Donald Trump’s Campaign & The 48 Laws of Power [Laws 13-18]

This is the third installment in our series examining Donald Trump’s campaign for president in 2016 through the lens of Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power. Part 2 can be found here.

Donald Trump's campaign and the 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
How has Donald Trump used Robert Greene’s masterpiece on power to his advantage?

Law 13: When Asking for Help, Appeal to People’s Self-Interest, Never to Their Mercy or Gratitude:

If you need to turn to an ally for help, do not bother to remind him of your past assistance and good deeds. He will find a way to ignore you. Instead, uncover something in your request, or in your alliance with him, that will benefit him, and emphasize it all out of proportion. He will respond enthusiastically when he sees something to be gained for himself.

This law of power seems somewhat inapplicable to Donald Trump, because he is so powerful that he does not need anyone’s help, or so it seems, aside from the American people’s vote.

But there has been one particular thorny part of Donald Trump’s campaign for president that this law seems to apply to – that would be the Republican National Committee and the various establishment operatives in the party.

In the early days of his campaign, Donald Trump held the cudgel of a possible independent run in 2016 if “he was not treated fairly.” There was no appeal to abstract concepts like democracy or the will of the American people. This was a threat that appealed to the purely selfish interest of the Republican insiders – mess with me and I will derail you next year by stealing votes that could tip the balance.

The GOP balked and Donald Trump made a grand show of signing some pledge saying he wouldn’t run as an independent. He held, and still holds, the power.

A few days ago, after John Kasich began attacking him in New Hampshire and reports arose that a hidden donor network was circling the wagons against him, Donald Trump raised the specter of an independent run again, showing that he still maintains his hold on this of Robert Greene’s 48 laws of power.

We will see what happens, but so far, this has essentially forced the GOP to play ball with him. I’m sure many would love to just expel him from the party, but doing so would hurt their own self-interest, so they cannot. That is how power is delegated.

Donald Trump Pledge of Allegiance RNC
By the way, when Donald Trump signed this pledge, he forced RNC chair Preibus to come to him with it at Trump Tower, obeying the 8th law of power as well.

Law 14: Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy:

Knowing about your rival is critical. Use spies to gather valuable information that will keep you a step ahead. Better still: Play the spy yourself. In polite social encounters, learn to probe. Ask indirect questions to get people to reveal their weaknesses and intentions. There is no occasion that is not an opportunity for artful spying.

There are three dimensions that Robert Greene outlines on this law of power. The first is that you could have classic spies – others working for you to gather information on the target of your stratagems. This was the case with the art dealer Joseph Duveen, who had waited patiently for years to hook a new client in the industrialist Andrew Mellon. He hired many people near Mellon and gathered information on him for years, culminating in success.

The second dimension is to let slip some false confessions, to maintain a friendly demeanor in social interactions, and try to innocently probe information out of your targets through seemingly heartfelt conversation. Talleyrand was a master of this.

The third aspect is to give those who may be using this power play on you false information.

Does Donald Trump obey this law of power? Probably. It’s hard to tell from my position, because this one is done strictly behind closed doors, so I can’t say anything specific. To think he’s not doing all three of these things though is the height of foolishness.

Law 15: Crush Your Enemy Totally:

All great leaders since Moses have known that a feared enemy must be crushed completely. (Sometimes they have learned this the hard way.) If one ember is left alight, no matter how dimly it smolders, a fire will eventually break out. More is lost through stopping halfway than through total annihilation: The enemy will recover, and will seek revenge. Crush him, not only in body but in spirit.

This is a law of power that Donald Trump obviously relishes. He is merciless against his enemies, whoever they are. This causes the predictable outrage in the media, but the question we should be asking, as Robert Greene surely would, is: has the tactic worked?

Think about Jeb(!) Bush, who was the first opponent Trump mercilessly attacked. I’ve mentioned Jeb(!) many times because he’s simply the most obvious example of Donald Trump’s usage of Robert Greene’s 48 laws of power during this campaign. Jeb(!) was the clear frontrunner, the clear stooge of the globalist racketeers. We were supposed to think that Jeb(!) was inevitable, whose power could not be challenged. That was the reputation the donors and the media were trying to give him.

Donald Trump entered the race and crushed Jeb(!) mercilessly, not stopping his attack until Jeb’s poll numbers went down and did not recover. Literally, Donald Trump knocked Jeb(!) Bush to the periphery of the debate stage.

When neocon warmonger extraordinaire Lindsey Graham attempted to start brushfires against Trump for knocking some sacred cows (in this case fellow neocon warmonger extraordinaire John McCain), The Donald gave out the chickenhawk’s personal cell phone number. That’s about the only thing Graham’s known for in this campaign.

