Normally, one would speak of leadership before followership. But, in the case of President Donald J Trump – it’s worth trying to understand his followers, then his leadership.
Initially, his announcement to run for the US presidency was met with jeer, disbelief and mock. His victory as presidential-candidate for the Republicans, with even more surprise, fear, and criticism within and outside the party. Trump’s victory as @POTUS, however, was the biggest shocker to experts, scholars, academics, and commentators.
Here we are 4 years later, having just seen Trump acquitted of any wrongdoing in #ImpeachTrump. He’s even stronger than ever before and set on his path for another term.
How? How could it be Trump keeps winning, and the leftist smartypants left really hurt and confused? Let’s first understand his followers and their reasoning.
- Want to be led, and win
– They look to the president of the country as a god-figure who is responsible for solving their problems. Victory or WINNING – “us and them, haves and have nots” – is really what it’s about. Keep the game simple, no need for complication. So what if he is an authoritarian, narcissist figure at the front? He single-handedly claims to win for the team. Success breeds success and what’s more appealing than sweet victory.
- Care more about results and the bottom line, NOW
– The US economy is doing better than ever. The January Job Reports tell us: a) 225 000 jobs created (expansion continues), b) 3.6% unemployment rate, and c) 1% annual job growth rate. Trump’s overall and economic approval is on the up. January 2-15 Gallup Poll tells us that 90% of Americans are happy with their personal life, and 62% say economic conditions are good to excellent.
– Immediate gratification is the evidence needed for leadership. And Trump is a decisive leader (“You’re fired!” (The Apprentice) “Get right of her, now!”(former US ambassador to Ukraine)). Delayed gratification and long term consequences are the antithesis of quick, fast bottom-line results.
- Are simple, believing folks that make up the majority working class
– People just want jobs, a good life, family, a good society, functioning amenities, access to opportunities and happiness. “Make America Great Again”. “America First”… let’s win inside before worrying about others.
– Further education, critical thinking, privilege, sophisticated arguments, analytical types are usually in the minority. Simple-minded nationalists detest leftist arrogance of logic, scoff, and intellectualism. Empathy, diversity, global world, consequences, relationships, worrying about others/ outside is not the main priority
– Most vote on party lines: Republican or Democrat, Red or Blue. Sentiment. Identity politics.
– Language is important. Trump’s favourite simple words are: “Huge/ Yuge, Bigly, Believe me, Stupid, Loser, Moron, We/ They, Great, Incredible, Tremendous, Winning and Zero”
- Love concepts of unity and group identity
– Flags, slogans, colour, music, playing identity politics, socially accepted god and religion, titles, sides, camps, unity, following rank, order – all resemble the symbols of polarisation. In-group morality, selective conscience, and “normalising” follow.
- Oozes charisma and authenticity also
– Leadership has been defined as the ability to influence a group towards a common purpose or goal. Trump possesses the ability to “influence” “BIGLY”. He knows how to describe problems, tell stories and present solutions. He’s charming, interesting, rich, controversial and appealing. He’s always had that magnet. And he’s authentic. He speaks his mind without script or teleprompters and his followers love it. In their eyes, he is the real deal.
- Plays deny, deflect and double-down
– Trump can do no wrong in his followers’ eyes. Trump has created a cult-like following. Some say it’s no longer the Republican party; it’s a CULT. If there is an accusation, simple words to employ dismissal are “Hoax – Fake – Fake News – Us/ Them – Witchhunts” cleans up any dirt. And, if necessary – there’s always “alternative facts”. Accentuate WINNING, ignore details. It’s all a witchhunt by the Dems.
– Let’s not forget or under-estimate the tools of technology to spring clean and sanitise: Twitter – his instant messaging (a re-think for communication analysts), Fox News (media machinery); and the equally polarised, obsessed and helpful CNN…. and maybe “Russia, Russia, Russia”
- Makes morality relative (moral relativism)
– Adultery, womanising, misogyny, racism, discrimination, inflating the truth, lying, insults, advocating violence, name-calling, divisiveness and so much more are easy to rationalise away. And, of course – Christian. Afterall – everyone is imperfect, right? Which explains why white, Christian evangelicals support Trump overwhelmingly.
– So what if Mitt Romney voted on his morals, conscience, and faith? He’s a loser… a failed presidential candidate. And what if Bernie Sanders speaks truths of wisdom, prudence, enlightenment, balance and fact? He’s an old, socialist who the Dems continue to do bad. That’s how you dismiss further probe without inquiry.
America remains more divided than ever before in its history. Families are torn apart on political ideology and polarisation. Climate change, global relations, minorities, the rise and normalising of right-wing nationalism are subordinate to the views of the President of the United States.
Will Trump win another term? A big, fat yes! Seemingly “inevitable”.
*Unless the opposition digs up new dirt, crime, and evidence to have him removed from office.