Donald Trump’s Not So Free Speech

Many spectators of the great game of American politics dismiss Donald Trump’s candidacy for the Republican Party nomination for the President of the United States. They do not see him as serious, instead conjecturing that he must be out for some personal, probably self-aggrandizing purpose – certainly not someone who is worthy or capable of serving in the office. Far from an ideal candidate he may be, but I strenuously disagree that he is not genuine in his ambitions. I also disagree with the sentiment that he is a distraction, detriment, or that he somehow hurts the Republican brand.

A friend of mine has lived and worked in NYC for many years. He knows Trump’s reputation among some of those who do business with him. It isn’t good. He is not seen as particularly smart, innovative, or even principled. His business success in part stems from maybe the same place as his opinion that he alone is the man to “fix” America – his colossal ego.

A big ego has its advantages. It confers boldness and confidence. You don’t question yourself or your worthiness for reward. Seemingly impossible prizes are within your reach if you’re bold enough to seize them. Henry Ford made a compelling point when he said: “whether you think you can or think you can’t… you’re right.”

But ego comes with disadvantages too. It makes you vulnerable. It distorts your vision and limits the level of your leadership style. A person with a big ego is often blind to criticism and may be slow to learn or change course when necessary. I would not predict a Trump Presidency to be a successful one, as these qualities are necessary when entering a world that nobody can fully understand prior to arrival.

Trump’s ego is the very thing that makes him appear serious to me. And I’m glad for it. He is doing all of us a service. Why? His candidacy reveals important truth about the state of our nation. Here are a few:

  1. In Presidential politics, plain language is so rare that it sounds odd to us
  2. Individual candidates are so beholden to their big money contributors that they attenuate their rhetoric and public policy stances, thereby limiting the scope of our national dialogues
  3. We are living dangerously close to , if not within, a post-Constitutional America

Trump’s policy prescriptions strike me as simplistic, the kind that come from a mind that paints in broad brush strokes, unconcerned with the myriad details that will be handled by minions. This mindset also has advantages and disadvantages. It facilitates communication and the building of a coalition. It plays well in sound bites. The main problem is that the details often negate or render a policy or initiative unworkable in reality.

At least the man speaks his mind. He stands apart for the fact that he is so plain spoken. He does not worry about political correctness. Many, me included, find this refreshing. It connotes an appreciation that some things are more important than delicate sensibilities. Fundamental principles and facts matter more than how some may feel about them. Our nation is starving for leaders who are brave and honest enough to tell it like they see it.

Trump doesn’t need financiers for a serious run for the nomination. He is in a perhaps unique position in that he feels beholden to nobody. This also makes him stand apart; he seems a throwback to the era before crony capitalism and oligarchy.

Perhaps this is why Trump is so willing to be outrageous. When he says that Mexico is sending us their rapists, he highlights an important point – we expect our government to protect us from an influx of dangerous criminals from other nations. Is it really so unacceptable for Trump to highlight our government’s decades-old failures in this regard?

Drug and human trafficking is much bigger than most Americans realize, in part because the media is derelict in its duty. The fact that moneyed interests, regardless of political affiliation, prefer the benefit of low-wage workers over protecting our citizenry should alarm all of us. Trump does us a great service by so dramatically highlighting these realities. Days after his “inflammatory” comments, his point was underscored by two heinous murders by illegal immigrants. Both women would be alive today if our government was functioning faithfully. To save the life of one innocent person, how many people is it acceptable to offend?

Trump is paying a price for his chutzpah. Political correctness has incited his more fearful (or ideologically opposed) business partners to sever their ties with him. The list now includes NBC, Macy’s, ESPN, and NASCAR. It strikes me as amazing that Trump’s basically truthful comments should be perceived so toxic. Especially as contrasted with the comments of others who are associated with one or more of these organizations which are far more offensive and far less truthful. (Keith Olbermann or Al Sharpton, anyone?)

Trump downplays their impact, but others are not so insulated from this kind of retribution. There may be no law that currently abridges our First Amendment rights – though that is arguable. But that doesn’t stop thought police from exerting pressure in the ways they can. The willingness and ability to do so on the part of so many in our society reveal a lowered appreciation for our individual freedoms than in times gone by. The Constitution only stands for a people who respect its precepts. This seems to be less and less the case every day.

I’m not entirely sure Trump himself grasps this. His is the perspective of a person who runs among the most powerful people, but not necessarily one who is an insider in Washington politics. That may be why is so vocal about trade, tax, and regulatory policies that seem to compromise the interests of the American people. In this, among the other ways mentioned, he is distinct from the rest of the current field of Presidential hopefuls.

The reaction to Trump’s candidacy and his statements among the punditry is also telling. He is of course attacked by those philosophically opposed to his pro-free market leanings. But he is, with nearly equal vitriol, also attacked by those who differ only slightly from his policy stances. Of the current Republican Presidential hopefuls, only Ted Cruz has vociferously defended him. Maybe it’s just because all of the others and the rest of the Republican talking heads feel embarrassed by him.

They shouldn’t be. The Republican Party has been doing a fantastic job of tarnishing its own image with no help whatsoever from Trump. Neither Party serves the interests of the American people any longer. Their clear priorities are the players who sit at the Big Table – powerful special interests such as unions, multi-national corporations, advocacy groups, and the three Guilds – legal, financial, and medical.

In Trump, the insiders see perhaps the threat of Toto, willing to pull aside the curtain to reveal the true selfish natures of those who believe themselves to be like the Oz the Great and Powerful. Toto succeeded because he was small and went unnoticed. Not so the Donald.

Categories: Communication Skills

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