“Neurons” Meta Reflections 2015 #36
August 24, 2015

Who makes the best person for political office— a politician or a non-politician? Having seen the mess that career politicians have been making of things in the USA and in other countries, the idea really appeals to me that we should try a non-politician for a change. Now having published a book earlier this year on Political Coaching (2015), I have been fascinated by the psychology, the neuro-linguistics, and the neuro-semantics of politics. Having now studied political science and having followed politics using NLP and Neuro-Semantics for more than a decade, there are a couple of phenomena which is currently taking American politics by storm. One is the fact that leading the poles are three non-politicians: Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carlson, and Carly Fiorina.

Now one person who most thought was the least likely person ever to be a serious candidate was Donald Trump. Pundits and critics did not take him serious in the least for the first weeks of his campaign. Then a week ago in New Hampshire, Donald Trump was called for jury duty and was asked to fill out a form which asked about his occupation. He said he could not bring himself to write, “Politician.” “I just can’t do it. So I wrote, Real Estate.”

I like that. Having studied several biographies of Lincoln, Jefferson, Mandela, and others, the paradox is that when almost anyone becomes “a professional politician” this invites and seduces that person to become their worse self, not their best. Why? Probably because by making your living in politics and by politics so often leads to corruption. When that happens the person is easily bought by interest groups so that he no longer serves the people. Anyway I like that about Donald Trump, and come to think of it, there are certain other things that I also like about him. I’m not writing this to promote his candidacy, but to point out some of the non-politician like things that he’s doing which is endearing him to people.

1) Trump is not Politically Correct.

In recent years, the need to be politically correct (PC) has reached levels that would make the fictional characters in George Orwell’s classic, 1984, proud. To be politically correct (PC) means to say the right words, and use the right euphemisms, and to not be too blunt or direct. Well, Trump doesn’t do that. Not at all. And because of that, it has caused a fervor among the pundits, journalists, and his rivals. Nor does he make any bones about it. He speaks his mind. He speaks off-the-cuff and there have been times when speaking he is actually thinking aloud about a topic, which he will adjust a few days later. I like that. You get the real thing with him, rather than the crafted “speaking points” that have been refined by pollsters and speech writers.

How different from the lawyer-like politicians who are oh-so-careful in how they speak. You can see and hear them being very “careful” in their speech, measuring their words, as if anticipating who could get an advantage over them if they speak what they really think.

By way of contrast Trump calls things as he sees them, as they are, and does so even if it offends their PC sensitivities. Apparently lots of other people also like it because it is a breath of fresh air in a field that is so staid and so obsessively politically correct. He speaks extemporaneously and without a script and that makes him sound real and authentic. And that no-nonsense approach is something I find desirable in a politician.

2) He has lots of fun with his speeches.

Because he doesn’t even try to be politically correct, he is not stiff and formal. Instead he is informal and real, and watching him, it’s obvious that he is thoroughly enjoying himself and his audience. He will interact with the audience the way an entertainer does, not the way a politician does. That’s why people find him entertaining while he speaks and makes his points. Further, he’s had years of experience with this kind of a thing. For years he produced a business show on TV (how boring would that be) but did so in the most entertaining way. The Apprentice was always very well designed and put together so that it was a very high rating show and he played off of the “someone will be fired in the boardroom” theme. That is, he knows how to use the twin forces of away-from and toward to generate a creative tension. The intelligence to do this is a social and emotional intelligence that I have not heard anyone speak about.

3) He openly and unashamedly speaks about greatness.

At first the pundits and commentators took his over-generalized language as a sign that he lacked details and was not able to be specific. They heard him talking about making “American great again.” Or how he would describe someone as great, awesome, a smart cookie, terrific, etc. When asked about his own company, he doesn’t hesitate one moment to say he has a great company full of great people. When asked about how he is going to build the wall on the southern borders and a comment about Mexicans, he says that he has hundreds of great Hispanic people working for him, and that “the Mexican people are great, it’s their politicians who are sending murders and rapists here;” and “they are smarter than our politicians.”

