On Thursday we welcomed MWWPR Founder and CEO Michael Kempner to talk about The Past and Future of Trump’s America. Michael, a long-time Democratic fundraiser, started his career in politics and spent a decade running the office of a congressman. Over the years Michael has become friendly with both the Clintons and Obamas, and witnessed close-up the changing face of American politics.
For those who missed this first-hand insight into how Michael believes Trump got elected, and what the immediate future holds for the United States, here are the key points from the discussion.
The power of change
“There wasn’t a person in the world, including Trump’s team, who thought he was going to win”.
Despite most of America not believing Trump’s campaign would be successful until the very last minute, Michael recognised that in a divided country, where people were angry and seemingly disenfranchised, Trump was a symbol of change. He believes that as many as 20% of people who voted for Trump were people who had previously voted for Obama. Although these people may have disliked them both, they viewed each as a figure who would make a difference. Michael drew comparisons between the US election with the UK and Brexit – a culture of people not knowing what they are voting for, but wanting to shake up the system and make a change.
“People believe what they want to believe and this is the problem”
Michael highlighted that real fake news is dangerous and a challenge to democracy. “If everything is fake then nothing is true”. Fake news is politically divisive with the Left and Right employing it to undermine each other’s arguments. He worries that people now feel they have an emotional license to elect to believe whatever endorses their immediate community’s values. He drew an analogy with George Orwell’s novel 1984 which portrays a dystopian society where freedom of thought based on empirical observation is banned in favour of public manipulation. Despite the problems and complications of fake news, however, Michael pointed out that this contributes to a world in which PR companies have an increasingly vital role to play , especially when coupled with the notion that companies also need to forge a coherent stance on political and social issues. These days, simply remaining a passive observer can be a negative stance itself.
The media’s role in Trump’s win
“The media created Donald Trump”
In a country where people watch the news 24-hours a day, Michael holds various media outlets accountable for Trump’s election. He spoke of them giving him a platform and legitimising his actions. Michael predicts this could have been as a result of the media not believing that Trump was a real contender, or even likely to win and therefore not having the same high expectations for him as they did Hillary Clinton, who they were already viewing as President.
The Future is uncertain
“I’m not pessimistic but there is a storm to weather”
Michael believes that what is required for a shift in politics is the democrats needing a clear message and equally importantly a clear messenger. He states that it is equally feasible that Trump could either be re-elected or not last a term. He is positive about the state and government being able to create change and give people a voice.
Thank you to everyone who joined the discussion today and most importantly to Michael for offering thoughtful insight into this time of political change and uncertainty.
By Rachel Smyth, MWWPR