Growing up, my mother always reminded me that there are a few things one shouldn’t discuss in social settings – and politics was one of them – sorry Mom, here I go.
Last night I tuned in to Real Time with Bill Maher, and one of his panelists was Jennifer Granholm, Senior Research Fellow at Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute. As the panel tried to make sense of Trump’s lead in the polls, Ms. Granholm volunteered this perspective, “Donald Trump is a reality show star. Like a character on Survivor, the networks will try to keep the villain on as long as is possible because it keeps things interesting. However, in the end, the villain doesn’t win.”
As a communication professional, I try to reconcile Trump’s communication strategy as he vies for the Republican nomination. His outrageous, provocative, and crude comments come across as ignorant, prejudicial and certainly not presidential. While the villain can be exciting to some, few of us would want our country represented by an individual who alienates most around him. Politics aside, a president who can’t censor him or herself, does not add value to any discourse.
The actor Tom Hanks once said, “I think by and large a third of people are villains, a third of people are cowards and a third are heroes. Now, a villain and a coward can choose to be a hero, but they’ve got to make that choice.”
Trump has a choice. I don’t pretend to know Donald Trump and I have heard very little about his serious political views or strategies. Mostly I have heard how he feels about Mexicans and women. If I were his political strategist (and trust me, I would not be) I would tell him to get serious about the things that matter to Americans and how he will positively and productively continue to build on the momentum that the Obama administration has generated over the past four years.
John W. Gardner said it best, “Political extremism involves two prime ingredients: an excessively simple diagnosis of the world’s ills, and a conviction that there are identifiable villains back of it all.” The Donald continues to point fingers and villain-ize others.
For true leaders, communicating with clarity, integrity and compassion are key to success – no matter what arena you play in. Mr. Trump, the quest for President of the United States is not an audition for a reality show.