The secret to Donald Trump’s success may be his ability to keep secrets – secrets which other people may want to keep hidden.
Consider the facts we have and observations we can make. Consider the short intervals between the often vituperative denunciations of Trump by Republican elected officials, and the subsequent glowing endorsements of, and sometimes the gleeful participation in, threats by Trump.
Maine Governor Paul LePage’s abrupt hairpin turn was one of note for its alacrity. Such sudden conversions tell me that someone has remarkable powers of persuasion. And the law of the carrot and the stick tells me it’s either one really sweet carrot, or a really big, heavy stick – perhaps with a few nails protruding with the sharp end out.
Some are persuaded easily. Portable assets are persuasive. Easily concealed assets are better (think: diamonds). Unmarked bills are good, too. But for many, and especially for the weak of flesh and spirit, it’s the avoidance of a negative that’s key. The negative is the embarrassment from the revelation of a really nasty negative. It could be anything; something financial, reputational, or personal. Its exact nature isn’t important.
It can be summed up with these three Latin words: Quid. Pro. Quo.
Maybe this is the unwritten chapter in his “Art Of The Deal.” You do my bidding, I keep your secret. It is the target’s desperation to keep the secret that becomes the predator’s opportunity. Perhaps this is how Trump has secured such unwavering support and ardent attackers of any heretics who dare defy his overtures.
The problem for the desperate with secrets they need to keep secret is: they don’t have the leverage. Trump has it. As I’ve written before, Trump is the type with whom you cannot negotiate except from a clear position of strength, if at all. This power imbalance puts his marks – his prey – in a dangerous position where they are powerless to resist his increasingly demanding – if not totally outrageous – requests. That’s because (if the theory holds) he has a “book” on certain people. A book that’s most valuable, if it stays unpublished. Now, that explains how such large swaths of the establishment have publicly embraced him despite the uncouthness and anti-intellectualism of his public persona.
It would also explain how Trump has been frustrated by his inability to crack those adversaries without secrets. Perhaps this is why the character issue has become relevant in our public life like never before.