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Trump and the Dawn of a New Era

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By    |   Saturday, 27 Feb 2016 05:04 PM

 At the time of the first Republican debate in early August of 2015, when Jeb Bush still enjoyed preeminence in the polls, I said in a national interview on Newsmax TV, “Trump has rung the bell that awakened a nation in slumber.” I had cited a central insight from George Orwell’s essay, “Politics and the English Language,” “The real enemy of clear language is insincerity”.

That the resonance of sincerity is the key to Trump’s unparalleled ascent is clear from a survey taken after his landslide victory in the New Hampshire primary winning every region and county: The quality that mattered to voters the most was honesty and trustworthiness.

Something unprecedented in contemporary American politics had taken place: The manipulative overlay of common discourse, the cumulative stratum of political correctness that had for decades constrained the national psyche in a linguistic straitjacket, had been perforated by an outlier to a degree it had not been since the time of Ronald Reagan.

President Reagan awarded the Medal of Freedom, the highest honor that can be bestowed on a civilian, to two individuals whose work has emerged as prescient in our time. One is the longshoreman philosopher Eric Hoffer who wrote The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature of Mass Movements (1951), the most important work to date on understanding the psychology of the terrorist. The other is Norman Vincent Peale, the author of The Power of Positive Thinking (1952) and co-founder with the psychoanalyst Smiley Blanton of the American Foundation of Religion and Psychiatry.

The ascent of Donald Trump at this period of our political history can best be understood as a restorative expression of the foresight of these thinkers. Norman Vincent Peale, the most influential clergyman of his time, was Trump’s boyhood pastor at Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan and friend of his father’s. In tapping into the quest for honesty and sincerity in the depths of the American psyche Trump is drawing upon a fundamental principle of Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking where faith and psychology coalesce, “Through prayer you…make use of the great factor within yourself, the deep subconscious mind…” It is the repository that can transform “wishes into realities when the wishes are strong enough”.

Trump has said of the sermons of Peale, “You could listen to him all day long, and when you left the church, you were disappointed it was over.” In a 2009 interview with Psychology Today Trump spoke of the inspiration afforded by the pastor’s book in the most difficult times of his life, “I refused to give in to negative circumstances and never lost faith in myself.”

In 1968 Isaac Asimov, the prolifically accurate futurist and vice president of Mensa International, predicted that psychology would become the most influential restorative modality in the new millennium. That the liberating potential of The Power of Positive Thinking has found vast resonance is evinced by the fact that it has not only remained on the New York Times best-seller list for 186 weeks, but that it has been translated into 15 languages and has sold over 5 million copies.

The by now ritualistic pastime of the punditocracy to attribute Trump’s pronounced confidence and the blunt idiom of truth of which he avails himself merely to an overweening ego may be a projection of its own hubris. It is more likely that he is disrupting the ecosystem of a selective strain of social etiquette designed to preserve its own power enclave.

One does not evolve and learn to successfully negotiate in the fierce steel-caged competition of Manhattan’s real estate emporium and beyond without possessing humility. It was none other than Rev. Peale himself who observed, Trump is “kindly and courteous in certain business negotiations and has a profound streak of honest humility”.

The worlds of pundits and politicians alike tend to be compressed within preconceived formulae and legalistic mindset. There is a marked dearth of creative problem solvers and entrepreneurs from outside those hermetically sealed societies. Already an exasperated Thomas Jefferson wrote in his autobiography, “If the present Congress errs in too much talking, how can it be otherwise in a body to which the people send one hundred and fifty lawyers, whose trade it is to question everything, yield nothing, and talk by the hour?”

Liberated from ideological overlay and imbued with renewed confidence it may well be that we are approaching the hour of the outlier, a new era of American innovation. In a Forbes article Professor Karim Lakhani of Harvard Business School speaks of the concept of “innovation inversion,” citing a study showing that is it is no longer established experts who are most adept at creatively solving the most complex problems. “Big innovation most often happens when an outsider who may be far away from the surface of the problem reframes the problem in a way that unlocks the solution.”

In this new multiplex world of unprecedented challenges Trump’s lack of timeworn, enervating ‘political experience’ emerges as an asset, as does his idea of engaging the “best minds” from various fields to meet them.

G. Heath King, Ph.D, is a psychoanalyst and former professor of interdisciplinary studies at Yale University. He is author of "Existence, Thought, Style: Perspectives of a Primary Relation, Portrayed Through the Work of Søren Kierkegaard." He explored the philosophical foundations of psychology at the University of Freiburg, Germany, where he received his doctorate.

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At the time of the first Republican debate in early August of 2015, when Jeb Bush still enjoyed preeminence in the polls, I said in a national interview on Newsmax TV, "Trump has rung the bell that awakened a nation in slumber."I had cited a central insight from George...
trump, dawn, of, a, new, era
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2016-04-27
Saturday, 27 Feb 2016 05:04 PM
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