his real goal.
Trump relies heavily on saying less than necessary. In the quest for power, the more you say, the more common you appear, and the less in control. Trump was vague and volatile on almost all issues. For example when he was asked on how he was going to create jobs, his answer was “I will bring the jobs back.” How? He won't explain. On healthcare, “I will repeal and replace Obama Care.” “I am going to take care of everybody. I don't care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody's going to be taken care of much better than they're taken care of now.” How? How? “They're going to be taken care of. I would make a deal with existing hospitals to take care of people. And, you know what, if this is probably --”
With all the banalities said by Trump, it seemed original because he made it vague, open-ended, and sphinx-like. Trump was able to intimidate and intrude his opponents by saying less. In politics, everything is judged by its appearance, what's unseen counts for nothing. It's all mediated reality!
It is politically tactical and strategic for Trump to crush his opponents completely. He knew more is lost by stopping half way than through total annihilation of his opponents: the enemy will recover, and will seek revenge. Trump made sure his opponents were crushed not only in body but in spirit. Trump remains elusive and unpredictable as to what he'll do, how he'll do it, because he knew his predictability gives his opponents a sense of control. He turns the table against them. He employed behaviors that seem to have no consistency or purpose. In doing so, he keeps his opponents off balance, and they wear themselves out trying to explain his moves. He takes this strategy to the extreme, thereby intimidates and terrorize his opponents.
Trump loves attention. He ensured he was not lost in the crowd, or buried in oblivion. He stands out all the time. He's very conspicuous at all costs. He made himself a magnet of attention by appearing larger, more colorful, more mysterious than his bland and timid opponents. Trump outmaneuvered his opponents in the battle for earned media, sucking the oxygen out of news cycles. In the midst of presidential campaigns, Trump attended the grand openings of his new hotel in Washington D.C., and his golf course in Turnberry, Scotland. He brought campaign media attention to his businesses.
He drew attention to himself by creating an unforgettable and controversial image. He courts scandal. He did everything and anything to make himself seem larger than life and shine more brightly than his opponents. He doesn't care or make distinction between kinds of attention. He doesn't give a damn what brings him attention – notoriety – of any sort will take him to the presidency. He prefers to be slandered and attacked than ignored. On Mexican immigrants: “They're bringing drugs, crime and are rapists.” On Senator John McCain: “He is a war hero because he was captured.” On Megyn Kelly: “... You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her, wherever.”
Trump called for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States. “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot people and I wouldn't lose voters.” Trump said of his rival, Texas Senator Ted Cruz “His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald (the man who assassinated President J.F. Kennedy) prior to Oswald's being, you know, shot.” “Putin has been a leader, far more than our president.” On Hillary: “She is the most corrupt person ever to seek the office of the presidency.”
Trump killed three birds with one stone – he secured the Congress (House and the Senate) and the White House for the Republicans. He appears smart, friendly, open, trusting, and as one of his non-educated college/high school drop outs, white angry men, rural Americans, and his KKK supporters. To his opponents, Trump conceals his plans. He sent his rivals on time consuming wild-goose chases.
How did Trump get away with so many murders and become President-elect of the United States of America? The aberration is why Trump's election is a forbidden recipe, a toxic and lethal menu as part of the American democracy likened to the cooking of young goat in its mother's milk, a ritual connected with fertility by pagans.
You can reach Bayo at [email protected].