If you’ve ever driven by a car accident you know the sensation.
You have to look. You can’t help yourself. It is only through strenuous effort that you can avoid staring and just drive on. To me, there are elements of that same feeling with the Donald Trump for President phenomenon. Many of us just can’t take our eyes off of it.
I will (sort of) avoid the question of whether the guy would or could make a good President. This isn’t a political forum. The “can’t take our eyes off” factor I’m looking at is the way he chooses to communicate — and what that has meant for public discourse in the race for the White House.
What he says: When you have a high profile public figure that is prepared to say anything that comes to his mind, without much concern for whether it is correct or if it offends or insults a portion of the population, it changes things, at least for now. Most of the time we are hoping a leader will represent the best in us. We look at the woman or man and hope we can see something of what we, as a society, have created. The person who proposes to lead us is then a proxy for who we are. Well, maybe that’s where we are, but I hope that’s not the case. People across this land are generally a decent lot. We may not always like each other, but we don’t go out of our way to poke each other in the eye verbally.
Trump has come along in the dog days of summer to provide a level of entertainment when the actual decision about who the next President should be is still months away. Yet, what surprises me is how he continues to hang on, almost because he keeps making one crazy comment after another.
It’s almost like it’s not possible for him to say anything too “out there.” Having covered these races over the years, I know it is a marathon, not a sprint. For now, Trump has won the sprint.
What others then say: Because Trump didn’t burn up and disappear in the first 30 days of his campaign; it has had an impact on what the other candidates say and how they say it. The dialogue gets a little coarser, the stunts get a little more provocative and the volume gets a little louder. This is the time where a public figure is really tested. Who are they and how far will they go? Media attention is the oxygen for a campaign, making it possible to raise more money. Candidates who start to fall back will be interesting to watch.
What must the guy be like in private? Finally, back to my friend “the Donald.” (Okay, I don’t think he would make a very good President.) If he says the stuff he blurts out on the campaign trail, in front of microphones and cameras, what must he be like in private? Again, I come back to that view of our leaders as our proxy in the world. Somehow, I don’t see this guy showing up on too many lists of the ‘best and the brightest.’
Have a great Labor Day weekend and see you in September.
My new book, Get Great at What Technology Can’t Replicate, will be available by year’s end. Stay tuned!
Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting, www.clear-comm.net, a Scottsdale, AZ communications consulting firm that helps people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: [email protected].