Regardless of your political affiliations or leanings, there are lessons to be learnt from the election of Donald Trump. This isn’t a high falutin’, educated analysis of complicated exit poll data, Nope, this is just simple talk. Because, in the end, it was simple talk that won the election.
Donald Trump is a billionaire with a degree from The Wharton School (of Business) of the University of Pennsylvania. It’s a really, really good school. Wharton is generally ranked a Top Five Business school. We don’t know if Trump was a great student or not, but then, you don’t know if your doctor was top of the class either. What do you call the guy who graduated last in his class in medical school? Doctor, of course. You can switch doctor and lawyer if you wish. The point is, Trump isn’t a dummy whether you like his stances on issues or not. He can talk very uppity if he wanted to, but he doesn’t. He talks to us.
By “us”, I don’t mean you. You are the top of the societal rankings of your community. All your friends think you are super smart. You can solve a Rubik’s Cube in 45 seconds or start a BMW with no key in the ignition. I’m talking about the rest of us who didn’t graduate from the top echelon schools. Trump talks to us. I don’t mean this ugly at all, but he makes it simple. Do you ever have a hard time understanding what he said? No. Sure, you might disagree with him as the words come out of his mouth, but it’s obvious what he said. His words are so direct, so succinct, that he doesn’t ever use a word like succinct. It’s been reported that he speaks on a 5th grade level, and usually those news reports are written with a mean tone. Like the 5th grade is a bad thing.
Have you seen the average reading comprehension of Americans? It’s not good. Sure, you hang around similarly smart people so you think people are smart, because they are about as smart as you. But there is a vast swath of this country that doesn’t have a great literacy rate. They don’t have trouble understanding Trump. But they couldn’t understand Hillary Clinton. She’s a Yale educated lawyer with a fantastic vocabulary. She had speech writers with similar qualifications. It didn’t matter. Unless you can talk to the people you want to see things your way, it simply doesn’t matter what you say.
Her husband, Bill “Bubba” Clinton, was masterful at “feeling your pain” and people believed him. When your nickname is Bubba, you can talk to the folks. He had the same Yale Law School diploma, but he related to people then and now. He would have won again were it not for that silly 22nd Amendment to the Constitution.
Oh, you think that we should aspire to more? To a higher, more aspirational future? You think we shouldn’t “dumb things down” just to win votes? Guess what, you just lost. Whether it’s an election or convincing a jury to vote for your client, if you can’t relate to the folks, you won’t win. Unless the other combatant is worse than you, but guess what? You are probably misjudging the other guy and he (or she) is scoring knockout punches but you are too confident to understand that you are losing.
I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t aspire for more. We should. Vocabulary comprehension is the single biggest determinant of success in my opinion. Understanding biology helps you become a doctor. Understanding physics helps you be a mechanical engineer. Understanding human nature helps you be a psychologist. But understanding people helps you be President. It’s that simple.