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In February 2017, during the second month of his presidency, I argued Donald Trump was best understood through the lens of a turnaround executive. Through that lens are three focal points:
- Blowing up political correctness, because an American turnaround cannot happen if we are unable recover the meaning of words and talk forthrightly about what is really going on.
- Delegitimizing the false narratives of the mainstream media, because a turnaround cannot be sustained if basic communication channels remain corrupted.
- Taking down the administrative state, because a turnaround will fail if unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats continue to override the sovereignty of the American people by controlling our society.
Turnarounds Begin Only When Enough People Accept Something Is Wrong
Like many turnaround efforts, the past months confirmed a deep cultural and political crisis, with numerous irreconcilable differences.
This article is the second in an occasional series on Trump as a turnaround executive. Read part one.
First, as John Zmirak points out, while the Left and Right in America have had their differences, they also mostly agreed in 1996 on the broad outlines of sovereign borders, constitutional gun rights, fidelity to the Constitution, men and women being equal but different, abortion as rare, marriage between one man and one woman, that religious freedom and rights of conscience are fundamental, that political speech should be free, and academia should pursue truth and maximum free expression. Zmirak contends it is the Left that abandoned the common ground.
Second, displaying an appalling contempt for the American people, the Left and the political ruling class have joined together in a will-to-power push to enforce radical cultural changes and to sustain political control:
. . . the 2016 election clarified new political dividing lines. It is no longer Republican/Democrat or Conservative/Liberal or even Right/Left. Instead, it is a well-formed statist ruling class with five key constituencies [GOP establishment, Democrats, administrative state bureaucracy, mainstream media, cultural Left – including Hollywood, academia] against a dissatisfied, but unorganized, American people who desire to be recognized as equals and part of the sovereign people who are supposed to govern America.
Yet, a successful turnaround requires a guiding coalition to drive the necessary changes. What was unknown in January 2017 was whether a meaningful coalition could be assembled given the gulf between key stakeholders in America.
Into this spiraling cultural and political milieu, entered Donald Trump, the political turnaround executive.
Turnaround Critical Success Factor No. 1: The Rapid Delivery of Measurable Results
Successful turnarounds begin with substantive short-term accomplishments that achieve positive results, thus buying precious time to unravel the embedded conventional wisdom that led to the crisis. Rapid wins create an incentive, or at least a willingness, for previous fence-sitters and even doubters to join an expanded guiding coalition.
Trump has had a turnaround executive’s laser-like focus on delivering his campaign promises, attracting the American people with positive results:
- Domestic Results: Faster economic growth. Lowest unemployment in decades or ever. Rising wages. High consumer and business economic optimism. Tax cuts. Reduced regulations. Energy independence. Appointments of judges committed to the rule of law.
- International Results: More reciprocal trade deals. Out of Iran deal. Destruction of ISIS. NATO meeting its obligations. Embassy in Jerusalem. Promising North Korean developments. Hostages released without ransom payments. Exited Paris climate accord.
Many among the Left and their statist ruling class cousins refuse to acknowledge, let alone praise, these tangible accomplishments—a telling sign—even though the results have visibly improved many American lives and made the country safer.
Turnaround Critical Success Factor No. 2: Put a Spotlight on Issues and People, Relentlessly Driving Change
Trump’s modus operandi aligns well with a turnaround executive facing resistance after challenging the failed status quo. As Bill Mitchell has noted:
Trump destroys his enemies not by silencing them, but by sunlighting them – like vampires. He puts them center-stage, hands them the mic and lets them destroy themselves. He is not trying to make Democrats stop being Democrats, He is making them show who they really are.
— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) October 12, 2018
Trump also fights, ditching the civility bullshit that was used only to hobble previous Republicans—the failed dignity, collegiality, and propriety of Conservatism, Inc. and the GOP establishment—by recognizing (and persuading others) that such virtue signaling leads to certain defeat in a one-sided war.
…he [casually] breaks the rules with which the Left has sought to muzzle those who disagree with them…Better impoliteness than silence. Better crudeness than lies.
In doing so, Trump has become a cultural Rorschach test, revealing what David Gelertner says: “the left’s only issue is ‘We hate Trump’…an instructive hatred, because what the left hates about…Trump is precisely what it hates about America” and Americans—highlighting an irreconcilable cultural divide that must be closed before a turnaround can succeed.
- Overturning the election: The Clinton campaign and Obama administration weaponized their administrative state allies, with mainstream media involvement, to attempt a still-ongoing soft coup while hiding behind the Russian collusion lie. Executive branch members have declared their refusal to cooperate with Trump.
- Physical attacks and intimidation: Democratic party leaders and their partisans in the media have condoned 632 incidents (and counting) of physical violence and harassment of Trump supporters.
