Life with President Trump

The US election is behind us. Half of US voters are shocked. The other half are excited.

In Germany, the feelings were lopsided in favor of Hillary. The news shows in Germany are all about worrying about what kind of President Donald Trump is going to be.

Before the election, an American friend of mine was a fan of Bernie Sanders. When Bernie lost the primaries to Hillary, he was so disappointed that he facebooked: I don’t know who will be the next president but I already know I will hate him/her.

My answer was: I don`t know who will be the next president, but I already know I will like him/her. Why?

The strength of the American democracy lies not in the wonderful people who became our presidents but it the institution of the presidency. Did you like Ford? Nixon? Carter? George W.? Like them or not – just recognize that the American democracy has worked even though the inpidual presidents were less than perfect.

Now what about Donald? What about his confrontative style of rhetoric, his many lies and insults? As for the lies, we noticed them already in many things Ronald Reagan said during his election campaign visits, albeit with much less anger in his voice. And the news commentators mentioned the lies but focused on his convincing way of delivering them. As for lies, they are not new to politics.

I just saw a report about a New York school of acting for reality shows. It teaches young actors and actresses in the Donald Trump style of confrontation methods. Trump developed his confrontation during his many years of producing and acting in his own reality show „The Apprentice“.

When you are in front of TV cameras and you want to be heard over others, you do what Trump did in the shows and during the election campaign: you act brashly, you assault, you exaggerate, you never say your are sorry, you always shout as if you were in a shouting match in a bar room or in the fish market. That’s how the cameras stay on you as opposed to focusing on someone else.

The reason for him using that approach has to do with the rules of the game. Primaries are zero-sum-games. The Apprentice, USA got talent, Deutschland sucht den Superstar, they are all zero-sum-contests. Only one will win in the end. Donald learned how to play this game over a ten year period. And since he was the only candidate to do that, he won.

Politics, both domestically and internationally, is different. Politics is a team game where every player wants something out of the deal or else it is no deal. Politics is all about win-win.

I believe that Donald Trump is a ruthless – but also smart – person. He will recognize the new rules of this news game and try to succeed in that game as well.

In other words, personally I believe that the Trump presidency has all the chances to be more considerate and consensual than he acted during the election zero-sum game. The reason is simple: whatever he wants to spend money on, unless Congress and the Senate approve it, can’t.

As a politician I have experienced first-hand the truth of the business school books which state that while politicians are in a hurry to make drastic and radical political changes, the administration is designed to slow any changes down to near standstill. It’s their doing by design. They know they will be at work in administration long past any concrete president’s tenure. That’s how Obama learned to live with much more modest changes than what he thought he could accomplish when he ran for office.

It won’t be any different for Mr. Trump. That’s how it was for over 200 years. That is how it will be for the next two hundred years.

So here is my prediction: There will be some turbulence in US politics in the first year of his presidency. After that it will be more predictable and more reasonable.

At worst, we always have the chance to elect another president in just four years.

In other words: I trust the system. And I invite you to give trust a chance.

There was an interesting commentary on the election in today’s German TV. The argument ran something like this: Half of the voters are dissatisfied with how current establishment politics deals with rapid globalization. This election will hopefully teach all of politics that we must listen to the concerns of people being threatened by the rapid change, and that we have to find other – and better – solutions than what we have done up to now.

I can agree with that. If the politicians listen better and show more empathy especially with the common folks instead of leaving that topic to the populists, we will all benefit from it. I read that over the next 10 years, two thirds of all jobs will be lost to computers. There is no better time for politicians to take up the search for new solutions than now.

There you have it.