Taking Donald Trump seriously means looking behind the mask to the contradictions that make him both entertaining and dangerous as a leader.
According to the Economist, “Mr Trump’s secret sauce has two spices. First, he has a genius for self-promotion, unmoored from reality (“I play to people’s fantasies. I call it truthful hyperbole,” he once said). Second, he says things that no politician would, so people think he is not a politician. Sticklers for politeness might object when he calls someone a “fat pig” or suggests that a challenging female interviewer has “blood coming out of her wherever.” His supporters, however, think his boorishness is a sign of authenticity—of a leader who can channel the rage of those who feel betrayed by the elite or left behind by social change. It turns out that there are tens of millions of such people in America.” Read more…
For those of us who take transformational leadership seriously, our biggest challenge is sometimes acknowledging NEGATIVE transformational leaders as leaders. Men like Donald Trump, charismatic and manipulative, secretive and boisterous, capture the leadership stage by performing positive leadership and activating negative changes, like justifying racism and violence or celebrating self-promoting, profitable, but exploitative business practices like Trump “University.”
According to the Guardian, his candidacy reflects a change in the way conservative voters see Republican insiders. “This is what a failure of leadership looks like. And it’s not new.” I see that problem as well; obstructionism and bombast have paved a path for this self brand-identified outsider candidate.
But I also see that his supporters, irrationally or not, believe that he can transform our country into something more white, more corporate, and less complex. And that IS a transformation, although perhaps a nostalgic one. So I believe we need to look at their hunger for his protectionist, white-male focused rhetoric as a hunger for transformation that makes sense to them.
In an United States dominated by often confusing cultural transformation, his call to force government to behave as if multicultural realities and global changes do not affect our policies and political relationships is transformative. It just doesn’t have any basis in possibility, because his proposals make no sense, if you look behind the mask.
The contradiction, acted out in his many scandals, confusing proposals and attacks on anyone who opposes him, is that his candidacy reflects a hunger for transformation, combined with a short-sighted and angry nostalgia for a future that excludes the changes that mark our modern social, business and personal realities.
It’s a dangerous contradiction, because he’s riding an emotional rollercoaster of hope, fear and rage, with little promise of meaningful results.