It’s not just how Trump communicates with the public that’s different. What he says almost always has a metamessage (consistently missed by the commentariat) that reinforces his brand, advances a goal, or positions him for a negotiation. Here are some of the metamessages President Trump will continue to deploy:
I love YOU
The left will continue the stale Love Trumps Hate meme that didn’t work in the election. Portraying those who voted for Trump as haters only mobilizes them and strengthens their support for Trump. President Trump will tell the American people, as he did throughout the campaign, that he loves them and he loves America. Note that he is just about the only politician who uses this language.
Why will this work? People know that when you love someone you put them first and help them be the best they can be.
Where the Left casts people as victims and government as the sympathetic savior, Trump sees people as his equals, with human dignity and potential to fulfill. He wants them to succeed. People know this doesn’t mean abandoning a safety net or not helping those in need. But they want help that keeps their dignity, and their pocketbooks, intact, and the guy telling them he loves them sounds like he means it.
I’m working like hell for you (and so is Washington).
Trump, your employee, will tout with a dash of humility and a large amount of bravado…Look what “I” did for “you”. He will take advantage of his vast social network to ask the American people for a performance review and — just as he did on the campaign — ask “am I doing what you want me to do?” He will stress repeatedly that you are the boss, and he is working like hell to get things done.
Trump will overtly request that foreign governments show the American people respect and call out those who don’t. It has been a long time since a president made clear that Americans expect respect. For the past eight years, millions were disturbed and angered by the disrespect shown our president and military around the world, the global apology tour and the negating of American exceptionalism on the global stage.
Trump understands that you won’t be respected until you respect yourself. So as a starting point for all negotiations with other countries, expect Trump to demand respect, and walk away from any situation where it's not granted. (Also expect him to walk out just on the general principle that it’s good to unnerve your counterparty, and the stronger negotiating hand belongs to he who will leave the table. (See “State visit: Mexico”.)
On the domestic front, President Trump will stress his respect for taxpayers who work hard for every penny and desire to ensure their money is well spent, both at home and abroad, just as they do with their own funds.
Likeability of this president is the wrong metric on which to focus — it’s not why people voted for Trump.
Many of his most ardent supporters didn’t see him as someone they would have invited to dinner. But even if they thought he was a bully, they thought the situation was sufficiently dire that they wanted him to be their bully, to cut through the Gordian knot of DC, to withstand the myriad arrows and break the ropes of the Lilliputian media — whose constant opposition is a gift to him of a foil and counterpoint.
So expect Trump and his administration to take positions that remind their supporters, as well as the opposition, of their strength, and to double down often.
Success and Progress, not Process
Trump’s focus will be on results (i.e. benefits to the American people) not process. As he amasses more successes, the left and media will carp on the fact that “he didn’t go about it the right way.” They will showcase the special interests, politicians and bureaucrats who were left out, insulted, or fired and replaced in the process of getting things done.
Trump knows that the American people don’t care how the sausage gets made in Washington. They want their sausage and they want it now.
Since the 1960s, we’ve largely been living through a Rousseauian moment where less is more, and progress and success were sneered at. Expect Trump to change that. Most visibly, he’ll actually improve infrastructure like airports.
Indeed this administration might actually revive our manned space program and call for another World’s Fair to showcase scientific advance. And always, there will be a message of making America great again.
Humility and Hubris
Count on Trump to show both, in equal measure and simultaneously. He will reinforce the awesomeness of the presidency and how humbled he is to have this responsibility, while at the same time tooting his own horn that he is and will be the most successful president since Reagan.
As in the campaign, Trump will continue to be the blue-collar billionaire president. Unlike in his golf clubs, whose subdued aesthetic is meant for those who know they have arrived, he maintains in his personal life the gilded aesthetic of aspiration. That is his target demographic with whom he wants to identify. So Trump will bring Reagan's gold curtains back to the Oval Office while eating meatloaf for dinner (reportedly his favorite meal) — echoes of patrician FDR serving hot dogs…and blue-collar Americans will think “he’s one of us”.
Agree to Disagree
Where the media will claim chaos, Trump will tout the fact that there is disagreement even within his own ranks. He will reposition it as open-mindedness, something that he’ll distinguish from previous administrations.
The Trump Brand
The stock market rally is now “the Trump Effect” — because branding has been at the core of Trump’s success in every facet of his life, and politics will be no different. He recently filed for trademark protection for his slogan for 2020, ”Keep America Great,” because he knows where his superior branding will take him.
Going forward he will focus on not only on making his brand synonymous with success and results, but on differentiating his administration from the swamp and demonstrating his allegiance to this country and its people.
It’s been remarkable to see how many don’t see this pattern of metamessaging, particularly on the left.
Most are too invested in seeing Trump as malign or heinous, just as they were invested in believing that Reagan was dumb. That will work to President Trump’s advantage, and two things are sure as we roll further into 2017 — the GOP will get schooled on messaging and negotiation, and the rest of us who see method in Trump’s approach will shake our heads as his critics’ heads continue to explode.
Heather Higgins is president and CEO of Independent Women’s Voice, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that supports women by advancing conservative free market solutions.