Smarter than we thought?

"Law 21 - Play a Sucker to Catch a Sucker - Seem Dumber than your Mark... No one likes feeling stupider than the next person. The trick, then, is to make your victims feel smart - and not just smart, but smarter than you are. Once convinced of this, they will never suspect that you may have ulterior motives." - Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power


Everything about our president seems to suggest he is a buffoon. From his ridiculous combover and bad spray tan, to his elementary-level vocabulary, it's hard to assume otherwise. But let's take a moment to consider this: maybe Trump's over-the-top personality was an effective distraction from his strategies. The more we focus on mocking his appearance and mannerisms, the less focused we are on his actual actions.

Trump makes us feel smart, and that feeling lulls us into a false sense of security. By refusing to take Trump seriously, we underestimated his ambitions and abilities. Perhaps Trump lacks intelligence by conventional standards. He may not be well-read or particularly insightful, but he overcame incredibly improbable odds to become president of the United States. So it's hard to not give him credit for this accomplishment.

He ran an effective, albeit untraditional campaign. By courting controversy at every step of the way, he tricked the media into giving him billions of dollars in free advertising. You might say he's not smart, but it's hard to deny his skill in highjacking headlines. Trump's polarizing nature ensured that he was always top-of-mind. He'd make outrageous claims time after time, just for the sake of prompting a big reaction and emotional response.

Perhaps his most impressive strength is in the realm of branding. One by one, he took down his Republican competitors with ridiculous nicknames like Little Marco, Lyin' Ted, and Low-Energy Jeb. Trump has the quintessential bully trait of knowing how to zero-in on a person's flaws or insecurities. And by creating a one-word mocking association in peoples' minds, he established a mental connection to discredit those candidates.

Another important part of Trump's strategy was his focus on winning the right states. The electoral college influenced his campaign's push to connect with blue-collar workers in Midwest states. Even if Trump himself is not intelligent, he was smart enough to hire and listen to the right people. This strategy proved to work, and many Democrats were blindsided by his success.

Our first impression of Trump may be to think he's a joke. But if we take a step back and reserve our judgments, we can recognize the many ways in which he manipulates reality to his advantage. From breaking the mold in areas like marketing, branding, and political strategy, Trump surprised us all. 

So let's not discount someone as a fool just because they're acting like one. They may be smarter than we give them credit for.