Aristotle teaches that the first thing a practitioner of rhetoric, or persuasion, needs is ethos.
Ethos is Greek for character. It is where we get the word ethics from.
A persuader must have character. That is, they must have credibility.
The people (the customers) must be able to trust the persuader, the politician, the salesperson.
The best way to be trusted is to be trustworthy.
The best way to be trustworthy is to have principles, and practice what one preaches — consistently.
As Aristotle says “excellence is not an act but a habit.” And: “We enter the temple of reason via the courtyard of habit.”
So, a persuader needs to have a habit, a history, a reputation of whatever it is that they want to persuade people of.
For Donald Trump, his ethos —his character — is that of a winner. Period.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. And Donald Trump is, by far, one of the most successful human beings in history.
Who can make America great again?
Because he is a winner.
Nothing succeeds like success.
A virtuous spiral of victory, a reputation for victory.
The Duke of Wellington, no fan of Napoleon, said that his reputation was worth 50,000 men on the battlefield.
Such is the power of reputation.
If you watch Trump’s early speeches (like his presidential announcement) you will notice the focus on success. “I built a great company.” “I love my life”.” I have a great family.” All this creates a mental image and association of success and victory.
People can trust Trump because Trump wins, Trump therefore has credibility.
Trump has credibility, because he is a winner, and Americans love a winner.
The second main principle of ethos, after trust (faith) is to either be likeable or to be charismatic.
What is charisma?
A charismatic person is someone who is A: Fearless. B: Radically honest. C: Funny. D: Cool, calm and commanding. E: Has a talent for simplification. F: Enthusiastic and capable of generating enthusiasm in people.
Julius Caesar was charismatic.
Margaret Thatcher was charismatic.
Steve Jobs was charismatic.
Tony Blair was charismatic.
Barack Obama was charismatic.
Bernie Sanders was charismatic.
John Major, Gordon Brown and Hilary Clinton……well…..
Trump is fearless. Just look at him! He struts onto the world stage, not only as calm as a Hindoo cow but with passion and enthusiasm. He loves it. And the people love it too.
Trump comes across as radically honest. He says what many people really think but would never dare say.
Trump is funny. He may not be Larry David, but he can make a joke and a point. Humour makes people like you. It defuses tension. It shows intelligence. It is a weapon.
When asked what their Presidential code words would be Jeb said “ever ready. It’s very high energy Donald.” A riposte to Trump *branding* Jeb as “low energy.” The audience laughed. Trump played along, he laughed and smiled. He made Jeb give him a high five (visually showing that Jeb was like a little kid who got the attention of the big boy alpha male).
When Trump was asked, however, what his Presidential code word was he said: “Humble.”
The audience erupted in laughter. Trump trumped Jeb.
He is capable of one liners: “Only Rosie O’Donnell”. “The wall just got ten feet higher.” “They hit my hands trying to implying something else doesn’t work. Believe me folks, it works fine.” “Because you would be in jail.”
Trump is commanding. He is a CEO, he is a leader. What was the Apprentice after all?
Trump can generate enthusiasm. Just look at the rallies! Nuff said.
The problem, as *framed* by Trump is that America “does not win anymore.” “We don’t win on trade, we don’t win at the border, we can’t beat ISIS.”
Trump has a proven history of winning. Trump says we need to be “tough” we need to be “smart”. Well, despite what the literati might think, Trump does have this ethos — or now, mythos.
A friend said to me: “Trump can’t or shouldn’t win because he has no history of public service, i.e a career politician.
But the people don’t want career politicians.
The people want hope and change.
The career politicians have failed them.
For many people, like with Barack Obama, Trump is hope, Trump is change.
Trump is a negotiator. “I’m a negotiator.” Trump says. “Secretary Kerry, you really should read my book”. (The Art of the Deal, a New York Times bestseller.)
Trump is a builder. He built Trump Tower, he built the Woleman ice rink. “We will build the wall, and Mexico will pay for it.” Combining his ethos as A: a negotiator B: a builder. C: a leader —winner.
Surprise is the state of mind in the enemy commander; reputation, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
Are Trump’s claims to be exactly what he is true?
Was Napoleon really worth 50,000 men?
Does it really matter if it is true or not?
To carping malcontents like myself truth matters. To most people, and to people in a democracy, truth does not matter.
That is all that matters.
And Trump is a winner.