“It is the peculiar quality of a fool to perceive the faults of others and to forget his own.” — Marcus Tullius Cicero
Hindsight is always 20/20 and I honestly didn’t think that Trump would win.
However, a blog post written last year by Scott Adams (yes, the guy behind the “Dilbert” cartoons) got me thinking that Trump might have better odds than I’d imagined.
Well, let’s go way back in time. First to the year 1532 when a landmark book was published, and then 2000+ years to a letter between two brothers.
Yes, this is going to be one of “those answers”, bear with me.
If you’ve watched “House of Cards” you’re either consciously or unconsciously familiar with the concepts of Machiavelli. If not, then you might want to give “The Prince” a read.
If you want the gist of it, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version.
Then there’s Quintus Cicero’s letter in 64 BC containing some practical advice to his more idealistic brother Marcus which became the work “How to Win an Election” (Philip Freeman), which includes political principles like:
- Have the backing of your family & friends.
- Surround yourself with the right people.
- Call in ALL favors.
- Build a wide base of support. Every vote counts.
- Promise EVERYTHING to EVERYBODY. It’s easier for people to vote for you if you come up with excuses for why you couldn’t keep your promise later than flat out refusing to make a promise in the first place.
- Communication skills are KEY.
- Don’t leave town. Back in the day it meant staying in Rome until the election was over. These days candidates have to travel and meet people all over the country. Today this could be changed to: Don’t take a vacation before you’re elected.
- Know your opponent’s weaknesses and exploit them.
- Flatter voters SHAMELESSLY.
- Give people hope.
How did the election go? Well, Marcus went on to win and there’s a book called “How to Run a Country” (also by Philip Freeman) which contains Marcus’ letters, speeches, and other writings on the subject.
There are plenty of other lessons in these books as well, so I suggest you give them a read.
Now, this isn’t all that there’s to it. The political landscape today is completely different than it was back then. While some things change, the principles stay the same.
The interesting question isn’t “how” he won, but more “why” he won.
Again, there are a lot of factors at play but the one thing that we need to resolve is point number 6: Communication.
You see, people aren’t communicating with each other.
What I mean is that we’re communicating with people who already share our beliefs and values, not with people who disagree.
By doing that we’re doing ourselves and others a great disservice.
It’s easy for both sides to write off people who support Trump or Hillary as “deplorables” or “elitists”. This kind of behavior doesn’t exactly invite people to discuss their differences, instead it pushes both sides further into their own corner.
No matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel we need to have those conversations. Shouting about how “I’m right and you’re wrong” isn’t helping anybody.
We should listen to each other, understand where we disagree, where we agree, and find ways of moving forward.
What I’m getting at is that while Hillary’s supporters could ask “How/why did Trump win?” with a frowny face, it would serve them better to ask “How/why did Trump win?” with genuine curiosity.
We should ask other questions like: “What issues are important to you, and why?”
Also, listen to the answer even if it’s not what you want to hear.
If we can learn to listen, empathize, and understand each other then we can stop having this polarization that isn’t productive for either side. Yes, one side loses and another side wins, but that doesn’t mean that democracy should not be a zero sum game.
This result is likely to affect people I know and love, unfortunately in a negative way if Trump manages to keep his promises.
But it doesn’t mean we should throw up our hands. It means that there’s a lot of work to be done each and every day to ensure that whatever policies are (or aren’t) enacted don’t affect those people too much.
For Trump’s supporters it doesn’t mean they can sit back and relax. If he decides to renege on some of his promises, or does something that isn’t in accordance with their values and beliefs, then they’re going to have to take actions too.
The worst thing we can do is to keep demonizing, shaming, marginalizing and dismissing each other. And before you say “But they’re the ones…”, stop. Just stop.
It doesn’t matter. You can’t control other people’s actions, only your own.
The results are in and some like it, some don’t, and some are a bit “meh” about the whole thing.
Now the question is, are you ready to have those conversations?