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The Tao of Trump

Dictionary.com defines "Tao" as "the rational basis of human activity or conduct." Whether you love him or hate him, Donald J. Trump's campaign strategy appears to have tapped into what motivates the 2016 Republican voters on a basic level. At Cole Law Group, we like to discuss creative strategies, particularly winning strategies. And Mr. Trump has caught our attention.

I remember many years ago reading The Art of the Deal, Mr. Trump's part memoir and part business how-to book. Although young and still in my formative years, I was impressed by his multi-dimensional views on what had traditionally been a rather one-dimensional, greed-driven pursuit --- wealth acquisition. By looking at "the deal" from the perspective of the parties involved in a business transaction, what motivates those parties, and how to achieve victory at the negotiating table by occasionally thinking "outside the box," Mr. Trump gave needed depth to the 80's philosophically shallow catchphrase, "Greed is good."

Who would have thought, however, in reading The Art of the Deal back in 1987 that Mr. Trump would have been able to expand upon the tactics he perfected in the real estate industry to birth more than one world class organization and transform himself into a viable presidential candidate? Consequently, what is it about Mr. Trump's campaign strategy that has created a movement and positioned him as a frontrunner in the Republican primaries? Here are five components of Mr. Trump's game plan that we feel have served him particularly well so far in his race for the White House.

  1. Think Outside the Box

"Thinking outside the box" is a metaphor that means to think differently, unconventionally, or from a new perspective. There is no question Mr. Trump did not intend from the beginning for his campaign to be the same variety as has crossed the American political pageant over the last forty years. Thinking outside the box is not without its risks; however, Mr. Trump has, with the skill of a master gambler, weighed those risks against the potential rewards and played his hand appropriately. Even the most ardent opponents to Mr. Trump's candidacy have had to concede that his unconventional approach has stimulated discussions in many areas that, until now, have been considered off-limits as being too politically incorrect.

Conclusion: Creative strategies can be extremely effective if used judiciously.

  1. Never Deplete Your Resources

To some extent, all wars are wars of attrition. It is very difficult to win a battle when your opponent has bullets but you do not. In the modern political world, money is ammunition. At the start of the 2016 political season, the most well-armed Republican candidate appeared to be Jeb Bush who, through his aligned Right to Rise super PAC, had a war chest of millions. Mr. Trump could have immediately tapped his own vast financial resources but, instead, chose to run a very conservative financial campaign. In December, calculations made by NBC News suggested that Mr. Trump had spent less than 1 percent as much money as Mr. Bush, while at the same time garnishing 24% of the Republican electorate to Mr. Bush's 4%. By achieving success without depleting his financial stockpile, Mr. Trump has positioned himself for the long-haul of a hotly contested campaign whereupon Mr. Bush appears to be running on fumes and may be forced to withdraw from the race.

Conclusion: Never deplete a valuable resource, whether it be money or a discovery of fact.

  1. Declare Peace Occasionally - It Confuses Your Enemies

Perhaps more impressive than Mr. Trump's ability to engage in snappy repartee with his fellow candidates is his ability to know when NOT to attack. When you are a politician, one of the most confusing situations to deal with is not when someone declares war on you, but when someone declares peace. If someone declares peace, do you attack them and suddenly become the aggressor? Or, do you also declare peace and forget the reason you initially went to war? Mr. Trump has arguably had "bromances" at various times in this campaign with Dr. Ben Carson and Ted Cruz. In each case, Mr. Trump used those periods of cease-fire to consolidate his positions relative to other candidates and to further hone the message of his candidacy. In other words, avoid a war on multiple fronts by declaring peace with the opponents you want to dispense with last.

Conclusion: Keep them guessing. Unpredictability can be a decided advantage.

  1. Always Negotiate from a Position of Strength

Mr. Trump began his campaign with incendiary remarks regarding Mexicans and used this rationale to repeatedly press for the creation of a "Great Wall" to run the length of the border with Mexico. He subsequently drew additional fire for suggesting that all Muslims be temporarily banned from entry into the United States until screening procedures could be re-evaluated. From a traditional political perspective these comments were highly imprudent, purported policies that alienated large groups of potential voters, and had a low probability of eventual support from Congress or among the American people at large. Purely from a negotiating standpoint, however, Mr. Trump's comments paid off handsomely in two ways. First, they endeared him to a portion of the American population that has become increasingly xenophobic. Second, should he be elected president, these statements placed him in a position of strength at the negotiating table. Had he taken a more mainstream approach concerning these issues, the left would concentrate on pulling him even further toward their side. By starting negotiations from a position of strength, it is likely that an ultimate outcome for him will be favorable, or at the very least neutral.

Conclusion: Starting from a position of strength allows some "wiggle room" and the ability to be flexible.

  1. Trust Your Instincts to Capitalize on an Opportunity

The fifth component of Mr. Trump's strategy has, in some ways, been the most insightful. At varying times, Mr. Trump has been vocally attacked by the media. In one instance, debate moderator Megyn Kelly aggressively questioned Mr. Trump regarding his comments about women, and the resulting verbal exchanges turned into a much-publicized media incident. Mr. Trump subsequently made the decision not to appear at a recent debate in which Megyn Kelly was once again a moderator. Many pundits predicted that Trump's absence at the debate would be a crucial blow to his candidacy. However, Mr. Trump counterpunched with his own event that raised substantial funds for veterans, thereby deflecting criticism and doing a good deed at the same time.

Conclusion: Strength, determination, and a good counterpunch are components of a winning strategy.

No one at Cole Law Group is running for President. However, we are constantly reviewing and incorporating new approaches in our representation. When it comes to litigation, creative thinking, flexibility, unpredictability, and determined advocacy are a winning strategy. Make an appointment for a consultation today to see how we can assist you in achieving your legal objectives. At Cole Law Group, you don't have to be Donald J. Trump for us, "to make you matter."


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