As our deeply divided nation prepares to listen to the President’s State of the Union address this Tuesday, I think every politically-minded American has an idea as to what they might like to have the President say. It could be something regarding new policies or proposed legislation, or it could be how he responds to certain current events.
I have a few things I would like to see him address, and one of those relates to how he addresses us.
One way I believe the President could improve upon his Administration’s success would be by creating a complete and coherent communication strategy so that his supporters can better understand and get behind his efforts and initiatives. The President’s use of Twitter and social media has made him the most communicative President in U.S. history. He is always weighing in on anything that is within the immediate news cycle. The volume and frequency of communication is unprecedented. This allows him to move beyond the mainstream media which will not present him fairly or accurately to American citizens.
Those quick-hits on Twitter are great for current events. On more substantive issues, like the border wall, the President needs to understand that the typical American citizen is filled with political and economic interest and passion, but they are not proportionately filled with political or economic knowledge. That means they are not necessarily able to follow or understand what he might be trying to do. Shifts in positions or rapid advances or retreats on his part can seem random and inexplicable to the average person. At their core, people may very much believe in his agenda and want to support him, but they can start to lose patience or interest if they can’t figure out what he is doing.
Many supporters find themselves wanting to defend the President but not knowing how to do so because they can’t really articulate the purpose of his actions or the plan within which they are undertaken. His communication style evokes passion in people but doesn’t necessarily lead to execution. His words are sometimes like a brilliant locker room speech that sends everyone charging out onto the field inspired, but then realizing when they get out there they don’t know what game they are supposed to be playing.
In his SOTU address, I think he would do well to offer a new “Communication Compact with America.” President Trump could make some sort of pledge to conduct his version of FDR’s fireside chats where he agrees to address the nation regularly to clearly state and explain what he is trying to accomplish and what he needs his supporters to do to help make it happen. The world of social media has nearly killed the complete sentence. It hasn’t killed the need, however, for people to still hear complete sentences.
The President is facing two years where Congress will be hostile and uncooperative. Chaos will reign within elected government. People should be, and need to be, assured in the State of the Union that the President will continuously help them to understand exactly what he is doing and will tell them exactly what they must do to help. Clear expectations need to be set. Citizens need to be asked to help. It is what then-businessman Donald Trump had to do with his company employees. The American people are willing to go to work in the President’s employ, but they need a better understanding of company objectives and their job description.
President Trump needs to let his supporters know that he is going to do a better job of helping them to help him. He is also going to make them better prepared to answer his critics in coffee shops, in the workplace, and on social media.
The President’s communication style is largely what got him elected. It was brilliant. It remains brilliant on many levels. There is need, I believe, to adjust it a bit to help him more effectively govern.
In the State of the Union, he needs to reassure people that he hasn’t forgotten his campaign promises. He should dwell less upon those fulfilled and focus on the ones that remain. He then needs to let people know how he is going to work toward those ends, and tell people how to help him. He needs to promise people that he is going to communicate with more clarity going forward.
Over the centuries, many political philosophers have held many different opinions as to the nature of man and his attendant role in society. One thing that no philosopher of whom I’m aware has ever contended is that people do best in an environment that feels chaotic and disordered. America today feels that way. Many supporters don’t feel comfortable that they know what the President is doing. Too many spend time speculating or auto-completing what they believe are his plans.
This President is the most proven negotiator ever to hold the office. The problem is that it is difficult to negotiate with today’s American progressives. They are a hate-filled bunch anxious to tear down Western Civilization and the United States along with it. The President is at war, and to win a war you need troops who clearly understand the objectives and their orders.
On Tuesday, the President needs to place his hand on the shoulder of the nation, look into its eyes, and say “Don’t worry. We’re going to get through this together. I will lead you. Let me tell you what to do.”
Charlie Kirk is the founder and president of Turning Point USA.