I Thought This Would Be Easier

Trump’s interviews are always illuminating. I’ve learned more about human behavior in the last year or so than I have in my preceding 30-odd years. His most recent interview with Reuters was especially insightful. Among other things, he said, and I’m slightly misquoting, “I thought this would be easier.” This is a very telling quote. I don’t read too much into it in terms of Trump’s psyche. I think we all would agree that, at minimum, he is learning on the job. But this quote gives us a better insight into how he ran his campaign, and some of the reasons he won.

Clinton was running for a very tough job. She didn’t make any promises that she would do such-and-such on day so-and-so. She didn’t say it would be easy to reform healthcare, or deal with North Korea, or renegotiate trade deals with our international partners. She knew it wasn’t that simple, and that any solution would be difficult at best, and very possibly completely unattainable. Trump ran for an easy job. He was constantly saying how easy it would be to do things, and only he could fix them. And now he is running into the reality of being president, and he is finding out that Clinton’s view of the job was far more accurate than his was.  

There are all sorts of lessons here about how the human mind works. On the part of the voters, this is a demonstration of how it’s easy to assume something is simple if you don’t understand much about it. It’s the, “you don’t know what you don’t know,” phenomenon. For Mrs. Clinton, it’s a demonstration of how difficult it can be to sell a complicated idea. She tried a number of strategies, such as running as a feminist candidate, running as an outsider, running as a seasoned veteran. All of these were true, to a certain degree, but she never could quite commit to a single message, which mainly served to muddy the waters.  

But the most important lesson here, I think, is the difficulty smart people can have in trusting others. I believe Trump is a smart man. I don’t know, of course. For all I know there could be parasitic worms crawling through his brain giving him low grade dementia. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say he is a genius. This is normally a good thing, but there is a common trap that smart people who strongly believe they are smart fall into. They tend to assume everyone else is dumb. Of course being a president is easy. The only reason everyone has such a hard time with it is that they aren’t as smart as I am. It’s a common sign of an ego that’s larger than it should be. And an oversized ego is a pre-requisite for running for president.  

This is a lesson that everyone should take to heart. Most people have some subject where they feel they are brilliant. Some people have many such subjects. But Trump is demonstrating how important it is to have humility about them. Even if you don’t respect someone, if they say something is complicated and difficult, it is a good idea to check your ego and assume they have a point. For Trump’s presidency, I take some solace is that he’s probably not enjoying it. Had he trusted more experience people, even though he didn’t like them, he would be a lot happier now.

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