Can Trump Persuade?

Donald Trump is a deal maker. It’s easy to think that someone who has built a career on making deals will be able to enact his preferred policy more easily than past presidents.

But negotiating is but one of many skills needed for presidential leadership. Trump must do much more than negotiate if he wishes to turn his preferred policies into law. He must persuade.

In 1960, Richard Neustadt, a political scientist and the first Director of Harvard’s Institute of Politics, gave us the great insight that “presidential power is the power to persuade.”

Presidents do not fight on the front lines. Rather, they instruct their generals to wage their wars for them.

For soon to be President Trump, this means that he cannot lay the bricks for his wall on the border with Mexico. Trump cannot create a registry for all Muslims in the U.S. Unless Trump himself goes door to door with a Microsoft Access database, he must persuade the bureaucracy to do it.

It’s unlikely the federal bureaucracy will be friendly towards Trump. Hans A. von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, writes that bureaucrats “will do everything they can to stop President Trump’s policies and directives.”

If Trump’s actions during the campaign are any indication, Trump will certainly utilize the presidential leadership strategy of “going public.” This strategy, articulated by UC San Diego’s Samuel Kernell, involves the president taking his fight against his adversaries in Washington into public view.

For Trump, this may mean tweeting that the bureaucracy is taking too long to build a website for his Muslim registry (see: ACA website problems) or that Congress is only giving him funds to build railing on the border with Mexico instead of a wall.

Will the public respond?

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