“You know what else they say about my people? The polls, they say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s like incredible,” Trump boasted at a campaign stop in Sioux City, Iowa, during the 2016 presidential campaign. No matter what he did, Trump claimed, his followers would be loyal to him.
How does one establish confidence? What are the best confidence-building measures? How can one lose the confidence of others? Can it be regained?
These are valid questions with no clear-cut answers. There are some obvious answers to the first two. Confidence can be established by acts of loyalty. It can be established over long periods of time by empathetic, sustained actions. Children who are well-looked after by their mothers and fathers have confidence in their parents.
Short-term confidence building is more complicated. Non-verbal communication is certainly helpful. Warm smiles, nods at the right times, remembering birthdays and special anniversaries are all positive. So is a style of dress. Soft colors are more amenable, as are firm handshakes and unwavering eye contact. Trump’s power ties are not textbook examples of how to build confidence. His alpha male look may work for those seeking a powerful leader à la Putin going bare-chested, but it may be overwhelming to those looking for a leader with diplomatic skills willing to compromise.
The question of losing confidence also can be obvious. Making erroneous statements or outright lying should be no-noes, although one should always remember the classic definition of a diplomat by Sir Henry Wooton in 1604: “An ambassador is an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.”
I noted the pained look on Antonio Hodgers’ face when he was describing how difficult it was for the six Conseillers d’Etat to accept Pierre Maudet’s “erroneous” statements to them about his Abu Dhabi trip. It is obvious that the confidence of the Conseil d’Etat in Peirre Maudet has suffered. Has it been totally lost? Can he regain the confidence of his colleagues who chose him to be the President of the Conseil d’Etat? Can he regain the confidence of the citizens of Geneva who have supported his brilliant political career and who re-elected him on the first ballot to his current post, the only Conseil d’Etat to receive such support?
Trump’s base has remained loyal to him. While his popularity remains around 40% - it has dropped from time to time to around 35% - the latest news about criminal behavior by his close confidants Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen have not significantly diminished the confidence of his supporters. He has captured their imagination beyond rational explanation. He has gained an emotional attachment that seems unshakeable.
This is not true for Pierre Maudet. While his political skills have never been questioned, and not just locally – see his campaign outside Geneva to be Federal Councillor – the lack of overwhelming support from his own political party indicates that there is not much confidence in his ability to remain in politics.
Did he cross a red line? Has he exhausted his deposits in the politicians’/public’s confidence bank? There are banks that go bankrupt.
But, there are confidence banks that are “too big to fail.” Parents are generally a good example. Children will love and have confidence in parents whose behavior is not supportive. Many Trump supporters fit into this category. How he has established such a large emotional deposit in the confidence bank is hard to understand, but it should not be discounted. Although Trump has gone financially bankrupt several times, his confidence among his base continues to be AAA.
Pierre Maudet is not Donald Trump. He is recognized for his political, management capabilities, but they are not necessarily transferrable to a confidence account. So when difficulty arises, such as the current kerfuffle, he has little savings to draw on in this account.
I wish that I could find the bank that would allow me to open an emotional, confidence account like Trump’s. (It’s difficult enough for a U.S. citizen these days to have any type of account in a Swiss bank.) And I can only hope that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service will not be suspicious if and when I open it in Switzerland.