In a February 29, 2016 The New Yorker article, exploring the meaning of leadership and the qualities people most associate with successful leaders, Joshua Rothman writes: “When we’re swept up in the romance of leadership, we admire leaders who radiate authenticity and authority; we respect and enjoy our ‘real leaders’. At other times, though, we want leaders who see themselves objectively, who resist the pull of their own charisma, who doubt the story they have been rewarded for telling.” In Rothman’s final analysis, it is “(a) sense of perspective (that) may be among the most critical (of) leadership qualities”.
This observation, I respectfully submit, illustrates the catastrophic mistake the Republican Party — once the party of Abraham Lincoln — will make by nominating Donald J Trump as their presidential candidate and standard-bearer. More than 80 years ago, in 1932, Dale Carnegie, the late American writer, lecturer, and self-improvement guru — best known for his still popular How to Win Friends and Influence People — wrote a book about President Lincoln called, Lincoln the Unknown. Working on the book for years, Carnegie eventually moved to Illinois (“The Land of Lincoln”) where he combed through books and historical records and interviewed anyone with even the remotest connection to the former president.
Carnegie was intent on unearthing the true essence of the tall, gangly man with the black stovepipe hat who so profoundly changed America for the better, imbuing it, by his sheer strength of character, with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all citizens.
Republicans prepared to go to the polls to elect Trump ought to read Rothman’s recent article, but also really ought to find a copy of Carnegie’s old historical work and labour of love about President Lincoln, the 16th American President and the first Republican to ever sit in the Oval Office as Commander-in-Chief. If they do and if they pay close attention to Carnegie’s excellent distillation of Lincoln’s character, they’ll know just why they can’t elevate a man like Trump to the White House. They’ll know that a man who revels in self-promotion (think private commercial jet emblazoned with his name and decked out with gold accoutrements proclaiming “Trump” wherever the eye can see), a man who constantly prides himself on how many billions of dollars he has acquired, is the complete antithesis of everything that Lincoln stood for. Take one of Lincoln’s lesser-known quotes, that Carnegie highlights, from his first political speech as a candidate for Illinois State Legislature. Lincoln said: “I was born and have remained in the most humble walks of life. I have no wealthy or popular relatives or friends to recommend me... But if the good people in their wisdom shall see fit to keep me in the background, I have been too familiar with disappointments to be very much chagrined.” Can anyone — Democrat, Republican, or anyone else — imagine Trump uttering anything remotely similar?
Trump wouldn’t know humble if his gilded plane somehow got stuck in Humble, Texas. Trump can’t stop bragging and beating us over the head with his high poll numbers and with the names of all of the allegedly rich and famous people who support him — even those of dubious character (Vladimir Putin, for one).
Unlike Lincoln, Trump would not ever be content to allow himself to be kept in the background; he doesn’t believe, like Lincoln did, in the wisdom of the common man — or the wisdom any man or woman who makes less money than he does. In short, borrowing both from Dale Carnegie and from the late four-time United States Senator from Texas and once democratic nominee for Vice President, Lloyd Bentsen Jr, Donald J Trump is no Abraham Lincoln.