When Rand Paul challenged Trump at the first debate, Donald Trump smacked him down. Rand’s poll numbers dropped from around 8% to 2-3%.

Ditto for John Kasich, though his ceiling was never near 10% to begin with.

The attacks on Ben Carson came when his poll numbers began to challenge Trump’s. I’m not sure how effective they were, as Ben Carson’s holier than thou stance (another power play outlined by Robert Greene that we will see soon) makes him more difficult to challenge. His poll numbers dropped after the Paris attacks earlier this month.

Now Ted Cruz is catching up in Iowa. We’ll see what happens.

Donald Trump the 48 Laws of Power

Law 16: Use Absence to Increase Respect and Honor:

Too much circulation makes the price go down: The more you are seen and heard from, the more common you appear. If you are already established in a group, temporary withdrawal from it will make you more talked about, even more admired. You must learn when to leave. Create value through scarcity.

Donald Trump is presently running for the Republican party’s nomination. In the large field around him, he has not had time to use this law properly. He is presently following this law’s reversal – establishing his presence first. He’s been omnipresent these past few months. By being constantly in the mind’s eye, he is attaining support and power.

It will be interesting to see what he does if and when he gets the nomination. Will he decide to apply the classical interpretation of this law?

Yet we have seen him apply it before he announced his candidacy in June. He dropped hints that he would run, but remained on the sidelines, not confirming it to anyone. Thus absent, he was still discussed, if only in passing.

When he announced his candidacy, he came out into the limelight, and has held it ever since. The element of surprise greatly helped him catch it, ensuring he would not be lost in the crowd.

Law 17: Keep Others in a Suspended State of Terror: Cultivate an Air of Unpredictability:

Humans are creatures of habit with an insatiable need to see familiarity in other people’s actions. Your predictability gives them a sense of control. Turn the tables: Be deliberately unpredictable. Behavior that seems to have no consistency or purpose will keep them off-balance, and they will wear themselves out trying to explain your moves. Taken to an extreme, this strategy can intimidate and terrorize.

I don’t really need to elaborate on this. If any law of power penned by Robert Greene perfectly sums up Donald Trump’s campaign, this one is it.

Law 18: Do not Build Fortresses to Protect Yourself – Isolation is Dangerous:

The world is dangerous and enemies are everywhere – everyone has to protect themselves. A fortress seems the safest. But isolation exposes you to more dangers than it protects you from – it cuts you off from valuable information, it makes you conspicuous and an easy target. Better to circulate among people, find allies, mingle. You are shielded from your enemies by the crowd.

This law of power is one that is applicable “to kings and queens,” Robert Greene says. Donald Trump is certainly in that position, and he, like Louis XIV, the example of the observation of the law with his magnificent Versailles, makes himself the center of attention. He likes to hold court at Trump Tower (I should know, I was there). He relishes getting into the mix with the media and his opponents.

Compare this to Hillary Clinton’s need to hide her emails on a private server and her refusal to do any but the most carefully staged interviews. She comes across as unlikable because she has terrible social skills. Almost everyone that has ever met her hates her. Her secret service detail considers being assigned to her a form of punishment.

This isolation of hers does not help her public image, and the only reason she has such strength in the Democratic field is because it is so weak. She was seen as inevitable in 2008, only to find herself losing to a far more sociable (but very imperfect) junior senator from Illinois.

By giving interviews, by remaining constantly in the public gaze, Donald Trump is staying in control, dictating events instead of having them dictated to him, as we saw recently with the sea hag’s email scandal.

Donald Trump's campaign and Robert Greene's 48 Laws of Power

This concludes part three of our examination of Donald Trump’s campaign for president through the lens of Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power. Part four can be found here.

Or, you can read Stumped to dive deeper into Trump’s power plays and more easily learn to use them yourself.

  • Kevin

    Very interesting stuff. I’ve been fascinated by trump since I read Scott Adams’ Trump series. If you haven’t read it I highly recommend it. http://blog.dilbert.com/post/126589300371/clown-genius

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  • Mareshah

    Very interesting read. Curious as to what your thoughts are on law 18 and building a wall on our southern border. Would this be in violation of this law?

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    • Thank you. And no, Robert Greene is talking about power as a social phenomenon in this book. He does quote Machiavelli on fortresses in a military context, but fortresses and walls are actually pretty good at doing what they were designed to do – make enemy attacks and incursions much harder and more costly, and ultimately perhaps dissuading attackers or intruders.

      The wall would do this with illegal immigration. As seen with Hungary and Israel’s border barriers, they work.

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