Is Donald Trump just acting like a (good) agent?

Donald Trump is a lot of things . . .

One thing he is not, is an idiot.  You don’t get to be a real estate superpower if you’re a moron.  You just don’t.

So every time he makes a misogynistic, racist, or just plain ridiculous statement, I bite my vitriol-filled tongue and ask myself, “Why on Earth would he say something like that?”

Because there has to be a reason.  And I think I’m starting to figure it out.

Donald Trump is a master negotiator.  A guru game player.  While it may seem like everything is just coming off the cuff, there is no question it’s all part of some big chess game.  And not the blitz chess they play in the park.  Oh no, he’s playing the long game here.

And he’s starting to remind me of some of the better agents I’ve dealt with in our business.

Here’s how a couple of negotiations I’ve been in have gone down:

  • I make an offer.
  • Agent (usually from one of the higher-powered, triple-lettered agencies) responds with a counter offer that is SO high it’s ridiculous.
  • I have to bite my vitriol-filled tongue before responding (or I don’t, and the agent gets what he/she wants because my anger demonstrates how passionate I am about his/her client).
  • We end up settling on an amount that is higher than I was originally planning on paying, solely because the counter started out so much higher.

Now of course, I have the option of moving on to another person after that counter, or trying to get the client to put his agent in a more appropriate place, but more often than not, we settle.  Because I want that person on my project.  And because of the high counter, and my emotional response, the agents get a little more out of me.

I’m wiser to this game now, so I know how to defend myself, but it still works (and I’ll admit to using it a few times myself).

So when I heard Trump’s ridiculous call to “Ban all Muslims from entering the United States,” I had to wonder . . . is Trump doing the same thing?

He’s not an idiot.  He knows that such a ban would never pass Congress.  Just like an agent knows that I would never agree to a ridiculous precedent-setting counter that would blow my budget out of the H20.

But he also knows that this country wants to feel safer.  Just like the agent knows I want the client on my project.

So, is Trump calling for something ridiculous and racist like the ban with the hope that the settlement . . . the middle ground . . . will be moved higher than it would have if he said nothing?  Was his ban just a high counter?

I’m starting to believe that’s his game.  And he’s admitting to it as well.  Just last week Trump claimed his call to deport ALL illegal immigrants as the reason why Obama has agreed to deport more illegal immigrants in 2016 than in previous years.

Huh.  Could it be working?  Could it be that this is one of the reasons that he’s at the top of the Republican heap?

I don’t know about all that . . . but there are two things that are definite takeaways from this blog:

1.  Asking for something big so you can settle on something more than your adversary wanted to give is a good negotiating strategy.

2. Trump is not an idiot.

Oh, wait, there’s one more . . .

3.  He also should not be President.

I forgot about that one, but I figured you already knew that.


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  • Ken
    To follow your logic…on behalf of whom is he being a “good agent”? Is it a particular political belief system like Hitler did for the National Socialist German Workers’ Party or Mussolini for the National Fascist Party? Certainly not the Republican party or even the right wing constitutional segment of it. I think you give way more credit then he deserves. He is pandering to a type of person who is deeply prejudiced, isolationist, and thinks that having a lot of money echo’s Tevye’s lyric, “If I were a rich, they think you really know.” Every psychiatrist and psychologist I know comments that he is a text book case of a unbridled sociopath combined with an insatiable ego which is completely out of control and insulated by his enormous personal wealth. It is not unusual to find men of extraordinary personal wealth incapable of true empathy and capable of great cruelty with any conscious. They often may fantastic CEO who are capable of turning around a company with deep cuts that negatively effect hundred of people In raising money for the theatre and being around a number of billionaires in my life, I have personally seen this before first hand. He may be a cruel and tough negotiator in the blood soaked waters of international real estate but he is the opposite of a electable official capable of governing a diverse country like the United States. If he did not have money, he would be a candidate for a mental institution.

    Lets not dignify his role in politics by reinforcing the idea that somehow he is smart. He may make connection fast and be glib, but his a very dangerous guy who know one really cares about when he stays in his own pond but when he wants to swim in everyone pond, let us not be fooled. Hitler was democratically elected.

    Ben Sprecher

  • A Contrarian says:

    Interesting analysis. According to NPR, Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

    It seems to me that most neglect the second part of the statement that begins with “until.” Obviously the people instantly enraged by his statements are not his target audience as they would never dream of voting for him under any circumstance. But there’s a lot of wiggle room here.

  • Janis says:

    No more politics, no more Trump. We want Broadway.
    Oh wait. Trump is Broadway. He’s his own show. Great dialog, good rhythym, needs better dancing around the issues but great dama and hilarious comedy.
    Option this show. It’s a hit for sure.

  • Annie says:

    Ken, Your blog is a great source for new perspectives and has a great track record of putting a new light on core theatrical topics. I love checking in to both your blog and podcast each and every week. In this case, however, you are missing an essential data point in your analysis. Donald Trump credits Ray Cohn, Senator McCarthy’s henchman, as a mentor. And for this reason, I don’t think his racist schtick is a high counter on where he wants the issues to land.

  • Carl White says:

    A swing and a miss on this one, must have been making you crazy trying to figure out how to work in something with a Trump angle. But he is not in a negotiation as that would imply he cares even an iota about any of these issues.

    But, of course, Trump is obviously not an idiot but he is telling the idiots what they want to hear and that has been wildly entertaining. And great for the self-esteem, hey, I may not be all I want to be but at least I am not so stupid and my life is not so sad that I think Trump makes sense.

    I wonder what the over/under is on the first Broadway Trump show? I say 3 years. Lets face it, you can not make this s**t up, who would believe it if it was fiction.

  • Barry Burns says:

    “There’s a sucker born every minute.” is a phrase attributed to David Hannum in criticism of P.T. Barnum and his audiences. It occurs to me that this would be closer to the mark in considering the GOP ‘sTrumpery. Good luck to you all from Canada.

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