Donald Trump and Political Rhetoric

Donald Trump has defied the odds and won the race to the US presidency. His victory can be explained in any number of ways. But there is one in particular that interests me.

During the campaign, Trump was proven again and again to be full of hot air. His positions on a variety of issues made no sense at all. Worse still, he insulted people. And for these reasons, many very smart people did not take him seriously as a candidate. A major theme of the Clinton camp was that he is “not fit for the office”. But somehow — despite all of his peccadilloes — Trump connected with core voter groups.  In other words, the connection had to overcome a lot of negatives. It had to be powerful.

Where did that power come from? The answer is that no one else was speaking to the folks who fell for Trump. Trump filled a vacuum. And because there was no alternative, folks held their noses and rewarded him.


Which brings me to a basic point about social dialogue. We are often oblivious to situations where we encounter or create a vacuum. The domineering boss, for example, appears to be powerful. And yet, there is a vacuum around him or her.  That may be no problem if the boss “has all the answers”. But it is a major problem if the firm needs creative solutions from the bottom up. And we are learning that the rate of social learning directly correlates with the rate of learning and sharing from the bottom up.

Dave Meslin talks about this in terms of “barriers to engagement”. His point can be reduced to a basic principle. No one wants to be apathetic. But we become that way when we feel excluded from meaningful dialogue. And once we turn off and tune out, we are easily distracted and manipulated by folks promising to include us. It matters not whether their ideas are retarded. It matters a lot that they offer connection when there was none before.  That becomes a barrier to social learning.

So is a social vacuum a symptom of a broken social dialogue?

Stay tuned.


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