The last few days have been incredibly hard for many of us. I’ve been walking around in a fog; nothing about the world makes sense. One of the only things that’s made me feel any better since Tuesday night was spending time with my students, who are uncommonly caring, sensitive, bright, and passionate future music educators. Our conversations have been positive, encouraging, and reaffirming. I feel much more secure in the knowledge that when these folks are in charge in a few years things are going to be much better.
But then I flip on the TV or radio and I hear “his” name, and the words “President-elect,” and all of those dark feelings come flooding back…and I shake my head, and feel that now-familiar knot in my stomach tighten and twist, and I wonder just how we are going to get through the next 4 years.
But you know who might be more worried about Trump taking up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. than you or me?
Donald J. Trump, that’s who.
Think about it. This is a guy who has never truly held a real job–a job working for a company that he or his father didn’t own. You know, a job with a boss, or supervisors, or colleagues to whom you feel responsible, or customers, or students, that you are supposed to serve. Or suppliers who are expecting a certain level of professionalism or quality, or children who are expecting to be taught math or reading or science, or end users who will hold you accountable if said products or services are substandard, or delivered late, or not at all.
No, Mr. Trump’s professional journey started out at the top, as CEO of the Trump Organization. Staked to a “small loan” of $1 million from his father, Donald never had to worry about developing collegial relationships with his co-workers, climbing his way up the corporate ladder, demonstrating his ability to be a productive team member, angling for that big promotion, or negotiating for a raise.
Donald Trump has never had to worry about an annual performance review from a supervisor determining his yearly salary or raise, or had his sales numbers critiqued by someone from a corporate office located 3 states away. He’s never had an assistant principal conduct a walk-through observation of his worst class with no advance notice, or had his teaching evaluated by a group of 7th graders who don’t like homework, or writing, or math, or school.
Mr. Trump began his career as the boss, fired those with whom he disagreed, or who challenged him, and surrounded himself only with family members and sycophants who stroked his enormous ego and stoked his need for constant praise and adulation. We witnessed the result of this peculiar path in his “performance” on The Apprentice, where he mocked, taunted, teased, and humiliated a rotating cast of D list “celebrities” who, in their eagerness to resuscitate their floundering careers, were willing to grovel and prostitute themselves for Trump’s amusement and approval. It’s where we first saw Mr. Trump’s signature management technique come to light: “YOU’RE FIRED!”
We can now see the results of Trump’s stunted personality and leadership style in the way that he responds to criticism, with barely concealed rage, or scorn, or condescension. His childish antics and tantrums were on full display in this election season’s series of debates, first with the clown car of Republican candidates–where he was able to huff and puff his way to victory–and then in the general election against a well-prepared, intelligent, and experienced opponent–where his infantile antics exposed him for the petulant bully that he is: “WRONG!”, “YOU’RE THE PUPPET!”
Now, for the first time in his 70 years, Donald’s got a real job. A job where he’ll be expected to show up every day, on time and ready to go on Day 1. A job where he’ll be expected to prepare and devote himself to deep and comprehensive study of arcane and detailed policies. A job where his every move and decision will be subject to withering public scrutiny and examination from both his allies and his opponents. A job where his actions will affect millions of persons around the globe, and not just his own “bottom line.” A job where instead of being The Boss, he’s got 320 million bosses.
At his meeting with President Obama at the White House yesterday, you could see this realization starting to dawn in Trump’s eyes. He’s just now beginning to understand what he’s got himself in to. Trump is now making the pivot from campaigning to seeing himself in the job, and the daunting reality of that job is becoming clear.
It’s not about being cheered at rallies, or basking in the adoration of throngs of fervent supporters. It’s about enduring boring meetings discussing the minutiae of policy issues, and negotiating trade pacts with foreign countries. It’s about being ready when the red phone on his desk rings at 3am, and not responding with a Tweet.
Trump is starting to realize that more than half of this nation isn’t going to agree with him on a pretty regular basis, and those disagreements are going to be loud and public. This is going to be tough for a guy who demands unquestioning fealty and obedience–a person whose closest confidantes and employees somewhat creepily refer to him as “Mr. Trump.” He’s not accustomed to anyone questioning him, or having the temerity to challenge him or his decisions–he expects blind allegiance and unconditional loyalty.
The President, for better or worse, is our country’s designated punching bag, and the populace’s prime target for anger, frustration, and fear. Good Presidents understand this dynamic, and grow a thick enough skin to weather the inevitable storms of public fury. Excellent Presidents (see: Obama, B.) absorb the nation’s fears, and respond with calm determination.
It’s anyone’s guess as to how Donald Trump will respond to the inevitable pressures that are coming his way. Perhaps he will grow into the job, and discover untapped reserves of composure and steadiness deep within his being. Perhaps not.
Often, a person’s future behaviors can be predicted based upon their past motivations. So, what do we know about the motivations of the two most recent candidates for President?
He ran to win.
She ran to serve.
Hang on kids…it’s likely to be a bumpy ride.