A Modest Lack of Proposal
It’s harder to imagine Hillary Clinton not running for President than her candidacy. She pretty much outlines the nature of a ruthless political animal in the current political age, where one’s accomplishments for office are that you have held a previous office – or a relationship to that office, and your ‘vision’ is whatever triangulates for a plurality of the Electoral College.
But in trying to imagine Donald Trump as an actual candidate for President, it’s hard to quell the fear of having landed in a parallel universe. The idea of ‘the Donald’s’ candidacy is preposterous, and the performance outlandish. But the result is success. Where has this creature come from?
I would propose that ‘the Donald’ has been living here among us the whole time. He or she comes home from work every day. He or she sleeps in the same bed and we share the same bathrooms. And when possible, we eat at the same tables and discuss the same budget.
For his supporters, I would propose that ‘the Donald’ represents the owner, the boss, the division manager, who has defined how success looks and acts. For ‘the Donald’s’ detractors – who would claim the Blue States and who pride themselves upon their moral conscience, their educational degrees, their better salaries and their higher intelligence, status and overall enlightenment – I would propose that ‘the Donald’ is representative of the crude atavistic impulses – their ‘second natures’ which have propelled them there. That is, that Donald also represents for them the owner, the boss, the division manager, and the hoary roots of the upwardly mobile – which they deny to see in the mirror each day.
Ideally, the reason we head off to work each day is to earn a living and to realize our abilities in a way that contributes to our society and our own development. This is a good start. But when one does get to work, one find that modern products are quite complex. A lot of tasks need doing to create these products, get them to market and sell them. Our ideal person doesn’t necessarily command their ideal job. And their ideal portfolio/resume doesn’t necessarily land them this ideal job. What lands them this job is what I would call their “job charisma”.
Charisma has been at least partly defined by sociologists as the judgment by others of the number of people who would bend to your opinion or bow to your lead. Whoever is in a position to place our candidate is looking for that person who can lead a project to success, whether it be a simple, one person task, or a complex, highly technical collaboration of unusual minds. In other words, what entices an employer to grant you the job opportunity you would like is their judgment of your leadership ability in this particular area.
For this reason, (and I suppose many others), being the leader is a very sought after position. Corporations, the military and Ivy League schools all scour the landscape for the newest crop of leaders with which to fill their ranks. A body of leaders would seem to be most effective and lead the organization to greater success. In turn, the candidates all try to present themselves as leaders. Leaders get to do what they want.
What does leadership, and in some sense popularity, entail? Leaders generally share the same personal qualities of us all. We can empathize and be charmed by them. They can be generous, humorous, good natured, and warm. But the character of a leader is defined by their priorities. A leader might be all those things as you or I, and perhaps be even better endowed with any of these qualities than you or I, including charity and selflessness. But what defines their (and our) character are priorities.
For example, many sales firms subject their job candidates to a personality inventory. They are looking for candidates who like people, who enjoy understanding people, and who like bonding with people. This would mark their category of say, ‘relatedness’. Another category would be an assessment of the candidates’ desire for achievement. Are they extremely competitive? A good sales person would be that person whose ‘Achievement’ priority is higher than their ‘Relational’ priority. This makes the difference between the employee who loves to chat with clients, and the employee who enjoys the time spent but also is always looking for that way to ‘close the deal’, to retail the relationship. It’s the difference between making a lot of friends and making a lot of sales.
When he or she heads out of the home to their employment, their success in the outer world will depend in a large part on their ability to project leadership. But in its barest essentials, leadership can appear grotesque – even monstrous. No one in a sales firm would want for the common public to witness their in-house activities or be a fly on the wall of their in-house culture. The bosses are extremely aggressive. They are extremely competitive. They do not countenance insubordination. They make extreme demands. They do not admit to being wrong in any significant sense. And at the furthest end of the spectrum, they define what is true and what is false. What is true is what they say is true. What is false is what they say is false. These two things can do a switcheroo at any time. The question most pressed upon every employee is whether they “embrace the company vision” and whether they are “personally invested”. Anything short of this is treasonous.
To survive and thrive in these environments, the culture must become second nature. You must react, just like in competitive athletics, without thinking of these basic tenets: You always put on the pleasant face. You never surrender your standing. If someone professes to know something you do not, and you cannot top them, then you ignore them or change the narrative. You do not wander into areas where you might be vulnerable, or which are populated by the vulnerable – for example, in the business world it would be the ‘arts’ or poetry. You aggressively limit the conversation to your strong areas. You aggressively control the narrative, while loyally parroting the narrative of your superior. You must worship the hierarchy. Those above you, you listen to. Those below, you patronize. Your equals, you compete with. If the boss says something which immediately contradicts what they’d said before – it doesn’t matter. The best you can ask for is ‘clarification’. But don’t ask more than once. Otherwise they might not think that it is because the thought behind it is too difficult or requires remedial explanation. If you ask more than once, they’ll either flirt with the idea of you being either insubordinate or a dullard.
Donald Trump is the public embodiment in probably its most pure form to date of all these strategies.
A problem arises when these employees return home. What has become second nature is not left at the office. If a mate suggests a failure, they either ignore it, or demean the origin. They don’t admit to contradictions. They assume leadership in all areas. If it isn’t granted, they stand in the midst of the activity until it grinds to a halt without their direction. They ask, delegate and command without a thought. It has become their way of conversing. They do the deciding. They establish whatever conversation they will listen to. They drive the narrative towards the result they want. They retail affection. They accept generosity as their due, and try to tweak it for a little more. Eventually, the goal of our employee’s second nature is to make everyone of the household an employee of their personal brand, a helper towards their achievement. It easily happens that the second nature strategy of outside occupations becomes a family tradition and a root nature of the family in a way that travels down generations.
This whole scenario can become toxic to the family and even lethal to its members. Once a mate or family member decides to “be all they can be”, it becomes a race to see who can love each other the least, (all the while claiming the opposite). As Donald Trump himself remarked about his older brother Freddy, an airline pilot with a fun-loving nature, who died as an alcoholic at the age of 43. “For me, it worked very well,” Mr. Trump is quoted as saying in the New York Times. “For Fred, it wasn’t something that was going to work.” … ‘The Donald’ ended by saying, ““He’s like the opposite of me.”
To see all of Carl Nelson’s published work, (plus that of others), visit: http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/home.html