Trump Wins as Third Party
If there is anybody reading this post that says they were certain of a Trump win a week ago, I would be surprised. And yet, that’s where we are and that’s what happened. Why?
I’ve been pondering this for a while in a way that I think fits the context of this blog. To be effective leaders I have always argued it is helpful to know why people do what they do. We have models and ideas about this, but rarely do we see such a large scale process end in such a surprising manner. So I’m not going to talk about the relative merits or demerits of either candidate. Instead, what fascinates me is what we as a citizenry just chose to do. We know in the field of psychology, leadership and organizational behavior that humans for the most part hate change. In fact, we are a lot more likely to stay with a painful status quo than to choose a potentially bright, but uncertain, future. This explains in part long-term dysfunctional relationships, long-term abusive relationships and for sure unsatisfactory work environments. While we might hate our jobs, we hate them less than rolling the dice to find another one that may or may not be better.
Yet, Americans just voted for change in a way I have never seen in my lifetime. If there is anybody we would expect to avoid the status quo it is President-elect Trump and that is exactly who we voted for as a nation. The polls continued to show to the end that we didn’t trust either candidate very much. So what was the difference? Trump is about change. We don’t know very much about what he will actually do during his term, but we’re pretty sure it won’t be what everybody else has done.
I have friends along the entire political spectrum and I’m quite proud of that. And the further left they are, the more distraught they are this morning. Yet, my friends along the right are also very uncomfortable. This is why I think Trump just ran a third party candidacy in a brilliant manner and in the only way that a third party could win.
First, he may be a lot of things, but a dyed in the wool establishment Republican he is not. The Republicans failed to develop a viable candidate (the one I was cheering for couldn’t win a single race!) and Trump took advantage of it. If anything, he created a hostile party takeover. And this was the key to his third party success. Third parties don’t win in the American system because they lack infrastructure and access. But by usurping the party and by having no fear regarding the Republican establishment, the RNC had no choice but to support the candidate for whom their party voted in the priority.
Why are Republicans nervous? Because they realize that the party is unlikely to be able to dictate very much that Trump does in the next four years. For example, I have no idea who he might nominate for the Supreme Court…but neither do the Republicans. We know that the international trade agreements can’t be repealed on a whim (neither can the AHA), but we also know Trump doesn’t support them. What will he do? What he is unlikely to do is ask for the Republican playbook. Trump has shown that he is Trump only. And that means change. So for all of my Democrat friends who are appalled this morning that the Republicans just won Presidency, House and Senate, don’t forget…Trump isn’t much of a Republican either.
Second, Trump is a showman and created a message that was exactly the angst and anger of a large swath of the American people. He is also a brilliant businessman. Whether you appreciate his approach to business or think he is Satan incarnate, he has managed to create enormous amounts of wealth, nationally and internationally and you don’t do this if you’re an idiot. You might be immoral or a barbarian, but you’re not stupid. Trump must be well aware that he’s not going to build a wall, send the bill to Mexico, and all be good. He must also know that the steel jobs, the mining jobs, and the manufacturing jobs were not just lost because of international trade agreements, but also because of technology. How will we actually address these complicated issues when in office? We have no idea.
And that’s what fascinates me so much about this process. It is easy to talk about wanting change but it is very hard to commit to it ourselves. The American people may not know what they have chosen for the future but they are fully aware of what they’ve not chosen. We don’t know what we’ve done but we know what we didn’t do, and that is what happens when any culture takes on change. It will be interesting, it will be painful and it will be different. But this is what we’ve agreed to. Now I hope we find a way to do it together.