I ran across this tweet a couple weeks back, on Donald Trump’s platform as he accepted the Republication party’s nomination for the presidency:
I can't emphasize enough how crucial it is that the country a candidate accuses of sucking not be the one he's running for office in.
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) July 21, 2016
It reminded me of a job interview tactic I read about years ago, whose origins I’ve long forgotten. The general technique stood out, because the vast majority of people looking for a job are looking at the good parts of a company, and most employers would rather have positive thinkers. It’s certainly risky to start with the proclamation that the company sucks, even if the proceeding interviews are spent explaining how to make it all better.
The only way this works is if the candidate actually knows the company better than its employees — or at least, the interviewers — do. It requires both a degree of intelligence to triangulate a solution with incomplete information, and a larger degree of arrogance to assume the company hasn’t already thought of these answers.
The US presidential election may be the world’s longest job interview. If so, Trump has pulled off this gambit successfully through the Republican primaries. His most useful attribute is his salesmanship and his complete disregard for social norms, but it’s still amazing that his campaign has convinced major parts of this country that he can fix its woes despite not having real policies or answers1. The outrage around his moral character hasn’t made a difference to his supporters.
Pulling off a Trump during a job interview would be an incredible feat.
Of course, where the analogy breaks down between this presidential election and a regular job interview is that the American public — cast as the role of the interviewer — is a lot less demanding. Specifically, instead of wanting to know specific solutions or gauging the overall intelligence of the candidate, Trump’s supporters are content with over-simplified answers to a handful of issues that affect them: the failing economy for the middle class; terrorism; immigration. None of the myriad of problems with the candidate matter as long as the proposals for these problems sound like the right answers.
And that’s the sad part about this election. Donald Trump would fail the job interviews for every minimum wage job, but somehow, he’s this close to passing the hiring bar for the most important job in the world.