I never thought it could happen. I never thought that Donald Trump would become President of the United States. I just couldn’t conceive of a world in which a celebrity competition reality star, oft-failed businessman, former Comedy Central Roastee, and friend of Grimace would be tapped to lead the greatest economy and military the planet has ever known.
And I wasn’t the only one.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around the whole thing. At this moment, I can only attribute this most unexpected of outcomes to the cult of personality. The American electorate is evidently no longer swayed by things like experience or general knowledge of how the government works. Rather, Trump’s America responded to a perceived take-no-shit-ism that can fix all problems through willpower alone.
It was a candidacy that succeeded despite lacking all the traditional winning ingredients—things like established ground games, massive TV ad buys, and newspaper endorsements (the usual kind, anyway). Instead, the Trump campaign got the word out through 1) a series of massive live events in which the charismatic personality on stage declared that the old ways were no more and 2) a prolific (and occasionally profane) social media presence. The old rules have gone out the window.
When looking to who should run in the 2020 election, Democrats, Independents, and a not-unsubstantial number of #NeverTrump conservatives would be wise to take the lessons of 2016 to heart.
They should search for someone who isn’t afraid to rock the boat, someone who definitely doesn’t shy away from direct confrontation (with a bit of saucy language to boot). This future candidate should have the power to hold an audience’s attention in large public settings AND on social media. Who out there could possibly fit this bill? Who indeed?
What else could @TMobile change, you ask?! Well… our competitors are about to shit their pants…
— John Legere (@JohnLegere) September 10, 2014
If charismatic and confrontational is what America wants now, then T-Mobile CEO John Legere could give Donald Trump a run for his money in four years. This article isn’t an endorsement; it’s merely a political observation.
Unlike Trump (who Legere, coincidentally has locked horns with on social media), Legere has a fairly un-varnished business resume. Legere took over the helm at T-Mobile in September 2012 and quickly implemented a series of novel “Uncarrier” initiatives, which have included everything from doing away with contracts to paying off the early-termination fees of customers who jump ship to giving subscribers free pizza and stock.
Legere’s tenure has been objectively successful: In August of last year, T-Mobile—which has long dwelled in the basement of major carriers—officially surpassed Sprint to take over the No. 3 slot behind the behemoths known as AT&T and Verizon (or, “the duopoly” as Legere refers them). Also in his time as CEO, T-Mobile earnings have been undeniably strong.
Via Yahoo Finance
But business is almost secondary to the story. Legere has defined his tenure at T-Mobile with a public-facing aggression that is rare among CEOs of major telecommunication companies—or any major publicly traded corporation for that matter (and used to be rare among major party candidates).
The terminally Bah-stin-accented Legere regularly peppers his live events with glorious helpings of confrontation and profanity aimed at the competition. Speaking as a tech reporter who has often been tasked with covering these live events, Legere’s candor is a welcome break from the usual presentation by tech CEOs whose public speaking skills are (to put it mildly) lacking.
These confrontations often directly attack the CEOs of his US-based carrier competition in the most personal terms. (Sound familiar?) As far as I can tell, only Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure has taken the bait and fired back on social media.
— John Legere (@JohnLegere) January 30, 2015
So what does this all swagger and bluster have to do with presidential politics? Nothing, really. But also, everything! I know little about Legere’s personal political views—he has described himself as a Republican, while also publicly lending his voice to LGBTQ equality and #BlackLivesMatter. I personally enjoy that he is interested (and excited) by the latest tech trends.
But political ideals (indeed, even political affiliation) are secondary in today’s climate. As shown by the recent election, the electorate (or a large enough portion of the electorate) values charisma and perceived forthrightness over actual detailed policy solutions and follow-through.
But we’re in a post-principal world. Whatever your political views are, you don’t need a like-minded leader from among your flock, you need a vessel. In order to push initiatives through to the executive branch, you will need an executive—and should that executive have swagger and a clear command of the #socialmediaspeak, all the better. And any political operatives out there looking for a Trojan horse to fill with their ideas could do worse than Legere. Reportedly, that’s what Kanye is banking on, (I think, seriously?) What say you John? You in?