Why Donald Trump Will Succeed as a “Know Nothing” Candidate

At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787, America’s founding fathers wrestled with how our young nation would govern itself. Those deliberations – shaped by political intrigue and diverse personal agendas – included creation of the government’s executive branch.

The world has changed dramatically since 1787, but the roles and responsibilities of the nation’s chief executive have remained the same.

Over the past 228 years, the nation has grown from 13 colonies with under 4 million people, to 50 states and nearly 323 million citizens.  War was waged with muskets and cannons at close range targets; today drones and laser-guided missiles take out enemies on the other side of the world. The federal government employed 1,000 nonmilitary workers; today we have nearly 3 million federal employees in 15 departments, 69 agencies and 383 nonmilitary sub-agencies. News and information often took days and weeks to reach the first president; now it’s delivered almost as it happens, and Americans expect immediate solutions from its chief executive.

In a world that Jefferson, Adams and Hamilton would no longer recognize, America has outgrown the office of the presidency they designed.

In 2015, no single individual – regardless of experience, I.Q. or political savvy – is capable of understanding and managing effectively the nation’s complex domestic and foreign affairs, while simultaneously acting as its commander-in-chief, cheerleader, comforter and ceremonial leader. The traditional role of the American president, modeled in part after the British monarchy, is an anachronism.

Into this moment in American history – where the president’s job is far too vast and its citizenry increasingly frustrated with Washington’s lack of results or accountability – enters the bombastic Donald Trump: an established worldwide brand name carefully crafted to be associated with financial success and getting deals done. He’s a man long on politically incorrect opinions and short on details behind his ideas, whose greatest gift involves saying what many people are only thinking.

Mainstream Republicans and other detractors waiting for the Trump juggernaut to implode when the presidential campaign enters its “explain your political platform” phase are certain to be disappointed.  Facts and details will not be the Achilles Heel of the man in the empty $5,000 suit. Americans already understand that the Trump brand may be built on smoke and mirrors, but they don’t care about his plans or details because of politicians’ broken promises in the past. The political system’s failure has legitimized Trump’s candidacy.

When it’s time to show his cards, Trump’s political platform will be simple, straightforward and consistent with his brand positioning.  To avoid details and deflect criticism, his campaign strategy will be built largely on promises to appoint to key positions the nation’s “best and brightest” people – an action-oriented team of advisors and doers, rather than self-interested career bureaucrats.  Weaned on a decade of The Apprentice on television, Americans will believe that The Donald can find the right people to affect change, and if those lieutenants fail…they’ll be fired and replaced. That’s the type of hard-nosed decision-making and accountability that voters hunger for in a chief executive, whether it’s in a TV show, a company or a nation. And Trump’s campaign strategy will resonate with voters from all walks of life.

The concept of Donald Trump as president is disconcerting for many Americans. But he will remain a viable candidate not only because the executive branch of government has far too much on its plate to ever succeed, but also because the distinctions between entertainment and reality in all aspects of American culture continue to be blurred. Trump may be a cartoon character, but his historical timing is perfect, and his political instincts are formidable and underestimated.

Lacking any rival candidate from either party who can inspire the populace on a visceral level and who can provide a credible alternative to business-as-usual politics, America may very well end up with Donald Trump as its first “know-nothing” president, whose skills are managerial rather than intellectual.  In electing Trump, Americans will fundamentally change the role of the presidency by proxy rather than constitutional amendment, because our form of government established in 1787, however outdated, will always be considered as sacrosanct as the Bible.

The impact of Donald Trump as an American president will likely bring even greater disruption to the nation’s political infrastructure. After changing the dynamics of the office of the president, the next target of American voters will be the legislative branch of government.  That’s what Trump’s political opponents may fear the most.

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