The One Thing Trump Can Do Now to Calm the Waters

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Confusion. Contradiction. Chaos.  Many terms have been thrown around describing the internal operations of the first few weeks of the Trump presidency.  Partisans have predictably disagreed about the level and degree to which the White House has gotten off to a rocky start.

Yet polling shows most of Trump’s supporters don’t really care. Job approval polls taken in the last five days generally show the country as polarized as usual. While Gallup remains an outlier, RealClearPolitics reveals that Reuters/Ipsos, Rasmussen, Emerson and the Economist/YouGov polls all show Trump generally in the margin of a net neutral job approval rating. 

How, given the avalanche of negative news, could this possibly be the case? The answer is that many of us still have not learned the lessons of this past election.  Voters wanted change. Change is the process of making something different, of removing one thing in favor of another.  It is inherently disruptive, polarizing and even chaotic.

Voters who wanted change turn on their television and see and hear disruption, differences and disorder. They interpret this as Trump taking on what they view as distrusted, mossified institutions such as the media, the bureaucracy and the Congress and they say…. “Change, good.” After all, they expected nothing less than to see Trump at odds with the press, partisans on both sides of the aisle, the media, the prevailing culture and even the courts.  

Can this persist forever?  No. Activity must eventually yield results.  Chaos turns to calm, adolescence ages and impulsiveness matures.

There is one thing Trump can do right now to help calm the waters and prepare to tell what he hopes will be a story of success.  It is imperative the president appoint a seasoned communications professional to serve as White House Communications Director. Someone he can trust, who will have the respect of the president. Trump has to give them the authority to establish a communications strategy and the staffing and resources to deliver on the White House’s strategic objectives.

Donald Trump was hired by the American people to Make America Great Again. A White House Communications Director would be pressing the policy teams daily, asking “what are we doing, what changes are we making to deliver on our commitment?”  This individual would build a communications plan with a strategic narrative of how the work the president is leading will fulfill his commitment to rebuild our economy, strengthen our national security and heal the wounds in our culture and society where so many people today feel devalued, left behind and disconnected.

The end result is that every day, every communicator in the administration would go to work saying “This is what the president is doing, this is why he’s doing it, and this is why it matters to you.” This is the missing frame that many people need to bring the work of his presidency – and ultimately his presidency itself – into focus.

In my view, one aspect of the Communications Director’s strategic plan would be to get Trump out of the White House and away from the trappings of Washington and out with the people that put him in office.  “This Town” is kryptonite to Trump. Trump draws his strength from the American people, not palace intrigue in Washington.  The campaign was Trump as his best.  In the White House, Trump risks becoming like a lion in the zoo – a sad curiosity whose highest purpose seems unfulfilled.   

We are in the communications age and storytelling is the most valuable currency leaders have with which to build consensus. President Trump needs a strategic storyteller in chief who can help him tell his story.  It would bring focus and clarity both to his work inside the White House and in Washington, and how that work is delivering on this commitment to his voters.

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