May 2016

Is Trump the Real Deal?

Author: Kent Thune

Donald Trump has been a real estate mogul and a reality TV personality. And there is a real possibility that he could be the next president of the United States. But is “The Donald” the real deal when it comes to being the most important leader of the free world?

Six months ago, Trump was one of 18 candidates vying for the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential race for the White House. At the time, the establishment favorite, Jeb Bush, was leading in the polls and a few others, including Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were also getting significant media and voter attention. However, Trump was the only candidate that was not taken seriously as a formidable front runner in the long run, especially not once reality set in and the party would coalesce around one establishment candidate.

But this coalescence would not take place as conventional thought would predict, and now the entire world is wondering how Trump would lead, not just the GOP, but the White House and the policies that guide the United States and the world.

Would Trump lead domestic and foreign affairs in the same way he led his many lines of business to great successes, or might he repeat some of his failures? Would he befriend Vladimir Putin while picking fights with the Pope? Might he bring jobs back to America, or would he wreck the economy by angering our trade partners with overreaching ultimatums?

Returning to our theme of reality, and if Trump is or isn’t the real deal, perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the Trump phenomenon that doesn’t receive much press is that he evokes the most prominent and productive of human emotions—fear and hope—which both arise from the unknown. He also leverages another powerful emotion: anger.

There is nothing that human beings fear more than the unknown, which explains why we fear death more than anything else—because it’s the greatest of unknowns. We’ve heard the term “establishment” throughout the campaign. Establishment embodies the known; Trump embodies the opposite, which is what evokes fear, especially in those who like established politicians, those who are predictable or even controllable.

But there’s also the other side of the coin of the unknown, which is hope. People who support Trump don’t care that he’s rude, rich or any other label that can be construed as negative or unlikable; his supporters are hopeful that he will change Washington, that he can “make America great again,” as Trump’s campaign slogan rings so loud and clear to them.

The only thing that can really be known about Trump is his past. We know that he’s headed a multi-billion-dollar real estate development business bearing his name; he’s been a reality TV personality; and he’s running for president of the United States. But what else is there to know?

Enemies and adversaries of Trump can find plenty of dirt to turn into mud, such as his failed casinos or his failed marriages. Some will undercut Trump’s successes by calling out the fact that he inherited his wealth and his real estate business. There have even been stories that show how Trump could have invested his inheritance in a stock mutual fund and it could have grown his wealth more than he was able to do with his businesses. But others can point out that Trump’s flaws simply make him human and that every successful business owner has faced and even embraced failures. He’s a risk taker, and people find that attractive.

Perhaps the most evident fact about Trump is that he is no different from any other politician in the regard that he is a flawed human being who comes with some personal baggage. More specifically, Trump says what people want to hear, and this is a primary trait of success in politics. In a sense, one could say Trump’s success in the Republican primaries demonstrates that politicians are illusionists of a certain kind. And human beings, at least in the twenty-first century, have grown to prefer illusion to reality. Therefore, following this logic, the greatest illusionist can be the greatest of politicians.

In all fairness to Trump, and many of the politicians who have been polarizing and illusory figures in the recent past, success in the form of leading in opinion polls or in garnering votes in elections has been acquired by effectively tapping into the emotions of the electorate. And if those emotions are fear, hope, and anger, the chances of winning are good.

But when emotions lead decisions, logic and intellect are often thrown out the window. Reality becomes covered by illusion. When have American citizens as a whole ever voted with logic and intellect? And if there are some who have been logical or intellectual about a voting decision, what percentage have voted for a person and not a political party? How many have voted knowing how government works? Do they know that the vast majority of promises made on the campaign trail can’t be realized without Congress making them into law? Do they believe that any human being who wants to run for president of the United States can really be the kind of altruistic, unifying, prudent leader that can lead without ego and get things done in Washington, D.C.?

If we digress for two paragraphs and actually return to logic and intellect, we may find answers to some of our questions about politicians, our relations to them, and how politics have evolved (or devolved, depending upon your perspective) over the centuries. Let’s go back about 2500 years, to the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, who in his early life had the opportunity to become a politician. His parents were some of the wealthiest, most politically active in Athens. But fortunately for the world, Plato decided to be a philosopher, which led to his founding of the first institution of higher learning in the Western world, The Academy, where he laid the foundation of political, scientific and religious thinking for centuries to come.

In Plato’s influential book, The Republic, he says, “The society we have described can never grow into a reality or see the light of day, and there will be no end to the troubles of states, or indeed of humanity itself, till philosophers become rulers in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands.”
Unfortunately, the ideal society that Plato envisioned would never become a reality. And returning to today’s political reality, Trump is certainly no philosopher, but neither is any other modern politician.
Now we may return to our original question: Is Trump the real deal? Can he be the leader our country needs? His political adversaries have called him a phony, a fraud, and a con man, among other not so pleasant names. Ironically, Trump’s main line of business is real estate; his reality TV show made him a celebrity; even his Twitter address is “@RealDonaldTrump.” But being associated with something that is real doesn’t make one real.

We can only truthfully know the realness of Trump’s effectiveness to lead if he can win the election in November and he can truly make America great again. But we won’t know this unless this scenario itself turns into reality. 

Kent Thune is a money manager and the owner of a Hilton Head Island investment advisory firm, Atlantic Capital Investments. He is also a freelance writer and is currently working on a book to be published in 2016. You can follow his musings on mind, money and mastery of life at TheFinancialPhilosopher.com or on Twitter @ThinkersQuill.

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