Remember a young first term senator who had the inspired courage to run for President in 2008? He had no experience and everybody knew it. But Barack Obama had a vision, a message that the war-weary American electorate wanted to hear and believe in. It was a vision of a change from everyday political strife, a vision for a better tomorrow, a better America. That vision needed hope and what was needed to convey the vision was obvious intellectual brilliance and gifted oratory. It was the perfect message for America in 2008 and it made Barack Obama the President of the United States.
We are seeing the same phenomenon right in front of our eyes. This simple realization hit us like a bolt as we watched Donald Trump speak to a large crowd assembled in a football stadium in Mobile, Alabama. We saw the same phenomenon in his speech to the crowd in Derry, New Hampshire a few days ago.
Many of our friends will scoff at the comparison. They will tell us that Obama’s vision was so much more noble & uplifting than what Trump is saying. They will tell us that Obama was appealing to the noble instincts of Americans while Trump is pandering to their baser instincts.
They don’t get it. The efficacy of the message and its reception by the electorate depends more on the mood & desires of the electorate than the contents of the message. A Presidential candidate strikes a chord when his/her message is what the electorate is desperate to hear and if the candidate is deemed highly competent to deliver it. That was Obama in 2008 and it seems it is Trump in 2015.
Everyone knows that the Obama vision of 2008 has been a bust. Common Americans are in worse shape, at least a worse relative shape, than they were in 2008. Yes, 2008 was a bust, a massive bust. But every bust has led to a real America recovery until this one. Wages have remained stagnant, jobs have become increasingly part-time, and hope for the future is starkly absent. Nothing seems to be working any more in America.
Overseas, the rise of ISIS and their barbaric savagery has soured and angered Americans. It is as if everywhere you look, Americans seem to be on the losing side – wages, trade, terrorism you name it.
Into this stepped Donald Trump with his simple question and message. The question – when was the last time we won something? The message – time for America to elect a winner who would return America to the winning ways; who would make America rich again; who would make American military so strong that no one would dare to go to war with us.
His own persona, his stupendous success in real estate and deal-making – Trump wears them on his sleeve just as Obama wore his intellectual brilliance, his Harvard law Review stuff on his sleeve in 2008. That was enough for the electorate to believe in the Obama of 2008. It is obvious that the electorate believes in Trump’s capability to win for America the way he won for himself. Trump is mighty believable when he says he can negotiate better trade deals for America.
Obama’s war cry in 2008 was to the young & youngish part of America, the ones with most hope for the future. Trump’s war cry is to the 99% of America that feels they have fallen to the side in the race for the future. One poll showed that the most loyal support for Trump is coming from the under-educated industrial or blue-collar worker class. As one middle-aged guy told CNN after the speech in Alabama yesterday, “he is actually going to do something for the common American“.
The message is simple – we are going to make America rich again & I am going to be the best jobs President ever. Donald Trump is an All-American in that he likes to brag about his money. Which American doesn’t? The electorate understands it and cheers him for it because their message to him is make us richer too; use your ability to make money to make our lives richer.
It is clear that Donald Trump of 2015 is becoming to his Republican competitors what Barack Obama of 2008 became to his Democratic competitors. None of them could match Obama in his vision & the appeal of his vision for the 2008 electorate. All of them waited vainly for the magic of Obama too fade. But it didn’t. Because Obama remained the best candidate to deliver on the vision he got the American people to accept.
None of today’s Republican candidates can even come close to Trump, his clear-cut message and his absolute credibility among the American people to deliver the vision they want – his vision. The best they can do is wait in hope that he fades. As long as the vision Trump is laying out for America works for the electorate, he will not fade.
You can see that even Trump is surprised at the enormous support he is receiving and how people are joining his drive. He is riding a massive wave and the deal maker in him wants to close on the deal now. That is why he wistfully said to the Alabama audience that he would like the election tomorrow.
That wish is probably his greatest challenge. To keep his magic fresh for another 14 months and to build a campaign to deliver a ground game for the 4th Quarter of this game.
Finally, Donald Trump is much more nuanced in interviews than he is on stage. Check out his smart comments on the Iran deal in his interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd. Unlike all other Republican candidates, he didn’t promise to tear up the deal on his first day. Instead, he told Chuck Todd that it is very difficult to tear up a deal. But, he said, he knows how to find loopholes in contracts and he knows how to monitor his counterparty’s adherence to the contract. So he promised to not let Iran get away with anything. Trump also made candid comments about Saudi Arabia and warned they could be in trouble in five years. So clearly he understands the importance of a better relationship with Iran.
Trump also promises a better relationship with Russia’s Putin. He is on record as saying it is stupid to let Russia & China get together against America. None of the other Republican candidates have demonstrated an iota of this smart common sense.
Despite his rhetoric, Trump is also nuanced and smart about legal immigration. He wants to get smart people from all over the world to come to America. As he said on TV, if you are at the top of your class at Harvard, Yale, we would be stupid to send you back to your own country.
The fact is that the more we hear from Trump on real issues, the more we feel convinced of his candidacy. But that is not what will get him elected. Staying true to his message to make good things happen for America and common Americans is the key to his chances to become President Donald J. Trump.
Candidate Obama’s vision was to transform America for the betterment of the World. The electorate in 2008 welcomed this vision and elected him. Candidate Trump’s vision is to change the behavior of the World for the betterment of America. This is a vision that 99% of America wants to hear and believe in. If Trump keeps demonstrating that he can deliver on this vision, he could easily be out next President.
Editor’s PS: As we wrote this piece, we kept being struck at how similar the Trump 2015 message is to the Modi 2014 message in India. But that is a topic for a later day.
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