My first difficulty was trying to understand why so many millions of ordinary people could possibly believe that a man with no admirable character traits could possibly lead a country. Amazingly the stats show many of his voters are women, and even more oddly perhaps, many are immigrants. I was also surprised at how many EU citizens living in the UK supported Brexit. Turkeys voting for Christmas?
Trump has achieved considerable business success, or so he wants us to believe. There's no reason to doubt he has built a lot of buildings, or at least put his name on them. Whatever he's actually done, it's resulted in wealth far beyond the dreams and potential of most Americans except a very tiny number. Every American, nay every human in a heartbeat would swap places with his wealth and the fawning respect this attracts. I have no doubt there are horrible skeletons littering his path to success, but all the wealth created in business by Obama, Bush(s), Clinton, Carter, Nixon, Ford, Kennedy and probably every president in history put together probably doesn't come close to the wealth Trump has built. Despite plenty of failures along the way (me too), there is no doubt he understands how to motivate people and build processes to create wealth. OK so he continued what his father had created. He didn't start from scratch. But he did evolve the Trump empire and he understood, most of the time, his people and his customers.
So what's the relevance of that to ordinary Americans? Why believe he's what your country needs?
I've often criticised politicians for being naive about job creation and what is required to assist businesses to grow. It's an intensely sensitive and difficult process that you uniquely develop a feeling for as an entrepreneur. Politicians do not, on the whole, have the experience or the risk/reward mentality to understand it. Nor do journalists - who unanimously disliked both Trump and Brexit, but whom the populations of the UK and the USA also evidently largely ignored. If they knew how to become successful business people (and I mean multi-millionaires at least), they probably wouldn't be career politicians or journalists. Even referring to expert advisors isn't as effective as simply knowing in your gut from years of trial and error what works and what doesn't. It takes balls and, to a certain extent, naivety mixed with arrogance to eventually make a success of a business. Sound familiar? Awful person though he appeared to be while campaigning, Trump is the type of psychopath who makes big business work... You wouldn't want him as your friend, but you sure as hell wouldn't want him as your opponent.
That old expression 'it's the economy stupid' is nearly correct. What you need in a government is not only the skills and mindset to create wealth, but also the mindset to spend it with compassion. 'You judge a country by the way it treats its needy' (the poor, elderly and sick). Without sufficient funds, no matter how compassionate you want to be, you can't achieve much. I'm strongly socialist at heart - but strongly capitalist at brain. Successful capitalism is purely about winning economic battles where business takes no prisoners. The rules of competition are created by governments to ensure fairness and to prevent, ideally, long term damage to the planet. Only the wise, the careful, the tough and the determined win. Fine, they only had the real-estate world to judge him by, but that's more than the electorate had to judge Clinton.
So whilst we foreigners love Obama and therefore perhaps his sidekick Clinton (ignore the emails - simply incautious, not deliberately naughty) because they say nice things and will be generous and tolerant to other countries, I probably wouldn't want them running my economy either. You can't just be compassionate. You have to be a tough business negotiator too. Where's the evidence either Obama or Clinton know how to make profit? In the UK, Jeremy Corbyn is the leader of the socialists. He's a lovely bloke, but useless when it comes to leading and especially winning.
On BBC Radio 4 this morning, a reporter in the Rustbelt interviewed a range of Trump voters to try to find out why they'd shocked the world. None of them appeared to be red-necks or trailer-trash. All of them talked about their voting priority being jobs and economic prosperity. All of them were prepared to accept 'pussy-grabbing' loudmouth behaviour as the price to pay for having an arrogant but successful man to lead and negotiate their nation's future. One or two also mentioned free trade agreements as being the heart of the problem. Apparently, and I didn't know this, Obama had promised to re-evaluate NAFTA which had effectively move low wage jobs to Mexico. He never did. The main reason Brexit won the referendum in the UK was because jobs were being syphoned up by people prepared to accept lower wages. In the case of the EU, those people are allowed legally to come to the UK to find those jobs. Where borders are closed for migration, like between the USA and Mexico, it's the jobs that move, not the people. Either way, wages are depressed. It's a real problem for people who can't raise their sights to aim for higher qualified employment - if it exists locally. And even these are now escaping their clutches as skilled labour becomes more fluid and countries like Mexico invest in better colleges and universities.
