Guts, showmanship create Donald Trump's 'magic'

By Dania Koleilat Khatib
President Donald Trump can move the crowds. He was able to garner a base that almost worships him. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI
President Donald Trump can move the crowds. He was able to garner a base that almost worships him. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 8 (UPI) -- What's so special about President Donald Trump?

He declared the midterm election as a victory! In one of his tweets, he says about himself: "Mr. Trump has magic about him. This guy has magic coming out of his ears. He is an astonishing vote-getter and campaigner." One might laugh, reading this highly narcissist self-praise, but the statement has some elements of truth to it.


When Trump ran for president, everyone thought it was a joke. When he won the candidacy of the Republican Party, everyone was shocked. When the Access Hollywood tape, in which he brags about groping women against their will, came out, everyone thought he will drop out of the race. When he refused to do that, everyone thought he would lose and lead the Republican Party into the wilderness.

Against all odds, Trump won. He is someone who never held a public office in his life. Yet his first job in the government was the president of the USA. The question is what is so special about him?


I am one of the people who never expected him to win. Every time I was commentating on TV, I went to say with high degree of certainty that Hillary Clinton would be the first woman president of the United States. I was wrong!

Now after being in power for almost two years, after carefully analyzing his speeches, his tweets, his rallies, his actions, his reactions and his decisions, I can say that Trump has two attributes that really make him special: He is a great showman and he is gutsy.

One might think that showmanship and cult of the personality are not important in a democracy, but actually, they are. When we say he is the ultimate populist, what does that mean? It means he can move the crowds. He was able to garner a base that almost worships him.

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Showmanship is necessary for a politician. In order to lead people, it is very important to make them believe in the person. Actors are the best trained to make believe. How many times did we cry watching a dramatic movie? How come we cry when we know beforehand that this is a fiction and the actor is pretending and what he is showing us are not his true feelings, nor a true situation.


But this is what good acting is all about. It is about the ability to making that audience empathize even when they know that what they see is an illusion. Similarly, a politician should be able to make people believe in him, empathize with him. Not surprisingly, one of the most popular presidents in U.S. history is Ronald Reagan, an actor by profession. Watching Trump talking to a rally, though half what he says might be nonsense and though his speech might be incoherent, he can still attract the crowd. In the movie Gladiator, a former gladiator told Russell Crowe, the hero, before being sent to the arena, that it is not strongest who wins but it is the one who wins the crowd. You have to win the crowd to succeed.

The other quality Trump has is his guts. This is something the American people terribly missed with Barack Obama, a president who was described as leading from behind. The president who was intimidated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a leader of a foreign country in front of his own Congress. The president who folded for Russian President Vladimir Putin on Syria and retracted the red line he drew for the Syrian dictator.


Trump is everything but that. His determination and guts are highly admired by his base. Seen as an outsider, the traditional Republicans initially snubbed him. He did not get intimidated by the prominent Republican leaders opposing him, like the late Sen. John McCain or Speaker Paul Ryan. On the contrary, he attacked them aggressively.

Trump embodies the old saying the best defense is an offense. He said in a recent rally that he "smashes" Republicans who oppose him. This worked well for him, as he ended up molding the Grand Old Party from the conservative party of America to the Trump party of America. The election showed that Republicans who made it were the pro-Trump ones.

He speaks his mind and is not scared of the consequences. He does not feel he has to be politically correct toward anyone. He is ready to go all the way to make his point. He never folds. And his base loves him for that.

As Democrats take back the House and a fierce critic of Trump, Democrat Adam Schiff, heads the intelligence committee in the House, and Robert Mueller is set to announce his findings, talks of Trump impeachment re-emerge. However, make no mistake. Trump is no Nixon. He will not go quietly into the night. He will fight it down to the last supporter in his base.


Dania Koleilat Khatib is executive director of the Al Istishari Al Strategy Center for Economic and Future Studies, a UAE-based independent think tank. She specializes in U.S.-Arab relations and researches sectarianism, extremism and governance. Her book "The Arab Lobby and the U.S.: Factors for Success and Failure" was published by Routledge UK and translated to Arabic.

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