He also speaks about the greatness of America and being a great president for jobs, great on the military, building it so that it is great again. When interviewed about his vision he talked about what we can do, not what we cannot do. How different that is from so many of the professional politicians who downplay greatness.

4) He thinks and talks like a CEO.

Well, of course he talks like a CEO! He is the CEO of his business, Trump Enterprises, and has been since he created it by himself as an entrepreneur. Long time before this, two decades ago, I was reading him about real estate and wealth creation. Business is his background and in terms of building a company, or buying a company, he talks like a business man. He focuses on competency, intelligence, and results. I think his appeal is that everything about his style goes against incompetency and bureaucracy. Business people know that there is not an unending amount of money, they plan, they budget, they watch the numbers, they adjust. Politicians seem to not know where money comes from and somehow get confused to think that the money belongs to the government.

Many are speaking about Trump as “articulating the anger and frustration of the population.” I wonder if that’s the dynamic at work or if he is simply coming to the issues of the country, the issues of government, from the perspective of business and simply doing what anyone with business acumen would see and say. Effective business people see problems and get to work fixing them. That’s what I sense that he is doing.

He speaks about building a wall. American politicians have been talking about this for 30 years; they have debated it for that long. Very little has been done. Opponents say it cannot be done. Trump says why not? We only have 2,000 miles to cover, and only actually 1,000 miles is needed. “That is nothing compared to the 13,000 miles of the Great Wall of China.” he says. He quotes the Wall that Israel has built to protect its borders. Business people talk about how to get things done.

When asked about how he would go about defeating ISIS, some people like President Obama say it cannot be done. We can only degrade them a bit. Trump says “go into the oil fields, take them over, stop ISIS’ primary source of income, and then take over the oil to pay for fighting the war against them.” Now that’s thinking like a business man, not a politician.

5) He hits back hard when he is hit.

At first when I heard him hit back hard I didn’t understand it and I certainly didn’t like it. I thought that his critical and negative comments would undermine his chances. But then some strange happened. Unlike others who have done so and suffered a severe set-back, each time he hit back at someone, he seems to come out stronger. During July and August, there were lots of people mocking him, and attacking him. His response, “When I’m attacked, I will attack back.” And he did. As they called him names, so he called them names– “Losers” was, and is, a favorite. And he usually hit back hard. He would as one on CNN said, “spew invectives.”

In giving them a strong dose of their own medicine it would, at first, caused things to flare up even more. But after awhile many of his critics stopped. He would do it without empathy or apology. At first I thought, “This political game that he’s playing is a dangerous one and will probably destroy him.” But it didn’t. In part, it was his refusal to be politically correct, but in part it was administering a strong dose of aversion therapy.

It reminded me of a proverb in the Bible. “Answer not a fool according to the ways of the fool, lest you be like him. Answer a fool according to the ways of a fool lest he be wise in his own eyes.” (Proverbs 23:3-4). So what is it? Do you or don’t you? The answer is yes. Sometimes you answer a fool in the same way; sometimes you don’t. It all depends. At first I didn’t like it because in most contexts, when you get into a word fight with someone—name calling, insulting, criticizing, taking jabs—it doesn’t make things better. Mostly it alienates even your friends. And that’s not good. Yet when we move to a much, much larger context, to the national political context, where people do not already know you, do not know your character, then the attacks and criticisms— if you smile and leave it alone and take the higher road—people will usually assume that the attacks are true and that you have nothing to say to the contrary.

6) He is funding his own campaign.

One of the biggest problems with most professional politicians— they have a hunger and greed for money and so they can easily be bought. But Trump has said at times that he doesn’t need the money and so far has not only not asked for donations, but has actually turned down money. One offered him five million, but he turned it down. I really like that. The temptation of money and greed seems to ruin so many politicians. This is epidemic in many countries and it is also prevalent in the USA which is why we have so many rules trying to stop it.

What will happen to Trump’s candidacy? No one knows. It is still a long, long time before the primaries and the general election. Yet right now we have him and the other non-politicians who are leading the pack and, personally, I like that. It’s a breath of fresh air in a domain that is typically stuffy and formal and overly managed.

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.