That said, what if some good could come from Trump’s cluelessness? What if, as he slammed head first into the real-world complexity of the problems he so blithely vowed to fix, he tried to bring his voters along with him in his education—at least part of the way?
The idea sounds crazy, I know. Having based his entire candidacy on promising the scared, alienated, fed-up (white) masses that he could easily make them winners again, Trump may seem an unlikely choice to now explain that things are not as simple as he (or they) initially believed. (For instance, China cannot simply jerk North Korea into line like a naughty puppy.)
But it’s precisely because of his anti-establishment, know-nothing persona that Trump may well be uniquely suited to the delivering such lessons of politics and government.
While the political class likes to mock Trump’s policy and governing ignorance, it’s not as though he’s more ill-informed than the average American. Indeed, his bashing of pointy-headed elites, wonks, and the entire notion of expertise was key to his appeal.
Voters don’t like to be talked down to (especially those already feeling disrespected). Many, many Americans were put off by President Obama’s cerebral, too-cool-for-school manner. It made him seem remote, unrelatable, patronizing. Similarly, precious few hearts raced when Hillary Clinton babbled on about detailed policy plans in that wonky, pedantic way of hers. (Uppity woman!)
This goes beyond partisan sorting. Recall how well the wonkier GOP candidates fared on the presidential trail last year. (Poor Jeb!) Or look at Paul Ryan. The more the House speaker labors to explain the nuances of health care reform or tax reform or budget negotiations, the less that even his own conference wants to hear from him. As Senator Tom Cotton snarked after Ryan tried to sell Republicans in the upper-chamber on a complex border-adjustment tax: “Some ideas are so stupid only an intellectual could believe them.”
In politics, it does not pay to come across as a smarty pants.
This, obviously, is not a problem for Trump. He prides himself on valuing gut instinct above book learning or relevant experience. He frets way more about public opinion regarding the size of his … um, hands … than of his brain. And no one will ever accuse him of overly intellectual or eloquent oratory. (The man makes Sarah Palin sounds like a Toastmasters’ champ.)
With Trump’s Policy-for-Dummies speaking style, the difficulties of even eye-glazing issues could be laid out without voters’ feeling patronized. Better still, Trump would be delivering the tutorials as information that he himself had only recently learned. (“As my good friend President Xi shared with me just last week …”) Everyone would be in more or less the same boat, so no one would need to feel belittled.