On the one hand you can recognise this is all about globalisation where money, materials, data and people can move very easily. Physical borders are little hindrance, especially when trade occurs online. The USA invented the digital economy. It's most successful companies are Google, Facebook, Ebay, Uber and Amazon. It's least successful in my lifetime are agriculture, mining, heavy manufacturing and assembly - all of which can be done anywhere there's cheap unskilled labour prepared to live on less money than Americans. Most citizens of developed countries wander into jobs with little planning or understanding about whether those jobs have short or long-term survival potential. Consequently many if not most workers are ultimately vulnerable to losing their jobs to people in lower wage countries - or to automation. Losing it to automation is called progress - and we begrudgingly tend to accept this because no other worker has directly gained a job. But losing jobs to another country is called competition. And the people who understand more than anyone else about how you fight and beat competition are business people. The more successful their business, the more likely they are to keep winning. Trump has been very clear. He wants to fight to keep and return jobs to the USA. He's less clear about losing jobs to automation, but he knows how to keep jobs at home - whether that's a good idea longer term, or not. It is naturally appealing to American workers on low wages.
So maybe Trump does have the skills to help restore some of America's winning ways. He talks about investing in the right infrastructure for business. Good - although we don't know what and where yet. But he also talks about preventing low waged foreigners from syphoning jobs from higher waged Americans. This is inevitable and when it happens, it will still bring wealth into the USA, although not directly to the workforce - but to shareholders and the government. Apple don't make any of their stuff in the USA, but they do pay plenty of tax and shareholder dividends. This isn't seen by US labour. It skips past them into the pockets of shareholders and for governments to waste on projects that don't immediately benefit them. All the population can see are fat-cats in Washington and fat-cats in board rooms benefiting from lower wages abroad. Did Clinton demonstrate how she was going to change that? No. Naturally, like any good socialist, she talked about spending money of health, education yadayada, but she never explained how she was going to put money back in the pockets of trampled Americans. Precisely the same as trampled Brits feel. "You're making the rich richer by exploiting the poor of other countries. I'm the loser."
I'm beginning to understand what Trump voters believe they've elected. A tough businessman to win jobs and respect for a tough America, even if he's not the most pleasant of people. It's not about popularity, it's about strength and determination. Indeed the archetypical American businessman is a pushy loudmouth. Trump comes straight out of the mould. Despite the Democrats having a year or so to find a disgruntles employee, not a single one past or present could be found to claim he was a tyrant or a bad employer. Business-people know they are only successful because of the quality of the people they employ. Always look after them and treat them with the greatest respect. It would appear he does both. It's a very good sign that he should, in time, earn the respect of his administration.
They also believe he stands for traditional American apple pie. Make America Great Again didn't mean harking back to some mythical halcyon heyday which only Hollywood believes ever existed. It means restoring cultural values that have been usurped by rubbish reality TV, gang violence, mass shootings, street riots, terrorism, drugs, obesity, overcrowded prisons and a failing education system. How the hell did the wealthiest and most powerful nation on Earth end up to be so wretched? How can anyone take pride in the dream that became a nightmare for so many? Clinton represented more of the same. "Enough" they shouted.
Even his NATO comments are beginning to make sense. Why should the American taxpayer subsidise the protection of spurious NATO members (especially when those 'allies' deride their choice of president)? For the record, the UK is the only other member of NATO to commit to spending 2% of GDP on Defence. So at least we're going to be OK...
Maybe I'm beginning to get there despite his nauseating behaviour, but what I can't and never will get my head around is his belief that climate change due to man is a hoax. He's dead wrong about that and he MUST get back on message to lead the world towards a safer sustainable future. He also needs to better understand Islam and to realise it's not one religion that's the problem, it's all of them. Actually it's the rabid Christian fundamentalist evolution-denier Vice-President-elect Pence who really scares the hell out of me. Total nutter! Wants to ban the teaching of evolution in schools in favour of ID!
Let's also hope they've taken the batteries out of the button before he gets into office (or just give him the wrong codes).