Many people from America and around the rest of the world have been shocked by some of the conduct that President-elect Donald Trump has displayed both during his divisive campaign and the period that has followed his election victory. Trump’s long term challenge is to seek to provide American’s with a sense of confidence and to reassure people that despite his own personal rich background, he is willing to win over of his critics and govern on behalf of all of the people, not just those at the top of society. Whilst at this point, it remains to be seen whether or not he will do so. He also faces a more immediate task, that of appearing like a man befitting of the prestigious position he is about to take up.
It is here that, so far at least, his personal conduct remains a subject of deep concern. It is a reality that life in the public eye means there will inevitably be people who agree with you and others who do not. The ability to scrutinise and voice opposition to those in power is a fundamental component of living in a society which believes in freedom of speech. During this transitional period between administrations, Trump has used Twitter to lash out at criticism of him from several high profile figures.
These include a long running Twitter war against Alec Baldwin, whose impersonations of Trump on Saturday Night Live have not amused the President-Elect and recently, and perhaps more controversially, Meryl Streep. Trump called her “one of the most over-rated actresses” and a “Hilary flunky who lost big” following her criticism at the 2017 Golden Globes ceremony, in which she drew attention to Trump’s mocking of a disabled reporter last year.
Bombastic rhetoric and online attacks is something Trump has been skilled at manipulating to his advantage over his long business career, however, when he takes office as leader of the one of the most powerful nations on the planet, he will need to develop a more measured and calm approach to his communication skills.
There are some people who argue that everyone should just let Trump be himself, claiming it is precisely his tendency to say what he thinks that made him appealing to his supporters. Parallels can be drawn with Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, who is similarly praised by supporters for saying what he thinks. However, the political and social ramifications of Trump continuing to behave as he has done will be severe. Rather than trying to put the divisiveness of his campaign behind him, he appears to be revelling in any opportunity to denounce his opponents and indulging his ego. Regardless of whether or not he intentionally mocked a disabled reporter, even making such offensive gestures in the manner hardly shows Trump as a good role model to others.
Great advancements in equality have been made under the Obama administration, which has generally celebrated population diversity. The incoming government has a duty not to override these and propagate the regressive idea that it is acceptable for those at the top to put down and belittle others. As Streep claimed in her speech “when the powerful use their position to bully - we all lose.” The realities of government will place plenty of obstacles in Trump’s way, however, it will not be enough for him to rely merely on bullish instinct and putting others down in order to get his agenda across. As America prepares for its biggest political transition in recent years, he would do well to try and learn something from those in the arts world and adopt the mannerisms fitting of the leading role he will soon find himself in. This will ultimately involve him having to resist engaging in personal playground politics and growing up into the leader America will need him to be.