Lessons from Trump: For The Democrats and the World

I am not actually a fan of Donald Trump in the role of President of the USA. However I do feel there are lessons to be learnt from the fact that Trump won an election to be president of the USA, and I worry that neither the democratic party in the USA, nor the world in general is listening to those lessons.

  • Keep the power dry: Recognise When Trump Is Right
  • The Main Case When Trump is Right
  • Stop With the Excuses
  • Clinton and ‘let them eat cake’
  • Primaries System :Beware the Polarising Echo Chamber.
  • The Real Lesson From Trump
  • Who can save the Democrats? Yang? Biden? Warren?

Keep the Powder Dry.

Recognise when Trump is right, or at least, when his only error is in poor expression. Save the criticism for the ample occasions when what is said is unambiguously problematic.

There is a tendency of opponents to look for faults in everything Trump says. Trump makes sufficient statements that do contain faults, leaving no real need to try and twist his words to try and find fault with everything Trump says. Every time overzealous critics overreach and try too hard to turn the usually ambiguous and failed wording by Trump into there worst possible meaning, adds a potential case of giving Trump ‘defenders’ ammunition.

Over use of criticism weakens cases where criticism really matters, and gives Trump supporters ammunition for claims criticism is invalid.

For example, one tweet by Trump was used to claim Trump thought the Moon is part of the planet Mars. Trump did use the words, ” They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part), “. The tweet is ambiguous and not well worded, but it is very likely Trump was trying to say “The Moon missions are part of the more ambitious goal of reaching Mars, and Nasa should be promoting the Moon missions within that greater context, rather than as a final objective’. My words are not perfect either 🙂 Nothing profound in what Trump is saying here; but nothing worth targeting either.

The bigger problem with focusing on twisting every word uttered by Trump in order to find fault, is that this misses entirely what is happening when the words of Trump resound with his audience. There is a tendency to forget that Trump won an election, and that around half of America voted for him. Why?

The Key Case When Trump Is Correct.

I suggest the basic reason people voted for Trump, is that there is a significant percentage of the population is feeling economic pain, even when statistics report the economy is strong. These people hear the economy is doing well, but are not seeing that result in improvements in their life. There is a worldwide problem: concentration of wealth within a small group. Huge upside for that small group results in positive reporting, at a time most of population is feeling economic pain. I have previously discussed the problem of misleading economic indicators in this post.

Trump came out and said:

  1. I get that you are feeling pain ( or: don’t believe figures they claim otherwise, all is not well )
  2. I have identified the problem and can identify and “enemy” you can blame (immigrants)
  3. I have a solution to the problem

It does sound a little like the Hitler playbook, only with identifying a different villain and more acceptable solution, but the message did resonate, and the strategy works when a significant group of the population are feeling ignored and disillusioned.

Trump managed to appear to realise people felt ignored and disillusioned. It can be said that his identification of an ‘enemy’ was wrong problematic and divisive and he did not have a solution. But he got step 1 correct.

Stop With The Excuses!

The democrats have many excuses for losing the election to Trump.

  • Trump did not win the popular vote
  • The Russians interfered
  • The FBI Investigation of emails
  • ….

The list goes on. The fact is that too many people voted for Trump. For most of those people, it is because the believed Trump could understand the problems they faced, said he had a solution and he was going to at least try to fix the problem. The excuses may have made the difference, but even without those issues at the very least the result would have been frighteningly close.

All the excuses distract from the key point: a lot of people really did vote for Trump. So it is important to try and learn WHY they voted for Trump.

Clinton and ‘Let Them Eat Cake’

Ok, the actual line was “basket of deplorables “. The effect in terms of convincing the masses you do not understand their problems comparable to the infamous ‘let them eat’, except we do know definitely know the source of the ‘basket of deplorables’ line. I recall reading an interesting editorial that there is a risk that Trump supporters can feel that attacks on Trump feel like attacks on them.

In fact, even people who only considered voting for Trump can easily be converted into enemies by comments that be interpreted as negative not only about Trump, but also negative about people who voted for Trump. The danger is missing how some messages from Trump do resonate, and suggesting that those the messages resonate with are wrong will push more people into the Trump camp.

Primaries System :Beware the Polarising Echo Chamber.

A trap for any party, is that of becoming an echo chamber for your own ideas. The declaration of the other-side of politics as ‘deplorables’ is a symptom of this very problem. In a divided country, there is a risk each party chooses a candidate who appeals to the voter base of that party, with no input in the process from the voters who do not vote for that party. A candidate who will best appeal to the approximately 50% of voters who would only vote for a Democrat anyway.

So the Democrats run a process of deciding who is most popular with their own voter base. The selection process largely a popularity contest amongst those most faithful to the party, and the Republicans run a similar process, so both sides choose a candidate who appeals to most faithful amongst their voters, those who would vote for that party regardless. The most faithful for each party are those furthest from the centre, because those in the centre are swing voters. As the choice for each party reflects the views of their own ‘faithful’ and furthers from the centre voters, the choices are less and less likely to appear to all voters. This is a process with a built in polarisation factor. Parties need a way to ensure their candidate appeals to voters of the other party. To move back to candidates who can appeal to both sides. The primaries system is inherently polarising.

The Real Lesson from Trump.

Trump did resonate with a group of the electorate with the whole “I recognise your pain, I have who to blame, and I have a solution”, but that is not the real lesson. The real lesson is that the primaries process can produce extremely divisive candidates.

Up until quite recently, nationwide everyone saw the same news and editorials. But, now people tend to only see media the reinforces their own beliefs. If you search on google, you get the responses google believes you want to see, not necessarily the same responses your neighbour sees.

We live in a polarising echo chamber, and the primaries system is a risk of simply becoming another source of polarisation and disunity.

The real lesson is to get a leader who not just wins because they also appeal to other side, but also can unite the county if they do win, data beyond the primary system is essential in choosing the candidate.

Who can save the Democrats? Yang? Biden? Warren?

I have seen polls on which Democrat candidate is seen as most likely to appeal to Trump voters. However these polls seem to be based on who democrat voters feel will appeal to Trump voters. I have not seen polls of actual Trump voters, but hopefully such polls do exist.

Yang has a message that sounds like it should resonate with Trump voters (recognise the pain, identity who is to blame, state there is a solution), there are news stories of him winning the support of Trump voters, so he could seem the most logical. Democrat voters do not rate him most likely to win support of Trump voters; but they tend to feel whoever they like most will also appeal to Trump voters so those ratings tend to stay close to polls of who they like. Although there is logic here, Yang is not looking like a real chance of actually winning, and I have not seen quantitiave data to support this idea.

The two candidates I have seen most rated by Democrats as the candidates to win over Trump voters are Biden and Warren. I have not seem them do much to win over Trump voters…and generally any appeal to Trump voters right now could damage their chance of nomination. Isn’t that the irony of it all? The real lesson is what is needed is a candidate for everyone, and being a candidate for everyone may hurt chances of nomination.

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