- Eliminating due process and the presumption of innocence: The Kavanaugh hearings were a stunning display of Democrats promoting evidence-free (even contradicted and false) allegations while disowning, for partisan political gain, fundamental American principles of due process and the presumption of innocence.
- Mainstream media and Silicon Valley as aggressive partisans: The list is endless but consider events of just recent days: NBC withheld information that would have cleared Kavanaugh of rape allegations, CNN anchor Jake Tapper was silent when a guest said Trump has radicalized more people than ISIS, CNN anchor Don Lemon asserted the biggest terror threat is white men and that we have to do something about them, Joy Behar said Trump was a psycho and anarchist, a New York Times editorial board member said they were unwilling to let white people off the hook for voting for Trump, and fake bombs sent to Democrats got more media coverage than real ricin packages sent to Republicans. The Silicon Valley tech giants—Facebook, Google and Twitter—have become part of the same partisan crowd.
A new majority political coalition is also needed so Trump’s executive order changes can be transformed into laws, a change that would be more consistent with republican government and more firmly lock in the turnaround changes.
Turnaround Critical Success Factor No. 3: Know What Turnaround Success Looks Like
Many turnarounds fail and it is far from clear that the American turnaround can succeed. The 2018 midterm elections have become unusually significant because they will determine if the American people will let a new political alignment paradigm continue to evolve or return us to the previous loop of doom.
If the people do give the turnaround more time, how will that time be used? Here is the twist: Even if Trump serves as President for two full terms, the American turnaround will not be completed by 2024. While a talented turnaround executive like Trump can clarify the problems, drive the initial changes, and then enable a new strategic direction and initial operational actions, a successful turnaround typically requires more time and a broader team effort.
#WalkAway and #Blexit are creating the potential for a new majority political coalition that combines the Trump base with liberals who believe in civil liberties and blacks who have declared their freedom from their Democratic political plantation masters. Will a growing anti-Semitism and the Democrats’ refusal to cut ties with Louis Farrakhan and Linda Sansour convince Jews also to separate themselves, too?
The ultimate success of the turnaround will require forming a broad new governing coalition of Americans who have the will power to carry out the operational execution of the turnaround that can drive the required longer-term cultural and political changes to create a New Americanism, including these strategic initiatives:
- Take power away from the statist ruling class in the administrative state and return liberty to a sovereign people at the state and local level.
- Replace Americans who promote the global elites with people who believe in America as a sovereign nation which will act in its own national self-interest.
- Reject the tribalism of identity politics, restoring equal justice under the law.
- Free media channels from Silicon Valley manipulation and mainstream media control.
- Start alternative educational systems that teach unapologetically about the unique contributions of Western Civilization and the American Founding.
The 2018 Midterm Election Pivot: Where Do We Go From Here?
I am not optimistic but I am hopeful. After all, who thought the 2016 election would turn out as it did?
Two parallel efforts, requiring Americans with complementary talents, must drive our future turnaround actions.
First, we need to act boldly and with a righteous anger toward those who promote a social justice progressivism orthodoxy while rejecting liberty, including rights of conscience. A successful turnaround requires a steely willingness to fight and take political and cultural power away from the false progressive orthodoxy. We must call our enemy by its name—evil—and recognize how they seek power and control for its own sake and know no limits.
At a practical level, I have written previously how that means we must “become indifferent to their Alinsky tactics. Do not let . . . [them] . . . act as society’s moral compass, dictating terms of the public debate . . . Don’t give them power by engaging, responding, or explaining. Instead, laugh at and dismiss their hypocrisy and will-to-power because they are not morally serious.”
Second, we must also hold onto the virtues of faith, hope and charity, giving the American people something to be drawn to: Faith in our Creator and an openness to His guiding us as well as faith in the decency of the American people. Hope that enough hearts can be changed to make a difference. It is easy to lack such hope in these troubled times.
But allow me to share a personal anecdote about a gift my father once gave to me when I had suffered a deep loss and, for a time, found it hard to believe recovery could ever happen. In those darker moments, my dad told me he would carry my hope for me until I was able to reclaim it. Those moments always passed, I did reclaim the hope every time and soldier on, and eventually the losses were repaired.
Americans of good will need to be willing to carry each other in a similar way, claiming hope as ours while we remember that the Achilles’ heel of Evil is a hubris that always leads it to overplay its hand. Finally, we must act with charity toward others, knowing that loving America first requires that we love our fellow Americans. Not every person who adopts what amounts to an evil ideology is himself evil. Accordingly, we seek to persuade people to reject that ideology and the tyranny that flows from it while doing what we must to support liberty.
But, first, Trump needs a decisive political victory on November 6 that pulls together an expanded guiding coalition that can continue recovering the promise of America.
Photo Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images