Dig beneath the sales schtick

It was Bill Maher who mentioned this first, but the words aligns well with what Donald Trump does. Maher, being from New Jersey, said he grew up hearing this kind of talk, so he recognized it early on. Donald Trump is all about “New Jersey schtick.” In his mind, it is a constant banter to make truths better and tell lies to sell anything, including your reputation. In all fairness to folks from New Jersey, this kind of “schtick” can be found everywhere.

From the Free dictionary, the word schtick, which is also spelled shtick, means: A characteristic attribute, talent, or trait that is helpful in securing recognition or attention Salespeople use schtick, but it is unfair to paint all salespeople with this brush. The ones who focus on relationship selling will tend to use less of it, while those who focus on transactional sales, will tend to use more of it. What do I mean by that?

Relationship sellers want to work with you long term, building a relationship. Transactional sellers want to get a sale to maximize profit in short order. The latter represents Trump’s approach, which is one reason he is less concerned with long relationships with other countries. And, since he does not care to be a student of history, he does not place a value on the relationship. So, he focuses on transactions.

To do that, he looks for props to sell from. He needs a very short, bumper sticker solution to a problem. The fact the problem is more complex or the solution won’t really solve it is irrelevant. His transactional focus is to win. It is a zero-sum game – I must win, you must lose. “Build the wall” fit nicely on a bumper sticker. Getting folks to chant it and the response to who is going to pay for it is all about sales schtick. The fact immigration is down the list for why folks are disenfranchised matters not – technology gains and offshoring jobs were the main culprits.

Props work best when they can be used to placate fears that are stoked. The Black Lives Matter movement gave Trump two props that he is using today. The handful of folks who are creating violence is one prop. The “defund the police” is the other. Now, defunding the police does not mean take all of their money away. That would be ludicrous. But, repurposing funding to hire licensed social workers and train police to deescalate crises is important. So, Trump and his sycophants are playing this up just as Richard Nixon did in 1968, the year MLK and RFK were assassinated that led to rioting and violence.

Let’s be clear. Donald Trump will say anything to get elected and to be liked by his base of followers. This is a key reason he does not know where the truth stops and the lies begin. Paula Reid of CBS News noted to Trump at a press conference after he just repeated what he has often said that he signed the VA Healthcare Protection Act, that was not a true statement. He likely had no idea he was lying. The act was signed in 2014. He just signed an amendment to it.

Financial reporters, who have covered Trump for decades, note he is not the best of managers. He does not have the emosthy, patience, temperament or time for it. What he is good at is selling. Make the deal and leave a way to get out when the cookie crumbles. He started selling his name for building developments, but he left himself an out when problems surfaced and he could bail. This was a transactional sales person’s dream – get your revenue without any responsibility.

Unfortunately, this is how he approaches the White House. Get the accolades, take credit for all things good regardless of your role and blame others for any problems, even if your failures contributed to them. He and his sycophants spend a lot of tax payer dollars trying to erase or re-write history to absolve him of any accountability.

So, the way to beat Trump is to define truthful props that can be pounded like a drumbeat.

– Trump admitted to lying about the pandemic and now 200,000 (and growing) Americans have died
– America is less trusted because its president is untrustworthy
– Trump does not even try to unite Americans
– It is hard to put out racial fires when the president is carrying a gas can
– Trump is making it easier for China to ascend to number one in economic clout
– Trump is making it easier companies to pee in your water supply
– America is only one of three nations to not support the Paris Climate Change Accord
– The ACA may be ruled unconstitutional after the election by SCOTUS due to changes made by Republicans
– How does a president take credit for building an economy with 7 plus years of growth when he took office?

There is little hope of changing the mindset of someone wearing a t-shirt that says “Jesus died for you – Trump lives for you.” That is just a load of BS. But, that is the base’s mindset. His one genius is to get people to buy his schtick and not believe anyone else. And, he knows they won’t as, if they start to question him and heed the uncomfortable truths, the cognitive dissonance would be overwhelming. This is why the words of Michael Cohen, Trump’s attorney and fixer fell on deaf ears, when under oath he said “Donald Trump is a racist, he is a con-artist and he is a cheat.”

Dear Mr. President

Below is a slight variation of a letter I posted on the White House website. To be heard, my message is not accusational. It is an earnest, forthright plea for help. Please feel free to use any elements you like.

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Dear Mr. President,

Please reopen the government as American people are being harmed by the closure, especially federal workers. As a former Republican, I feel the wall issue is overstated. We should not hold people hostage on this and should discuss immigration in a data driven, compassionate and diligent manner. Please work with Congress to make this happen. I feel what the House proposed will allow some time to do this and let people get back to work to serve our citizens.

Imperfections

We humans are an imperfect lot. We do our best to hide our imperfections, but we all have them. No race has any more or less than others. Yet, one of our imperfections is as old as time. Jesus warned us against this with the Golden Rule. The imperfection is to think we are better than another group of people that may look, worship, vote, or love differently than we do. Too often, we feel a group or person is beneath us and should not be given the same rights.

The US Constitution and its various amendments has also tried to provide a set of rules that say we are all created equal. Quite simply, my rights are no important than that of another. The converse is also true. Like Jesus’ words, it is an ideal that we should strive for. And, when we fail, we should feel remorse and do better. Our leaders must represent our better angels. When they don’t, we lose the benefit of their example.

Unfortunately, examples can work in the opposite direction. Bigotry has to be carefully taught. And, when leaders look the other way or grease the skids on bigotry, it festers and becomes more pervasive. Under the guise of populism, we are seeing a greater degree and more pervasive bigotry in the US, Hungary, Poland, Germany to name a few countries. At the heart of this populism is a bigotry that betrays the Golden Rule.

With the current US President, America can no longer claim to be a beacon of democracy. The traits of lying, bullying, demeaning the media and allies, and thinking me first are not conducive to leadership. The current US President occupies the seat of leadership, but I would not use that term to define what he does. A leader unites. A leader accepts responsibility. A leader is accountable. This President could do better in each of these areas.

We must hold him accountable. When he lies, we must say that is unacceptable. When he demeans, we need to let him know children our watching. We are all imperfect, but imperfect people should not throw stones. Jesus said something about that as well. I hope and pray he will do better. We need him to. The same goes for other leaders. And, for us.

 

A simple example of accountability that speaks volumes

The following is a brief example, but speaks volumes as a window into the US President. At one of his pep rallies the past few days, the President ridiculed the former Senator Al Franken from Minnesota, who resigned after accusations of sexual harassment. But, the President was not ridiculing the allegations, he was mocking him for resigning.

Let me be clear on this. The President of the United States was mocking a Senator who did the right thing accepting accountability for his actions. He screwed up, acknowledged it and resigned. The President saw this as weakness. The crowd cheered, but why?

I have written before how the President is not accountable. He rarely accepts blame for anything he does that goes awry. According to his biographers, he was taught by his mentor Roy Cohn to do two things – never say you are sorry and sue everyone. Think about this. He sues everyone or threatens to any time he perceives maltreatment. Before the election, his company lawsuits averaged 1 1/2 per week.

Now, he may have said he is sorry, but I can’t think of one top of mind, in spite of many opportunities. Typically, he changes what he said or backs off, then comes back later to double down. My favorite story to illustrate Trump at his worst is arranging a press conference before the election with the sole purpose to say that he was wrong about Obama’s birth certificate issue.

We need to be reminded that Trump had been raising the birther issue for several years increasing his notoriety appealing to his future base. Yet, when it came time to accept accountability, he blamed Hillary Clinton. Her campaign in 2008 made up the birther issue was his rationale. The idea may have come from them, but they did not execute on it. Trump did for several years, repeatedly. This avoidance of accountability was vintage Trump.

We teach our kids to be truthful, be civil, be responsible and be accountable. Trump is only responsible to himself and his base, everything else is secondary. He tells the truth only 31% of the time and even less when at a pep rally. He certainly is not routinely civil. From several sources, his tirades are legendary indoors as well as out. But, accountability is a trait he severely lacks. Why did people clap at his rally? Because he was ragging on a Democrat. But, that Democrat did the right thing. He was accountable.